A Site for the Expansion of Consciousness

  ©2013 by Joseph Mancini, Jr., Ph.D., CCHt, PL.t., L.B.L.t., C.R.t., M.S.W.

 & Shana Robinson, B.A., co-author of Shamanism and the Spirit Mate

Shana’s website and email, Shaman Tracks

Joe’s Website and Email


In Episode #5, Past-life Regression and Shamanic Journeying, of my radio show, “Explorations in Consciousness with Dr. Joe”, my guests, Dana & Shana Robinson, shamanic practitioners and teachers, discussed with me a unique workshop we did combining these spiritual journeying modalities.  We did not get a chance to directly compare the modalities, though listeners may have grasped on their own many of the similarities and dissimilarities between these methods of spiritual journeying.  But we want to share with you more directly what we came up with.  May your journeys in Spirit be expansive and useful to this incarnation!


When looked at closely, Shamanism, especially Core Shamanism as formulated by Michael Harner, and Past-Life Regression (PLR) are more similar than most individuals at first would imagine.  The differences are most often a matter of intention and emphasis.  What we present here is not meant to be complete, but rather to be suggestive and stimulating of further expansion of awareness on the topic.

NOTE:  While different practitioners have somewhat different ways to facilitate PLR, especially in the way they do inductions, endings and manage change in the past life, what is presented below is from the perspective of what could be called a Core or Basic form of PLR that is germane to most or even all forms.

NOTE:  A traditional shaman is called that by others once they have experienced the results of a shaman’s healing practice or divination.  Shamanic practitioners are those modern individuals who can and do journey, but are not per se shamans. The shaman and shamanic practitioner engage the spirits in many ways. The focus of this comparison is limited to spirit travel – the journey, and does not include a discussion of other practices, such as depossession and extraction.


  • Both modalities use a sonic driver:  

In PLR, the voice of the facilitator guides the journeyer.  As Milton Erickson once said, “My voice goes with you.” The voice provides an anchor to the current reality while simultaneously leading the journeyer   into another. The facilitator modulates his/her voice to relax and sometimes calm the journeyer and also to signal that it is time to come back to ordinary reality.

In Shamanism and Core Shamanism the shaman and shamanic practitioner are typically accompanied by a drumbeat and/or the shaking of a rattle, although many other modes of percussive sound have been used from winnowing fans to rice pounding.  Changes in tempo and rhythm are employed to demarcate the various stages of the journey.

  • Both modalities employ an Altered State of Consciousness:

In PLR, it is imperative that the journeyer move beyond the limits of his/her conscious mind, so that the subconscious can be more easily accessed, programmed and, in deeper states, queried for information. In PLR, relaxation and concentration on the breath are used most often to enter the trance state, though focusing on strong emotion, repeated phrases, and body sensations can also become ways to enter a trance.

In Shamanism and Core Shamanism, the shaman and shamanic practitioner decisively enter an altered state of consciousness to go into non-ordinary reality, using the sound of rattles and/or drums.

  • Both modalities include the presence/possibility of guides:

In PLR, the journeyer has the option of taking a guide along with him or her; this may be in the form of an animal spirit (often that of a pet who has passed over), a spirit once human (often that of a beloved relative who has passed over), or an angel or guide.  In some forms of PLR, the journeyer may meet an archetypal figure, like an Inner Mate, Great Father, Great Mother, Protector, etc., along with historical figures like Mother Mary, Jesus, Buddha.  These archetypal figures can provide information and also help in changing the past life.

In Shamanism and Core Shamanism the shaman and shamanic practitioner often have power animals, guardian spirits and teachers to help him or her.  They will stay with him/him for varying lengths of time over the course of a lifetime, providing him/her with their differing “medicines” or powers.

  •  Both modalities bridge and travel between realities:

In PLR, the journeyer, most often with the help of a facilitator, travels to and enters into “the other world.”  The journeyer travels to lives that seem to be from other times (though all past lives are simultaneous with each other and the present incarnation).  Sometimes, the journeyer goes back to lives spent on other planets or in other systems of reality.

In Shamanism, the journeyer moves from material, ordinary reality into non-material, non-ordinary, reality.

  •  Both modalities involve shape-shifting, merging:

In PLR, the present individual often merges with (sees through the eyes of) his/her past-life personality, experiencing first-hand what that personality experiences from moment to moment.  In some cases, after connecting with a talent or positive trait of the past-life personality, the journeyer can “bring back” that ability into the current lifetime and use it here.

In Shamanism and Core Shamanism, the shaman and shamanic practitioner may shape-shift into their power animals and sometimes into their Teachers while on a journey.  Doing so helps the shaman and shamanic practitioner take on and use the abilities of those spirits with whom they merge.

  • Both modalities use some kind of portal as part of the protocol:

In PLR, the journeyer often goes through a portal, such as a door or gate, to access the other world; but these are not necessarily precise locations in the other world, for the facilitator and even the journeyer can suddenly discover or even create a portal.  (The idea is that every place or point is a gateway to every other place.) The portal may be different each time the journeyer enters the other world.  Even when such a portal is not used, there is very often some marking of a transition, of a crossing over, as when a journeyer floats in a boat traversing the space between banks or moves down a river past different landscapes.

In Shamanism and Core Shamanism, the shaman and shamanic practitioner must know his or her destination.  He or she begins with an established ordinary reality starting point.  Then, directional movement, to the accompaniment of a sonic driver, is used as the prelude to passage through a transition zone.  When the shaman initiates a downward movement, it is through the starting point of a hole that leads to the transitional tunnel that ultimately passes into the Lower World.  An upward movement from the starting point of a “high place” leads to an encounter with the transitional membrane, which, once breeched, is the portal to the Upper World.  These are signposts or markers that indicate a precise location for the shamanic journeyer.  Using the same starting point to pass through the tunnel or the membrane leads to the same “drop off” place in the other world, and allows the journeyer to learn the geography of the other worlds.

  • Both modalities allow the journeyers to encounter independent spirits.

In PLR, the journeyer may meet some projections of his/her subconscious, but most of the entities he/she encounters are also real, and independent in that they have lived their own separate lives on the Earth.  In some cases, enough information about the past-life personality is gleaned for the journeyer to find evidence in historical records of the prior existence of these personalities (especially true of children’s past lives as reported by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Carol Bowman, CHT).  While it is said that the current person has lived before as these personalities because all share the same soul; nevertheless, it is also true, paradoxically, that each is also distinctive from the others and on its own journey.

In Shamanism and Core Shamanism, the spirits the shaman encounters are real, independent spirits, and are not figments of his/her imagination or projections from his/her subconscious. They occupy a separate, non-ordinary reality.

  • Both modalities focus much on bringing back “knowledge” to enhance the current lifetime.

In PLR, the journeyer goes to a past life to acquire knowledge about what beliefs, practices, talents and physical characteristics the journeyer has accepted, for various reasons, to carry over into the current life.

In Shamanism and Core Shamanism, the shaman and shamanic practitioner work with power; power is energy, intelligence, love and ethics.  The shaman stands in the center moderating power relationships with Power Animals, Teachers, Spirits of Nature (mineral, plant, non-human, etc.), Spirit Mates and Ancestors.  All of these relationships can be the ground for healing and provide wisdom for those in the material world.

  • In both modalities, it is important for the witness or facilitator to tend to and help elicit the journeyer’s full experience, but the witness or facilitator must not push his or her own interpretation on that experience.

It is important that the facilitator of the PLR journeyer not push her or her own agenda/interpretation either while the journeyer is in trance or when the debrief occurs.  The job of the facilitator is to help the journey unfold through suggestions that are consistent with the journeyer’s needs; if the journeyer does not take a suggestion, the facilitator must simply drop it.  During the debrief, the facilitator must ask many questions to elicit the meaning of the experience for the journeyer; only after the journeyer has explored all of his own analysis does the facilitator offer other ways to look at the journeyer’s experience.  But, indeed, the journeyer has the final say about the interpretation of his own experience.

For the shaman/shamanic practitioner, the person who is engaged with the spirits, either on a journey or in divination, experiences the spirits communicating through the language of his/her personal metaphor.  It is an individual revelatory process. Therefore it is entirely up to the journeyer to come to an understanding of a divination or journey since he/she is the recipient of the information. A facilitator may ask questions to help clarify, but may not offer interpretations since the language was in the vocabulary of the journeyer, not the facilitator.

  • In both modalities, the journeyer may be aware simultaneously of the material and the other world (i.e., attention to surroundings).

The PLR journeyer is likely to be aware of both worlds at the same time, though the material world will most of the time feel far away or even uninteresting.  For instance, a PLR journeyer may be lying in an office chair in trance while hearing lawn mowers bellowing outside; yet, the journeyer can stay in trance and not be bothered by the harsh sounds.  The PLR journey may also need to scratch the itch felt on his/her body.  And, when the journeyer is in one-to-one relationship with the facilitator, the journey is always aware of the voice of the facilitator.  This kind of divided consciousness points to the fact that what we experience as our greater identity shows up in many dimensions (beyond merely two) at the same time.

For the shaman and shamanic practitioner, it is possible to have a foot in each world, ordinary reality and non-ordinary reality. A dramatic example is from the Northwest Coast where various traditional groups of specialized shamans form “spirit boats” to travel to retrieve guardian spirits for patients. During these healing ceremonies, the shamans are aware of both ordinary and non-ordinary reality as they pole their boats to the other world, effectively traveling simultaneously in two realities, acting out the journey. At a point in a given spirit boat ceremony, certain shamans have to be very connected to the material world as young boys shoot burning bits of cedar into the air which the shamans must dodge to avoid injury in both realities – an injury that could imperil the success of their mission.

At the other end of the continuum, most core shamanic practitioners lie quietly and have little interaction with the material world beyond a vague awareness of a need to scratch or shift position. Attention can shift between the two realities as exemplified by a hypothetical journeyer having the awareness of a stone under his/her back while engaged in conversation with a Power Animal or Teacher.

  • Both modalities may help create physical, mental, emotional and physical healing, sometime instantaneously. 


  • Use of Movement and Sound:

In Shamanism and Core Shamanism, during the journey, the shaman and shamanic practitioner may sing, dance or act out the journey.

In contrast, during the journey, PLR journeyers usually are not physically moving but, instead, are lying down or sitting motionless (though some movement may play out in the person’s body as he/she experiences what is going on for the past-life self).  While PLR journeyers listen to the sound of the facilitator’s voice, the only sound they usually make is to vocalize what is happening to them in the past-life and to express any emotion that comes up for the past-life persona and/or for the journeyer himself or herself..

  • Landscape of the other world(s):

When shamans and shamanic practitioners visit the other worlds, there are three main, structured landscapes: the lower world (where many of the power animals reside), the middle world (which is this world AND its non-ordinary aspect), and the upper world (which is where many of the wisdom teachers reside).  Beyond these fairly structured cosmic zones, core practitioners (especially Michael Harner) have encountered Interworlds: one between the Upper and Middle World and one between the Lower and Middle World.

In contrast, the inner world for PLR journeyers is not so clearly differentiated, though there is often a strong sense of the middle world in other times and places and also a sense of a realm called the Interlife where the spirit goes after death in a past life.  This Interlife is where soul groups, Elders and other such beings reside, and where the soul goes for rest, schooling, and preparation for the next incarnation.  Soul guides and angels move all over the worlds that the past-life journeyer visits.

  • Degree of interaction with the material world (reporting to an ordinary reality facilitator, or following instructions of an ordinary reality facilitator) when in an altered state of consciousness.

In both traditional and core shamanism, the journeyer is connected to the material world via the drum or sonic driver which facilitates the shift in consciousness and punctuates stages of the journey. As the Siberians would say, the drum is the “horse” that transports the shaman to and from the other worlds. But, once transported, the shaman is typically on his/her own.

For some traditional shamans, however, there is an established cosmography, and coaching from elders is known to occur when novices are beginning to learn the non-ordinary ways of the other worlds. An example of this is the Huichol who instruct their children in travel to the Land of Peyote during the drumming and journeying.

Also, some core shamanic practitioners will choose to speak a journey to a trusted facilitator during a Harner Shamanic Counseling session. However, a core practitioner, especially during a journey for soul retrieval, will not speak during a healing session with a client to avoid the possibility of inadvertently revealing information of a past trauma and exacerbating a client’s condition.

In contrast, while some well-practiced PLR journeyers can take themselves on a journey to the other world, they are most often guided by a facilitator who is in the material world.  The facilitator gives suggestions about where the journeyer may want to go, takes the journeyer from scene to scene, and calls in spirit guides and angels, if necessary, to assist the person, especially when the person wants to change the path of the past life to create a different ending.  However, the facilitator never forces the journeyer to do anything and cannot control the journeyer’s inner world or any helpers that appear or are summoned.

In one-on-one sessions, the PLR journeyer also speaks aloud to the facilitator. However, when the PLR journeyer is engaged in a group session, he/she will not usually talk with the facilitator.

  •  Use of Drugs:

In Shamanism, the traditional/indigenous shaman sometimes uses psychoactive drugs derived from sacred plants and mushrooms to initiate a journey. This is done in the framework of very strict preparatory rituals that honor the plant and its spirit. These shamans recognize that the power of the plant is tied into the power of the place where it grows and the place where the shaman lives. Most modern individuals who learn Core Shamanism do not use drugs to do their journeying, except possibly when they are taught by an indigenous, traditional shaman in a culturally specific context (which constitutes a step away from Core Shamanism). For the most part, in the case of modern Western shamanic practitioners, drugs and/or alcohol will not assist in the shamanic journey and are not used.

In contrast, the PLR journeyer is never allowed to use any kind of drug during his/her journey to the other world.  Drugs, particularly synthetic and hallucinogenic drugs are seen as distracting, ungrounding, even damaging to the process, especially because most facilitators do not believe, as shamans do, that there are guiding powers in some kinds of drugs derived from natural sources.

  •  Original and main intention of the journeyer:

In traditional Shamanism, the shaman’s first intention is usually to go into the other worlds to seek knowledge and healing for the sake of another or for the community, though he/she may also journey for self-healing.  Self-healing in a traditional environment often comes in the initiatory process wherein the shaman-to-be overcomes an illness with the help of the spirits. Having overcome the initiatory illness, the new shaman has the basis for compassion for healing work that moves into the community. In Core Shamanism, the shamanic practitioner may spend somewhat more of his or her journeying on self-healing and self-discovery, though it is consistently reported that the experience of journeywork is heightened when working on behalf of others.

In contrast, the PLR journeyer’s first intention is usually to seek knowledge and healing for the sake of him/herself; however, a by-product of going to a past life in which the journeyer had a relationship with someone with whom he or she has a connection also in the present life is that some of the knowledge accessed may benefit that other person in the current incarnation.

  •  Connection to community:

In traditional Shamanism, the shaman is very much tied to and integrated into and supported and nurtured by the community while the core practitioner may be somewhat isolated.

In contrast, the PLR journeyer is not necessarily tied to a community; if he/she is connected, the community is not seen necessarily as supportive of the person’s journeying to a past life.

  •  Training and Initiation:

In traditional Shamanism, the training of the shaman is often rigorous, involving physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual challenges that may be dangerous.  The notion of a formal initiation is central to this process.  In Core Shamanism, the initial training is much less rigorous on all levels and initiation is usually not formalized, at least for those who do not go far into the process; for those who do, the training is more likely to approach that of traditional shamans, especially if the training is of duration or expanded to include culturally specific techniques which, again, is a step away from core practice.

In contrast, the PLR journeyer does not have to go through a major set of challenges to be ready to journey, though practice in relaxation and having substantive ego strength is much preferred.  The journeyer, ho wever, may experience in the session challenges to his emotional, mental and spiritual, though not usually physical, orientations.  Such experiences may constitute very deep, but non-formal initiations into Expanded Consciousness.

  •  Use of and relation to nature:

While both modalities may make use of Nature, Shamanism and Core Shamanism are much more intimately tied to the natural world from animals, plants and insects to landscapes and other elemental spirits. Each of these beings has power that can inform the shaman and shamanic practitioner in ordinary and non-ordinary realms. The shaman and shamanic practitioner usually treat the nature spirits (and others) with much respect and forbearance in order to build relationships with them and have them as dependable allies for journeywork and healing.  As a means of connecting to the power of various nature spirits, the shaman and shamanic practitioner will sometimes embody the natural being, moving rhythmically as it does and perhaps dressing in a mask, costume or a skin if it is an animal.

In contrast, the PLR journeyer may pick up information from symbols in the natural world, and may have the spirit of a passed-over pet with him/her, but, generally speaking, the natural world is mostly a setting, albeit an important one.

  • Attention to a life actually lived in the past:

In PLR, the journeyer has more of an awareness of specific places and times, opening up to sensations of the past-life persona as it moves through various scenes of its actual life.  The journeyer is encouraged to experience and relate many sensory details of what the past-life persona is sensing, doing, feeling, saying and hearing, including any physical restrictions on the self and in the environment.  The journeyer merges to learn very often about the negative beliefs that hold the person back from what he/she wanted to achieve in the past life, so the person in the current incarnation knows what to avoid. The point is to become aware of an actual history, complete with successes and failures.  Sometimes the journeyer can go back to visit the life of his or her ancestor, and, with the permission of the ancestor, change something about the lineage.  Or the journeyer can bring back information that he or she will use to change his or her present life, a change that can have an effect on the ancestor’s life, since all lives of everyone are simultaneous with each other and therefore are not actually over and thus can be “adjusted.”

While it is not an overriding mandate, the traditional shaman and core shamanic practitioner can be actively interested in lives from the past especially when engaging the ancestors. Accessing persons within given lineages can bring forth talents or troubles, and the shaman follows both paths to bring about balance in the past, present and future.  Many traditions, particularly those in the East, look to the ancestors for guidance and special assistance on a daily basis, maintaining a strong connection through a very thin veil. Some may even feel that they are continuing or actualizing an ancestor’s calling to the point where he/she not only is part of a lineage, but also perhaps a re-expression of an ancestor. This is based on the concept of the multiplicity of the soul in which, in this oversimplified explanation, one of the esssential soul parts is the ancestral soul shared by many ancestors over time.


If any of our readers have detected any other similarities or dissimilarities between these spiritual journeying techniques, please let us know and we will review each one for possible inclusion in this blog!


Hi, Everyone!

Yes, I am now the host of my own radio show, “Explorations in Consciousness with Dr. Joe”!

The show will start on Tuesday, August 13 and will continue every Tuesday for an hour at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time until November 5. It will be hosted on the 7th Wave Channel of VoiceAmerica (NOT Voice OF America). Each episode will be re-broadcast several times during the week it first airs, and there will be an archive of past episodes.  You may access the episodes for free, either by going to my homepage on the VoiceAmerica website,  or by downloading the Voice America app to your smart phone and searching for my show.  If you subscribe for free to VA, you will get a program by email.

If you miss the first broadcast, you can hear, via my VoiceAmerica home page, the show re broadcast at 10:00 pm Eastern time.  If you cannot tune into the re-broadcasthow, don’t worry, for you can go to my Voice America Homepage and check out the Episode Directory (Archive).  Click on the show you want and then the “Listen Now” link to hear the show.  There are also links to download the episode as an MP3 file and to get it free from iTunes.

During the thirteen weeks, I will focus with my guests on past-lives, past-life regression, and related matters. We will  cover many topics including the nature of past lives, the therapeutic effects of past-life regression, soul contracts, reincarnating souls groups, children’s past lives, incarnations in Atlantis and in the time of Christ, Life Between Lives, “spiritual birth control,” and much more.  My underlying metaphysical approach is based on the Seth Material channeled by Jane Roberts.  For more detail, check out the list of episodes following this introduction.

You may be interested in how all this came about.  On April 18 of this year, I was able to purchase Jane Roberts’ work table on which she wrote some of her own books, accessed her “spiritual library,” painted her sketches, and read proofs of the Seth Books.  The table was in her writing room in the “Hill House” in Elmira, New York, and later in the house in Sayre, Pennsylvania, that her husband, Robert Butts, and his new wife, Laurel Davies-Butts, lived in for a number of years.  (Jane died in 1984, and Rob in 2008).

Jane's Table in the Corner of My Group RoomI am awed and joyous over the presence in my home of this table filled with great psychic energy.  I hope to do some of my own channeled writing (though with a computer rather than with a typewriter or pen!), while seated at the table.  It is no accident that the table found its way to my group room–what a great thing for me to manifest!

And it is no accident that, on the same day that I received from Laurel the first half of Jane’s table, I received also a phone call from the Senior Executive Producer for VoiceAmerica, the largest creator and distributer of internet radio in the world.  I thought with excitement that maybe he wanted to interview me about some aspect of my work.  Well, I was wrong–he wanted me to submit a proposal to host my own radio show once a week for an hour for thirteen weeks!  I was flabbergasted, awed, and, I must admit, a bit scared.  Geez, I would be heard in 32 countries!

Within a week, my proposal was accepted.  The producer said that he had asked his staff to search for potential hosts on the internet, focussing on spiritual counseling, hypnotherapy, and past-life regression.  I was one of about 12 individuals who had made the final cut out of 300 contenders.  And I knew nothing about any of this (though my soul certainly did) until he called on the 18th. He also told me that what clinched the deal for him was that I said that the Seth Material would serve as the underlying metaphysics for my discussions!

So, please join my guests and me for a spectacular exploration in consciousness!



Date:  August 13, 2013

Episode Title: Past Lives and the Seth Material, Part 1: An Interview with Rich Kendall

In this episode, Rich Kendall, one of the New York Boys in Psychic Jane Roberts’ ESP class in the early ‘70s, will help set the stage for the entire 13-week focus on past lives.  Seth, the “energy personality essence” channeled by Jane from 1963 through her death in 1984, talked a great deal about past lives, including the idea that they do not actually exist in our “pasts.”  Besides discussing Sethian notions about the true nature and influence of past lives, Rich will share some of his own encounters with Seth and what that gentle, but provocative personality said specifically about Rich’s past lives.  Rich will also share the impact of Seth’s teachings on his life then and now.  Some of his reflections can be found already in his book, The Road to Elmira, the first volume of a proposed three-volume work.


Date: August 20, 2013

Episode Title: The Nature of Past Life Regression and Participants’ Stories

In this episode, Dr. Joe’s guests are several individuals who have participated in either a group or individual past life regression with him.  With their help, he will explain the process of a typical past life regression and the difference between the individual and group modalities.  They will discuss what is most important to remember in order to have a successful journey to a past life.  They will focus also on the pitfalls that can frustrate success, such as fear both of not being able to access a past life and, paradoxically, of being able to do so.  Tips for overcoming other potential obstacles in the process will be offered, as well as tips about how to select a regressionist.  Finally, one or more of the guests will have a chance to discuss aspects of his or her past life regression and the effect the journey has had on his or her present incarnation.


Date: August 27, 2013

Episode Title: Children’s Past Lives: An Interview with Carol Bowman

In this episode, Dr. Joe will ask Carol Bowman, M.S., to discuss her fascinating and paradigm-busting research on children’s past lives.  Stimulated by the voluminous, pioneering work on this topic by Dr. Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia, Carol furthered his research in her first book in 1997, Children’s Past Lives.  In that book, she describes how she came to believe in her own children’s accounts of past lives and gives guidance to parents about the nature of this phenomenon and how to respond appropriately to the past life disclosures of their children.  Her second book published in 2001, Return from Heaven, is the first to describe reincarnation in the same family, that is, for instance, the return of a deceased adult as the newborn of the daughter of the deceased adult. While family return in particular has many implications for family members, the greatest implication is that children’s past lives offer the greatest proof for the actuality of past incarnations.


Date: September 3, 2013

Episode Title: Past Lives and Attached Entities: An Interview with Greg McHugh

In this episode, Dr. Joe invites Greg McHugh, CHT, to share the ideas incorporated in his book, The New Regression Therapy.  Greg’s trainings and initiation experience in a semi monastic Gnostic Christian order contributed to the development of protocols for the healing of past life and present life wounds and limiting beliefs through the application of Divine Presence.  Such Presence may be drawn upon from the client’s Higher Self, Interlife resources, from Angelic Higher Resources, and great beings like the Heart of Elijah. Greg will discuss how he releases attached entities (mostly spirits who have left their bodies but have not gone into the Light). He will explain how such spirits’ own feelings and issues affect the client. He may also talk about his remote regression protocol with the use of a surrogate for a client who cannot be physically present in the therapy room.


Date: September 10, 2013

Episode Title: Past Life Regression and Shamanism: An Interview with Dana Robinson, B.A., C.S.C. and Shana Robinson, M.S.

In this episode Dr. Joe discusses with Shana and Dana, authors of Shamanism & the Spirit Mate, the connections between Past-Life Regression and Shamanism.  After discussing the nature of core shamanism, Shana and Dana and Dr. Joe share how they c0-created and c0-facilitated the first ever workshop combining the techniques of past life regression and shamanic journeying to effect healing.  Lasting two days, the workshop showed how seemingly very different modalities were in many ways very similar in their intentions, actions and effects.  Workshop participants who call in will discuss their impressions of this unique merging of disciplines, including their enlarged sense of their multi-dimensionality.


Date: September 17, 2013

Episode Title: Past Lives and Soul Contracts: An Interview with Linda Baker

In this episode, Dr. Joe interviews Linda Baker, RN, CHT, author of The Bridge Between the Worlds, Soul Contracts  and co-author of Alchemical Scents..  Linda will describe the nature and purpose of Soul Contracts, particularly how they affect our lives and relationships today.  In the first of two kinds of contract, souls reincarnate together to work through unresolved issues between them; in the second kind, the personality makes a contract with his or her soul to end a pattern of events that persists no matter who the other players are.  Linda will also talk about what she calls Spiritual Post-Conception Birth Control, a very loving process wherein the pregnant woman can communicate with her unborn child about whether the time is right for a birth; when it is agreed that the time is not right, a natural miscarriage can occur.  Of course, what karma is and is not is a theme that will permeate the discussion.


Date: September 24, 2013

Episode Title: Past Life Regression for Intact Groups: An Interview with Janet Cunningham

Dr. Joe interviews Janet Cunningham, Ph.D., author of A Tribe Returned, the amazing story of herself and 25 other people who have memories of being together in a Native American Tribe.  Told that she was the reincarnation of the daughter of Chief Silver Eagle, Janet will talk about how she unwittingly gathered together members of that past tribe.  Janet was told also that she was selected by the Grandfathers to be the next Chief.  As a past-life therapist, she then assisted the reincarnated members in releasing their traumatic memories of a devastating massacre. Janet not only did enormous healing work for the friends, family members and clients who were part of that tribe, but also pioneered a new regression modality practiced today by very few other practitioners: intact-group past life regression, wherein an entire group of individuals who were connected to each other in a past life are regressed together to that lifetime.  Listen to a discussion of an amazing collective journey.


Date: October 1, 2013

Episode Title: Past Lives and Natal Regression: An Interview with Tim Simmerman-Sierra

Dr. Joe interviews Tim Simmerman-Sierra, Certified Medical Support Clinical Hypnotherapist, the lead instructor at the Hypnotherapy Academy of America in Albuquerque, about Natal Regression, a modality not usually taught in hypnosis schools.  This process, which begins in the Interlife, may involve information from past lives that can be used by the soul to prepare for his or her current incarnation.  After becoming aware of agreements with significant others in the present incarnation, the person is taken through the moment of conception, womb time and the actual birth experience.  During this journey, the soul tunes into the varying feelings and thoughts of parents and the medical personnel present at birth.  Alternating between expansive and narrowed levels of awareness, clients can see patterns in their lives that are the result of unconsciously held beliefs formed during this period of development. This is one of the fastest ways to heal blocks to accessing your divine nature.


Date: October 8, 2013

Episode Title: Past Life Regression to Capture Lost History: An Interview with Joanna Prentis and Stuart Wilson

In this episode, Dr. Joe interviews Joanna Prentis and Stuart Wilson, authors of several books, including a trilogy on the Essenes that focuses in large part on the figure of Mary Magdalene. They will discuss how they worked using regression techniques and with the channeled help of an Angel named Alariel to capture otherwise lost history.  From the past-life perspective of Daniel, a friend of Joseph of Arimathea, they reveal Jesus’ healing in the tomb with the help of the Essenes.  Joanna and Stuart will tell us also how they facilitated other regression subjects to reveal the real significance of Mary Magdalene as a deeply beloved spiritual partner to Jeshua; as a charismatic, powerful and articulate leader of a group of female disciples; and as a counterpoint to the dominance of some of the male disciples.  Come join us for a mind-blowing excursion back to an erstwhile unknown past.


Date: October 15, 2013

Episode Title: Edgar Cayce and Past Lives in Atlantis: An Interview with Nancy Eubel

In this episode, Dr. Joe discusses with Nancy Eubel, MBA, CHT, Rt., QHHT, what the renowned psychic Edgar Cayce has said about past lives and karma and the effect of his perspective on her own teaching and facilitation of past life regression.  Focusing principally on the past lives in Atlantis that Cayce revealed in his readings for others, Nancy will share with us the main implications those past lives have for us today, especially since many Atlanteans have apparently reincarnated during the present time.  With its development especially of nuclear power and the potential for world-wide devastation, our current world seems eerily similar to Atlantis before each of the three cataclysms that apparently ultimately dropped the continent below the surface of the Atlantic.


Date: October 27, 2013

Episode Title: Past Lives and Life Between Lives: An Interview with Dee Chips

In this episode, Dr. Joe interviews Dee Chips, BSW, MHt., CRM, LBLT, owner of American Holistic University and President/Owner of the National Association of Transpersonal Hypnotherapists, NATH.  We will discuss the process of Life Between Lives Hypnotherapy, first popularized in the works of Michael Newton starting in 1994.  In 2000, Dee, along with her late husband, Allen Chips, DCH, and in collaboration with Newton, designed and implemented the first LBL certification training program under the auspices of NATH.  With the help of case studies, Dee will talk about how the process works: it starts from a client’s going back to a past life and then entering the Interlife after the death in that life and meeting guides, his/her soul group, various schools, the Council of Elders and those whom he or she will contract to work with in the next lifetime. Come join us for an absolutely fascinating excursion into a deeper reality.


Date: October 29, 2013

Episode Title: Research on the Positive Effects of Past Life Regression: An Interview With Heather S. Friedman Rivera

In this episode, Dr. Joe interviews Heather S. Friedman Rivera, RN, JD, Ph.D. about her personal and professional discovery of the uses of Past Life Regression and the recent research she has done on the positive effects of Past Life Therapy.  Plagued by chronic illnesses, Heather found much relief in Past Life Regression and decided to do research on what other participants in this modality had said were its most likely and most therapeutic effects.  Her research is unique in that it relies not on anecdotal data and individual cases, but rather on a broad cross section of data gathered from respondents of various ages, gender, religious upbringing, and experiences.  Among other therapeutic effects, the most prevalent reported is that death no longer holds as much fear for most participants in Past Life Regression.


Date: November 5, 2013

Episode Title: Past Lives and the Seth Material, Part 2: An Interview with Lawrence Davidson

In this episode, Dr. Joe interviews Lawrence Davidson, another of Jane Roberts’ ESP students in the early ‘70s. Lawrence shares how he came to find out about Seth, the “energy personality essence” channeled by Jane, and why he came to Jane’s weekly classes.  He also shares his own memories of how Seth approached the topic of past lives and perhaps even what Seth said about Lawrence’s own. His anecdotes about the Seth phenomenon then and through the years, and about how those early class experiences changed his life, add much color to his story.  Finally, his perspectives on the San Francisco Bay Area Seth Conference he has organized for the last several years show the ongoing power of the Seth Material.

In various New Age and crystal stores, both brick-and-mortar and online, and elsewhere on the Internet, including Ebay, you may have seen skulls made of rock quartz and other stones, ranging from amethyst and citrine to charoite and ruby zoisite. Some are only a half-inch in length (back of head to leading edge of chin) and weigh just a few grams, while others may be as large as 10” and weigh 20 lbs or so. In rare instances, even larger, “Titan” skulls are offered, one nearly 17” long and just over 145 lbs.

Small Quartz Skull

Small Quartz Skull

Just what are these crystal skulls, which elicit varying reactions from observers, from disgust and even horror to fascination and even appreciation bordering on reverence? In short, they are divination, transformation and healing instruments, new to many, yet presumably familiar to the ancients. Some devotees believe the crystals skulls were major spiritual tools for Atlantis and other past civilizations; and they are surely used in rituals performed even now by Mayan shamans, some Native American medicine men and women, and Buddhist Red Hats in Tibetan Monasteries.

The Meanings of the Skull Image

“So why are these stones in the shape of skulls?” is usually the first question I have to answer when I introduce them. The questioner often feels either queasy and/or fearful of what in the collective consciousness is simply a symbol of the macabre, of decay and death. Yet, the skull image serves several important functions when these stones are used with spiritual intention. First, since communication with the crystal skulls is a primary way of interacting with them, the skull face offers the image of a personality, a more familiar interface than a mere smooth or convoluted surface. Second, just as when we look into the eyes of a fellow human, when we likewise look into the eye sockets of a crystal skull, we can more easily sense having access to deeper truths. In fact, most psychics who interact in this way particularly with translucent skulls start to observe static and moving pictures behind the eye sockets.

Third, the skull image reminds the observer who seeks wisdom that we usually associate knowledge with the head or brain; not surprisingly, many crystal skulls, especially those made of quartz, are assumed to be repositories of ancient knowledge waiting to be unlocked for the good of humanity. Fourth, as Jaap van Etten, one of the best crystal skull researchers, notes on his website, http://www.lemurantis.com, the skull shape reminds us that we use the brain also to focus into three-dimensional reality and to translate into a useable form what we get from Spirit. Fifth, what we get from Spirit often comes from the crown and third eye chakras, which are also represented by the skull; thus, there is an emphasis on using crystal skulls as portals or bridges to intuitive knowledge, which is then interpreted by the brain. Sixth, especially when the crystal skull is one of those rare “singing skulls,” i.e., one with an open mouth or detachable jaw, the throat chakra is also implied, suggesting that the skull has something to convey to those who can listen.

Seventh, although the skull image certainly points to death, it also points to immortality. Many of the stones, including quartz, that are carved into skulls are millions of years old. Some others like Nuumite (found only in Greenland as part of the earth’s primordial crust), and Stromatolite and Crinoid Fossil (both from fossilized primordial creatures) are several billion years old. We are thereby reminded that the essense of the human is immortality literally in the “face” of death. Eighth, the skull image is a symbol of the essential human in another way: its flesh-less state does not distract the viewer with skin color and other ethnic features that, very unfortunately, sometimes alienate. Yet, ironically, the immense and even intense “skin” beauty of the stones themselves, with all their different carving styles, flowing and static patterns, and swirls of interacting colors and luminescences, seduce the observer into interaction with them. And, again like every human, each crystal skull is unique in its patterning and coloration while sharing a common morphic field.

Ninth, the fact that the image of the human skull is carved in often very hard (many register 5-8 on the Mohs hardness scale), enduring stone suggests both a passing over to another world while also being rooted to Mother Earth, glorious in her variegated color. This combination of opposites suggests two more metaphors/functions of the skull image: the crystal skull is thereby an image of Heaven on Earth, and also an interface, an intermediary, a portal between the two worlds.

Finally, according to Jaap van Etten in the best basic book on crystal skulls, Crystal Skulls: Expand Your Consciousness, sculptors of crystal skulls in Brazil have told him that they experience a consciousness shift as soon as they carve the eye sockets of the skull image. In his own research, Van Etten has confirmed that crystal skulls, just because they display the skull image, have a frequency that is addition to the natural one of the stones that are carved. And some believe that these “new frequencies are in the range of human thought” (www.angelslove.net), an indication, if true, that the skull image opens up a range of energy that is most useful to humans.

Before discussing how to work with these spiritual tools, I want to provide some context, depicting some of the important issues and controversies associated with crystal skulls, including problems with classification (difficulties in authenticating truly ancient crystal skulls, especially the Mitchell-Hedges Skull), and the mysterious Legend of the Thirteen Crystal Skulls.

The Classification of Crystal Skulls

Back in the 1980s, the late F. R. “Nick” Nocerino, one of the foremost crystal skull researchers and co-author of the 1989 book, Mysteries of the Crystal Skulls Revealed, setup up a classification system for crystal skulls based on their presumed ages: skulls were “contemporary” if they were less than 100 years old, “old” if they were considered carved between 100 to 1500 years before now, and “ancient” if they were carved more than 1500 years ago. The age of a crystal skull is important because the older the carving is, the more valuable and rare it is, and the more likely it is associated with older civilizations and their wisdom. The problem is that the stones of most crystal skulls, particularly quartz, cannot be carbon-dated, nor can the carvings themselves. Thus researchers depend on electron-microscope examinations of marks left by carving tools. If the marks are parallel lines, it is assumed that the carving took place within the last 100-150 years; if the marks are uneven or non-existent, the carvings are deemed much older because the assumption is that the ancients had nothing like modern carving tools.

This kind of reasoning, however, is questionable; for it assumes that technology pursues a linear development. Yet, some ancient civilizations, like the ones that built the Giza pyramids and Puma Punku in Bolivia, were capable of feats that defy the abilities of modern engineers. Choosing to bypass this controversy, van Etten proposes that skulls be classified according to how many energy layers (up to 32) have been activated in any one particular skull, noting that the most ancient, like the famous Mitchell-Hedges Skull, have the most activated layers; there is no known energetic way today to activate that many layers. Nevertheless, this system is not full-proof because, as van Etten notes, some skulls that may in fact be ancient may have been carved in places where no one knew how to activate them or where such activation was not considered necessary.

The Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull

Mitchell-Hedges Skull

Mitchell-Hedges Skull

The most famous, most beautiful, most anatomically correct, and possibly most ancient crystal skull of all, the Mitchell-Hedges Skull (MHS), whose present caretaker is Bill Homann, is no stranger to controversy about its origin and the age of its carving. In 1924 on the day of her 17th birthday, Anna Mitchell Hedges, the adopted daughter of adventurer and archeologist, F.A. Mitchell-Hedges, allegedly found the top part of this amazingly clear skull and, three months later, its detachable jaw at the bottom of a hitherto unknown, Maya pyramidal structure in Lubaantún, Belize. Although Anna affirmed the veracity of the tale to the day of her death in 2007, that story has been questioned many times, even by crystal skull researchers F. R. “Nick” Nocerino and Stephen Mehler, the latter co-author of The Crystal Skulls: Astonishing Portals to Man’s Past.

In 1970, art conservator and biocrystallographer, Frank Dorland, author of Holy Ice: Bridge to the Subconscious, was allowed to bring MHS to the Hewlett Packard Laboratories in California for testing. While two other crystal skulls—the Paris Skull and the British Museum Skull, that were tested along with MHS at the lab—were declared fake ancient crystal skulls, MHS was declared a mystery. In 1986, Dorland noted that a forensic team made a facial reconstruction from the skull and concluded that it represented a Mongoloid female who died when she was between 25 and 29 years old. Despite these intriguing discoveries, in 2010, Jane Walsh of the Smithsonian Institute determined that, through electron microscopy, lapidary tool marks were found on the skull that supposedly disqualified MHS from the status of ancient crystal skull.

Still, even this information is inconclusive, given the prejudicial view I mentioned above that such marks could be made only by modern tools. Moreover, MHS defies modern creation in other ways. First of all, the Hewlett Packard technicians determined that the part of MHS that was to be the jaw was cut loose from the rest of the skull and then shaped in perfect alignment with the stress lines of the main part of the skull—an absolutely amazing lapidary feat! Furthermore, according to Dorland, and later Mehler and Childress, in the roof of the mouth of MHS is an extraordinary prism surface; it was astoundingly carved so that light coming from the bottom of the skull through formulated light wells or “pipes” and hitting the prism would be reflected into the cranium and also out through the eye sockets. This phenomenon, along with the movable jaw, suggests the skull may have been used as an oracle by an older civilization. Finally, as archeologists Mehler and Childress note, the carving was made across the natural crystal axis—the quartz should have shattered if carved with modern, high-vibration tools.

One more point here: Mehler and Childress’s observations about Jane Walsh’s conclusions regarding the testing of other, supposedly ancient crystal skulls cast doubt on her declarations of the age of MHS. In 1996, as reported by Mehler and Childress, other supposedly ancient crystal skulls, Max (the “Texas Crystal Skull,” used by Mayan priests in Guatemala and later given to a Tibetan Red Hat Lama and then to Jo Ann Parks), Sha Na Ra (found in a Mexican dig by Nocerino using “psychic archeology” and now in the hands of his daughter, Michelle), the British Museum Skull, and a few other skulls were tested at the British Museum using electron microscopy. All the skulls, except for Max and Sha Na Ra, were declared modern; but the staff had no comment about the first two! Yet, Walsh, who was only an overseer of the tests, repeatedly declared for years that all the skulls were modern!

The Legend of the Thirteen Crystal Skulls

Whatever the truth is about the origins of MHS, there is continual speculation about it, including the idea that the skull is the crystallization of the skull of an Atlantean princess! Another idea is that it is one of the legendary thirteen crystal skulls. The basic notion of this legend is that the skulls hold all the information that, if downloaded and decoded, would prove vital to the world’s survival in the advent of a global catastrophe. But the skulls’ knowledge may also further the evolution of the human species as that information is presumed to have done in the very distant past. According to the Legend, the skulls are now either buried or otherwise hidden; only when the Twelve are discovered and brought together with the Thirteenth Skull, the Master One, is such a revelation possible.

The Thirteen Crystal Skulls Arrangement

The Thirteen Crystal Skulls Arrangement

This legend has been passed down in various forms by some Native American tribes and other groups. One such variation is told by Cherokee Harley SwiftDeer to writers and filmmakers Chris Morton and Ceri Thomas and recorded in their The Mystery of the Crystal Skulls: Unlocking the Secrets of the Past, Present, and Future. According to SwiftDeer, when the Elders of the original twelve planets observed that Earth was not evolving properly, they encoded into twelve, flawless skulls with detachable jaws all the wisdom of the planets and placed them in an Ark on Earth with a thirteenth skull that encoded the consciousness of all the worlds. As extraterrestrials, the Elders brought them to Earth and, hundreds of thousands of years ago, seeded the civilizations of Lemuria, Mu, Atlantis and Mieyhun. The skulls were passed down to the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs, the latter abusing the skulls’ power; as a result, when Cortez came, conquered the Aztecs and pursued the skulls, the priests hid them all over the world. Another variant has the skulls’ downloading information from twelve star systems, such as the Pleiades, Sirius, Alpha Centauri and Orion. In his first book, Crystal Skulls: Interacting with a Phenomenon, van Etten notes also that there are physical portals in Sedona and around the globe associated with these skulls, that there may even be fifty-two (4 X 13) crystal skulls, and that the original thirteen may not even be physical, but instead be fields of information/energy.

It is not even clear that all the physical manifestations of these possibly ancient skulls are made of clear rock crystal quartz, like MHS, Max, Sha Na Ra, Synergy (whose earthly origination is a tiny village in the Andes and whose current caretaker is Sherry Whitfield), and Einstein (which weighs nearly thirty-three pounds and is under the care of Carolyn Ford). But other skulls that may be ancient are not clear quartz, such as the smoky quartz skull named ET (whose caretaker is Joky va Dieten and was found in Guatemala in 1906, though the Maya allege it came from the Pleiades); Ami, the Amethyst [Quartz] Skull (whose caretaker is now unknown, though its first known appearance was sometime between 1876 and 1910 on the desk of President Diaz of Mexico); the rose quartz skull, Baby Luv (whose caretaker is Joky van Dieten and may date back to 700 BC in Russia); and Amar, the possibly ancient, slightly smokey quartz, Tibetan Skull (used by Tibetan monks for healing and now in the care of the owner of CrystalSkulls.com, one of the best sites for buying skulls).

Yet what is important is that all of these skulls and many other, possibly ancient skulls are all quartz, clear or otherwise. Quartz, more than other crystals, reflects, transmits, attunes, focuses, transforms, refracts and amplifies energies. According to van Etten, only quartz skulls can be activated to 36 layers, while some other stones can be activated only to 24, and most only to 12. The more layers activated, the more power the skull has and the greater the energy field around it. Quartz (silicon dioxide) also makes up about 80 % of the Earth and is needed to maintain the health of our bodies. Moreover, its capacity to use mechanical stress to create an electrical voltage (the piezoelectric effect) and vice versa makes it valuable in the mechanical regulation of clocks and computers. In addition, experiments have shown that it is possible to store information in holographic form in quartz crystal, an indication that the belief that some quartz skulls are repositories of ancient wisdom may well be true.

Now, with this entire context, this info, my reader might well be eager to become a caretaker of and work with his or her own crystal skull.

Buying Your Crystal Skull

If you are not given a crystal skull as a gift, you can purchase one, usually a contemporary carving. (Beware of deals “too good to be true,” especially if what is offered for sale is purportedly an ancient crystal skull, for these skulls are exceedingly rare; few individuals today know enough about crystal skull frequencies to use that awareness to determine the very high activation level of ancient crystal skulls.) When choosing, use your awareness, your felt sense, of what skull most speaks to you.

My Crystal Skulls

My Crystal Skulls

Your attention to the beauty of the stone, by itself, is usually not enough to determine the best skull for you. Holding it in your hand and near your heart will usually give you enough vibrational information about the suitability of the skull for you. You can also use dowsing, commonly performed by using a pendulum over a particular skull and asking appropriate yes or no questions about its usefulness to you (that is, after you have determined which movements of the pendulum designate yes and no answers).

Yet it is possible to choose a skull also by looking at a picture of it online (as at Skullis.com, which is based in Beijing, or CrystalSkulls.com, which is based in Washington State and British Columbia) if you prepare yourself by going into a meditative state and asking help from your Higher Self. However you choose your skull(s), keep in mind that, just as Native Americans see themselves, not as owners of the land they live on, but rather as its stewards, so, too, it is wise and appropriate to see yourself not as an owner of a skull, but rather as the caretaker of this personalized energy form.

Cleansing Your Crystal Skull

Once you have become a caretaker of a skull, you need to cleanse it and then activate and program it before using it. To cleanse it, use one or more of the usual methods for cleaning crystals, such as burying it for a time in Mother Earth, setting it in sunlight (being aware that some crystals fade in this light) or moonlight, covering it with “alive” running water (knowing some stones can dissolve in water), immersing it in “alive” salt water (checking first which stones can be damaged by water), exposing it to the energy of cleaned quartz crystals, and/or using ritualized intention. Smudging with sage, sweetgrass, and palo alto will clear any unwanted energies attached to the crystal skull. The same outcome can be achieved through using sound from Tibetan bells or crystal bowls.

Activating and Programming Your Crystal Skull

Activating a crystal skull is the process of turning on its full potential. Skullis.com offers brief, downloadable activation audios by psychic Amazing Grace and DVDs featuring Nick Nocerino. The crystal skulls offered from this site are already activated by the huge, very old crystal skull, Amar. Proximity to and pictures of other ancient skulls may also be useful for activation. Still other modalities may be found online at various crystal skull sites. In his second book, van Etten outlines the process I find most powerful. Essentially, the caretaker goes into a meditative state, fills him/herself with love and then merges with the skull to activate it. He suggests a similar process to program the skull with a clear, simple and unequivocal intention for self- or other-healing or for divination. And, in both activation and programming, van Etten makes an extremely important point not found elsewhere: that, under no circumstances, is the caretaker of a crystal skull to give up any of his or her own power to the skull.

Working with Your Crystal Skull

This admonition is important because these skulls are very powerful. Researchers and caretakers of many of the skulls already described have reported strange phenomena while near them, like odd smells, cloudy emanations, changes in the skull’s color or clarity, unusual sounds, and changes in the skull’s temperature. Scenes or images from past lives or other venues also have been seen within translucent skulls or through psychometry. Spontaneous physical healings have occurred for several observers, and telepathic communications have been registered, not only by professional psychics like Carole Davis, as recorded in The Skull Speaks, but also by amateur intuitives.

For healing self and others, it is best to pair a clear quartz crystal skull with another skull whose specific healing energies are either known or intuited. The quartz skull acts as an amplifier of the other skull’s energies while also transmitting its own. After the healer grounds and protects and clears him/herself of unwanted energy; cleanses, activates and programs both skulls; and asks permission to heal from the subject and his/her Higher Self, the healer might once again fill up with love and gratitude, send that energy into the skull, image the individual to be healed, point the skull’s face towards the location of the person and then image the individual as healed. To heal the self, the same procedure is followed with the exception that the skull is pointed toward oneself or placed upon the exact spot on the body requiring healing. Healing is intensified if several individuals follow this process with their own skulls directed at the person to be healed.

Some of My Divination Skulls--Clockwise From Bottom Two: Kambaba Jasper, Sodalite, Stromatolite Fossil, Crinoid Fossil, Unknown, Chinese Painting Stone, Elephant Skin Jasper

Some of My Divination Skulls–Clockwise From Bottom Two: Kambaba Jasper, Sodalite, Stromatolite Fossil, Crinoid Fossil, Unknown, Chinese Painting Stone, Elephant Skin Jasper

For divination purposes, an opaque or translucent skull may be used. After grounding and protecting and cleansing the self, getting permission from those involved, and activating and programming the skulls, the intuitive can use the shamanic technique of “rock divination” with the opaque skulls; this involves asking the intuitive’s Higher self and that of the client to focus the intuitive’s awareness on a particular pattern or part of a pattern on the rock’s surface and then to direct the interpretation, even before the intuitive knows the client’s question. With translucent skulls, the intuitive can look into the skull at various depths and be guided to detect and interpret an interior pattern formed by inclusions, etc.; or the intuitive may see directly moving or static scenes relevant to the client’s question. Another way to get messages is for the intuitive, after proper preparation, to gaze into the eye sockets of the primary skull, go into a deep trance, and hear/see important telepathic messages. Still another method is to make the usual preparations and then direct the skull, on behalf of the client’s question, to make contact with the crystal skull grid or energy field, to which all skulls are connected and contribute their particular wisdom. A final process is to use the skull, after proper preparations, as a portal to other sources of wisdom, including guides/angels who may be using the skulls to communicate.

No matter how you use your skull(s), always remember to have respect, but not abject veneration, for these old and new tools of transformation. Your being in charge with positive intentions ensures that the skulls’ power will be used appropriately.


Crystal Skull Readings with Joe

If anyone wishes to have a crystal skull reading with me, please contact me at soulsrvr@erols.com. I can do the reading in person, on the phone, or by Skype. The divination will generally follow the process described in the next-to-last paragraph. A typical session lasts one hour at a cost of $130.00. In that time, a person may ask for skull wisdom with two or three questions, each directed to a different skull or to the same skull. If the individual is contacting me through a phone call, I will send the individual pictures before the session of various skulls; the person may then choose which skull(s) he or she wants me to use.


“I highly recommend a crystal skull reading with Joe. It was especially powerful for me because Joe does the reading without any preconceived questions or guidance…the reading is based on the patterns and images from the skull that resonate with him. After explaining the process clearly, Joe had me write down a question that I did not share with him. He was then guided to patterns, images and messages in the skull that he shared with me; he then asked if they resonated with me and my question. His words and the patterns he saw resonated deeply with a big transition that I was going through and helped me reframe some of the things I am struggling with and also working to create in my life. It was unbelievable how clearly the patterns and messages from the skull spoke to my reality and how clearly Joe articulated them. Joe’s deep knowledge and appreciation of skulls made the reading all the more powerful and fun!”—S.B., Health Consultant


Resources for Those Interested in Crystal Skulls:

www.crystalskulls.com (based in Washington State and British Columbia) www.skullis.com (Based in China)

Mahalo Minerals , http://www.mahalominerals.com, 301 585 9534

Mountain Mystic Trading Company, http://wwwlmountainmystic.com, 540 635 6318

www.angelslove.net (Sherry Whitfield Merrell, caretaker of Synergy) www.crystalskullexplorers.com (Joshua Shapiro) http://www.lemurantis.com (Jaap Van Etten) http://www.crystalswork.com http://www.crystalskullconsciousness.com (forum you can join) http://www.angelslove.net/csbbs (crystal skull message board you can join)


Bowen, Sandra, & F.R. ‘Nic’ Nocerino & Joshua Shapiro. (1988). Mysteries of the Crystal Skulls Revealed. Pacifica, CA.: J & S Aquarian Networking.

Childress, David Hatcher, & Stephen S. Mehler. (2008). The Crystal Skulls:Astonishing Portals to Man’s Past. Kempton, IL.: Adventures Unlimited Press.

Dorland, Frank. (1992). Holy Ice: Bridge to the Subconscious. St. Paul, Minnesota:Galde Press.

Kaehr, Shelley. (2007). Crystal Skull Consciousness. Dallas, TX.: An Out of This World Production.

Mercier, Patricia. (2011). Crystal Skulls & the Enigma of Time: A Spiritual Adventure into the Mayan World of Prophecy and Discovery. London: Watkins Publishing.

Morton, Chris, & Ceri L. Morton. (1997, 1998, 2002). The Mystery of the Crystal Skulls: Unlocking the Secrets of the Past, Present, and Future. Rochester, VT.: Bear &Company.

Murray, Kathleen. (1998). The Divine Spark of Creation: The Crystal Skull Speaks. Huntly, U.K.: Galactic Publications (Earth).

Shapiro, Joshua, & Katrina Head (2012). Journeys with the Crystal Skull Explorers: Hidden Secrets of the Crystal Skulls. Ebook edition found on Amazon.com.

Van Etten, Jaap. (2013). Crystal Skulls: Expand Your Consciousness. Flagstaff, AZ.: Light Technology Publishing.

_________________. (2007). Crystal Skulls: Interacting With a Phenomenon. Flagstaff,AZ.: Light Technology Publishing.

Webb-De Sisto, Marion. (2002). Crystal Skulls: Emissaries of Healing and Sacred Wisdom. Xlibris Corp.

Novels Involving Crystal Skulls:

Arceneaux, Leon M. (2005). The Crystal Skull: A Novel. Lincoln, NE.: iUniverse.

Arena, Linda. (2010). Guardians of the Crystal Skulls: The Thirteenth Order. Victoria,

BC, Canada: Friesen Press.

Crichton, Michael. (1999). Timeline. New York: Ballantine Books.

Harbinson, W.A. (1997). The Crystal Skulls. Custom Books Publishing.

Morton, Chris, & Ceri L. Thomas. (2009). 2012: The Mystery of the Crystal Skulls.

Winchester, U.K.: O Books.

Visser, Jan. (2004). The Crystal Skulls.

Videos About Crystal Skulls:

Childress, David H., & James, Ronald. (2008). The Search for the Crystal Skulls (75minutes). Adventures Unlimited Media.

Merrell, Sherry W. (Caretaker of Synergy). (2009). Echoes From the Ages: Talking Story with Crystal Skulls (77 minutes). Avalon Video.

Rosely, Steve. (2010). The Legend of the Crystal Skulls Remarkably Mystical & Healing (52 minutes). AVS Video Productions.

Walsh, Jane M. (2008). The Legend of the Crystal Skulls: Ancient Mystical Artifacts or Ingenious Hoax? (46 minutes). Smithsonian Networks. Note: this film is hardly opento the mysteries of ancient crystal skulls.



Last summer, as I drove west on Atwells Avenue in Providence, R.I., past the house on the right whose first floor long ago had been converted into a barbershop run by Walter the Barber, I realized that as much as sixty years had passed since I had sat on a padded board laid across the arms of the barber’s chair.  My heart softened for a moment and then tightened back up when I drove another block west, past several unrecognizable houses replacing others that had been demolished, and stopped across the street from Number 770.

My Childhood Home at 770 Atwells Avenue

My Childhood Home at 770 Atwells Avenue

To my right, as I looked through the passenger window just beyond the sidewalk, I was startled to see, plastered on a house similar to 770, several signs for a hair salon and (another) barbershop with walk-in service. Before I could turn my head the other way, I had to take a deep breath and only then look out the driver’s window and across the street at the yellow, vinyl siding on a three-tenement dwelling; it had been my home for approximately 20 years before I left permanently while on my way to graduate school at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Each time I had returned in the many years that followed—and there were fewer and fewer returns after I moved to Maryland and after my parents moved, too, and then died, one in 1989 and the other in 1996—something had started to transform, something almost imperceptible.

Yet, as I slouched in the car seat with the motor still running and tears nearly brimming my eyes, I realized that the transformation was now much clearer.  I saw the crushed water bottle and the crumpled newspapers and the McDonald’s wrappers flipped around by the breeze on the sidewalk in front of the house, but it was what else I observed that most confirmed the slow deterioration of the house itself and its ambience.  As I looked to the right, I saw an opening in the fence, a barrier that ran in front of the house and then down its right side.  That opening led both to the front porch and also to the alleyway on the right that in turn led to the concrete garbage container where my father and I had dumped innumerable newspaper-wrapped bundles of kitchen waste for the garbage collectors to gather once a week.  But the gate that had filled that opening in the fence and thereby had furnished a modicum of security was now simply gone.  Then, as I looked at the metal and concrete porch itself, which had replaced the two-tiered wooden porch when the house was sheeted in vinyl, I felt as sunken as the left side of the metal awning that overhung it.

This front porch was now actually being used as such with lawn chairs haphazardly scattered about in the small space in front of the doors, one of which seemed, in my mind at

The Porch at 770 Atwells Avenue

The Porch at 770 Atwells Avenue

least, carelessly left open.  In my days there, with most of our neighbors as private as we were, the front porch with its two doors was rarely used, either to enter the house or to lounge about.  Instead, we would enter the house through the side doorway, located at the back of the yard on the left side of the house.  Very rarely, my Uncle or Aunt would use the left porch door to enter their first floor flat.  On Thursday evenings only, my father would use the other porch door, which was a faster and somewhat easier access to our third floor flat, though, when he arrived at the third-floor landing, he would then have to traverse my parents’ bedroom to get to the kitchen.  On those evenings, despite his long-term angina, and with some help from the rest of the family, he would haul up the family’s weekly groceries, which he had purchased in the dingy and dark Olneyville market, the only large such store within a mile.  The only other significant time our porch door was used occurred in 1984, while I was up in Cambridge, when the rescue squad came to carry down my twin sister, Anita,* who had suffered and later passed over from an asthma attack.

As children, Anita and I had played with the few toys we had in that narrow yard along the left side of the house.  Long after I had moved away and after my father was kicked out of his long-rented garage down the street, he found this yard was just barely wide enough to allow his car to ease carefully into and out of it.  Along half the length of the forty-foot yard I had sped in the red wagon my Uncle had bought for me until Grandma, my mother’s mother and the owner of the house, repeatedly scowled at me from the second story window and complained about the noise to my father, who argued back, only in the end to take the wagon away from me.  Later, when my Uncle bought me a grand, red, adult bike on my eleventh birthday, because of over-protective parents, I had to ride it, for almost a year, only in that constrictive yard, with no more than three pumps of the pedals each way and a partial dismount necessary to make the very tight turns. Anita and I had played mostly in the back of that yard, where it was a bit larger, with its red and white wooden bench and the Eucalyptus tree covered by leaves the size of small elephant ears.  But we would come hurriedly to the middle of the yard when my mother would call

Crugnale's Bakery

Crugnale’s Bakery

down to us from the third floor, kitchen window flung open so powerfully that we could hear the clang of the iron weights in their wooden slots; from that high window she would drop into our waiting, but clumsy hands a brown paper bag filled with heavily buttered, thick slabs of Crugnale’s bread wrapped expertly in waxed paper. She chanced our catching the bag before it split open on the concrete yard to avoid our climbing the stairs and thus bringing “dirt” into the house; her fear was especially keen if we had been down in the lower yard at the back of the house where a fireplace and picnic table were located not far from abundant, loose soil my Uncle was forever overturning and sieving through a screen to filter out stones.

In that lower yard, my Uncle, my father and the mason father of one of my friends had built the fireplace and the concrete steps that led down into that sunken space.  I hardly remembered the building of those structures, given how young I was at the time.  Nevertheless, I did remember the only construction I did participate in, that one much later: the outside stairway leading up to one of the house’s back doors, located near where Anita and I played in the upper yard.  When I was in Cambridge, my father set out to rebuild that stairway, under which my Uncle had stored his snow-blowers, each one bigger than the previous one.  Whether my father asked me to do so or whether I simply volunteered, I eagerly came down to Providence to serve as an equal participant, an enormous change from all the times when I had sat by, handing him tools or just watching, as he did minor home repairs.  This time, however, we worked literally side by side with great ease and even camaraderie, reconstructing the entire staircase in three long, but heart-warming days.  Without many words and with an exchange of open, vulnerable faces, we exuded pride for the work and for our partnership.

But now, from the limited vantage point of my car seat across the street, I could not see that staircase; apparently, it, too (along with the Eucalyptus tree), was gone, replaced by windows after what had to have been some internal reconstruction.  What I could see in the yard now was a very tall, chain-link fence on the far side of the yard separating the other house on the left from my childhood home.  It had replaced a wooden fence that had been low enough for me to climb over to retrieve balls we had accidentally catapulted into our neighbor’s yard.  Part of this later fence, across from where the staircase had been, was twisted as though the supporting posts had been loosened from their concrete anchors.  Further back, another, lower fence paralleled it and was equally twisted until it made a sharp right turn, thereby obliterating any access to the lower yard.  Moreover, a further change that the new owner had made, cementing over the crumbling foundation bricks, had failed; for now many of those red bricks were readily visible where the veneer had cracked and chipped off.

The Weeds at the Atwells Avenue Home

The Weeds at the Atwells Avenue Home

But what appalled me most were the weeds.

From the lower yard that had been the object of my Uncle’s muscular care rose the vibrantly green tops of at least seven- or eight-foot weeds.  Nearby, in the upper yard where Anita and I had played, a small forest of weeds at least three feet tall had sprung up in every place where the concrete was sectioned into blocks.  The weeds propagated even along the front of the house between it and the fence, in one case reaching across one of the windows on the first floor.  Its vivacity mocked the phantoms of trees look gone that had tried vainly to flourish, un-nurtured, in the graveled rectangle cut into the asphalt near the sidewalk’s curb.

Situated near the curb on the other side of the street, I felt my eyes transfixed on what I did not want to see, even as I slouched further down into the driver’s seat.  Poverty and despair had come to live in what used to be an enclave of mostly Italian-American, blue-collar families.  After a few more minutes, during which I had noticed several pairs of intense eyes peering at me from the house on the left of number 770, where timid Walter* and his obese sister, Lorraine,* co-habited long ago, I shifted into forward gear and drove further up the hill, turned right onto Academy Avenue, right again onto Newark, then down the hill past the now shabby Crugnale’s bakery (where in the morning mist many years past my father and I would devour steaming hot bread before going fishing), right again on Valley Street, and finally left, back onto Atwells Avenue going the other way.

I no longer felt safe.

That sense of being ungrounded, unwelcomed, even vaguely threatened eased only a little as I made my way past Uncas, a jewelry factory (where my mother had worked among individuals she had nicknamed “B.O.” and “Big Nose,” and had gossiped about at the dinner table), and up the hill past what used to be Gasbarro’s liquor store but was now, like many others around it, an industrial building of indeterminable use.  In another moment, I passed over the major rail line linking the states of the East Coast and gazed at Holy Ghost Church, the site where my sister and I had our christening and confirmation, and where I gave a substantive eulogy, first for her and then later for each of my parents, each time much to the annoyance of the impatient priest who wanted to get on with the Mass.  Looking a few blocks ahead, I searched for St. John’s Church on the right, only to find that heavy stone edifice gone.  While its demise made way for one of the very few patches of real green space on Federal Hill, the “Little Italy” of Providence, the absence of something that had seemed so permanent was unnerving to me.

Shaken anew by this change, I stopped at a light at the intersection of Atwells and DePasquale Avenue on the left, which, like the rest of Federal Hill, had undergone a “face-lift” about thirty years ago, only now to be seriously in need of another.  In the town square that had replaced part of DePasquale Avenue, there was now an aura of seediness, of tiredness, even amidst the giant flower urns and the elaborate stone fountain into which some visitors tossed pennies or other coins to buy their wishes, while others sat on the fountain benches and munched on powdered sfogliatelli.  Not even the bright, pastel Mediterranean colors of some of the store fronts and awnings, the vivid religious murals positioned just under some second floor windows, and the paving stones arranged in intersecting swirling patterns—not even these innovations could dispel a sense in me of something not being quite right.

Partial View of DePasquale Square

Partial View of DePasquale Square; My Uncle’s Meat Market Was Near Where the Yellow Building is Now

For me, all this revitalization was really a not-quite-authentic veneer over what I had known fifty years ago when I worked every weekday during my last high-school summer in a meat market owned by another uncle and situated down on the left end of the DePasquale Avenue; the market’s exact position was now obliterated by a couple of restaurants.  Back then, big-wheeled pushcarts with all manner of heaped-up, spectacularly colored fruits and vegetables filled the Avenue, while the owners divided their time between refilling the rows of sold commodities and hawking the merits of their unsold “cosi bello” wares as they corralled sometimes reluctant customers into buying more of what they had not really wanted.  Occasionally, one of those omnipresent, middle-aged Italian women garbed in the traditional black skirt, blouse, and kerchief would argue back vigorously, arms and hands gesticulating in whirls of emotion, until the defeated seller muttered, “Va bene, va bene!”

Such scenes, though somewhat muted, took place every Friday in my uncle’s meat market, when those Italian ladies, often as wide as they were tall, demanded “La carne migliore” from Nicko,* my Uncle’s assistant butcher, who did most of the work in the store, while my uncle smoked and read magazines in his hideaway on the second floor.  Smiling at these inevitable rituals between the white-aproned butcher and the ebony-clothed ladies, I would usually either be filling pig’s intestines with sausage from the grinder, or be scraping the chopping blocks caked with fat from all the beef, lamb, and pork that had been cut and sliced on them, or be sweeping the floor of bits of meat and the straw that was supposed to absorb drippings.  Though my uncle had visions of my someday replacing him, he gave up that idea rather quickly when I failed to cleave a loin of pork into individual chops without bits of bone shooting into the pink flesh that I had already quite mutilated.  Or maybe he abandoned his vision more decisively when I drew a knife across my left index finger when trying to separate a cap bone from a leg of beef; because no one was free to help me, I had to drive myself, copiously dripping blood, to the hospital in my uncle’s Pontiac, whose cavernous trunk was then free of the two to three sides of beef it often held in transit from the stockyard.

As I sat now, still waiting for the stoplight to change, I looked down at the inch-long, reverse “J” scar from that incident and remembered how still another uncle, Vincent,* one of my father’s four brothers, would come every late Friday afternoon in his yellow, Ford convertible to whisk me away from such danger and the mixture of humor and depression that sometimes hung over the meat market.  We would drive, sometimes with the top down, to Jamestown Island in Narragansett Bay, where he, with help from some other family members, was building a flat-roofed, small house on a cliff overlooking the Bay.  I would be seeing the Island later that day, even though the house had been sold long ago.

As the green light flashed, I started driving again, glancing to the left at Scialo’s Bakery, the place my parents would take my sister, Anita,* and me after Sunday Mass at Holy Ghost Church many years ago for huge Danish pastry, sfogliatelle, monstrous turnovers filled and covered with yellow custard, and soft/crunchy Zeppole on March 19, St. Joseph’s Day.  But, over the years, the store seemed to shrink, as well as did the size of the pastries and their availability.  Those losses should not have mattered much to me, given how my diabetes and heart disease made it unsafe now to crave them; but, somehow, what was missing did matter.

Scialo's Bakery

Scialo’s Bakery

Still, Scialo’s was one of the few stores still recognizable; not only because so many had been reconstructed, reconfigured, even torn down, but also because the ambience was no longer quite Italian, given the significant number of other ethnic groups that now offered their services, principally culinary.  The change was a tribute to the acceptance of the multicultural by the usually ethnocentric Italians.  Yet it also signaled the passing of a colorful, vibrant intact culture that included, of course, a darker aspect represented long ago by Raymond Patriarca, the Mafia Boss, whose office for thirty years starting in the middle ‘50s had been in a vending machine and pinball store near the end of Atwells Avenue as it now intersected Interstate 95.  My uncle, who lived in the first floor flat of the Atwells Ave house and was a Sergeant of Detectives for the Providence Police, had been part of the force tasked with interdicting the mob’s activities.  He once told me how bullets went flying across Atwells Avenue not far from where Interstate 95 was later built.

I had now approached that intersection and was about to turn south on the Interstate to drive toward the Theodore F. Green Airport near where my wife was waiting for me

La Pigna at Entrance/Exit of Federal Hill

La Pigna at Entrance/Exit of Federal Hill

when I noticed the Gateway Arch; it had been erected over Atwells Avenue during the revitalization of Federal Hill to mark the entrance/exit (depending in what direction one was driving) of the community.  At the apex of the arch was La Pigna (“The Pine Cone,” sometimes erroneously referred to as “The Pineapple”), which Italians supposedly see as a symbol of “welcome, abundance, and quality.”  My experiences so far on this day had done little to confirm for me those attributes of the current state of my childhood home and its environs.  The past was not romanticized in my mind—my current childhood recollections had revived too many miseries, deprivations, and depressive family episodes to color it rose–nevertheless, something grounding, something that was mine, had been lost irretrievably.  On this day, La Pigna was not welcoming at all.


On my drive toward the lower Bay along Interstate 95, before I had left Providence, I passed, on my right, the monstrous metal insect perched atop a building and advertising an extermination service; on my left, I noticed what used to be Coro, the huge jewelry factory where my father had earned a much-needed income from the mind-numbing job of foreman several decades ago until, after thirty-two loyal years, he was summarily laid off in 1963 with the gift of a fake gold watch.  When the factory had been converted some years ago into an office building for a health insurance company, I had felt the unsettling loss of something familiar, but also, and much more important, a sense of retaliation against a mind- and soul-killing monolith.  Apparently, some things did need to be exterminated or just end.

I looked over that converted building toward the north end of the Bay and thought I could see on the other shore the nursing home where in 1996 my mother exhaled her last breaths.  She had been living in a residential group home in Warwick until her poor balance sent her right temple flying into one corner of her room’s table; from the hospital after ten days of treatment, she was sent to the nursing home to recover.  When I had visited her, my initial hope was that the Bay’s presence, however industrialized it was near this place, might bring some peacefulness to her.  That hope was immediately blanked out by what I saw in the hallways: heart-stopping images of residents in wheelchairs, some drooling on bibs hastily wrapped around their sunken heads, others screaming nonsensible syllables, still others seemingly comatose on gurneys rolled into the halls for “socializing”—a nightmare concentrating the horrors of my mother’s own, often very painful life as a child with a cruel mother.  A week or so after she had moved into the “home,” she phoned me and insisted that I call her after the weekend.  When I phoned at her requested time, she begged me, with the prescience of her impending death that would baffle her caregivers, “Joey, let me go!” and I did.  It was her time and her choice; and, despite my grief, it was a decidedly welcome transformation.

Twenty minutes later when I picked up my wife at the Best Western Inn near the Airport, I had shaken off enough of the malaise to greet her warmly.  As we drove further down 95, we talked about our upcoming excursion on a tour boat along Narragansett Bay, embarking from and returning to Quonset Point, still partially a military (mostly naval) base where my father had worked during World War II.   I may have visited there sometime in my childhood, but now our long drive through the gray, nondescript base to the waterfront did not jog any memories.  I was surprised: this environment was something new to me in my home state, though I would have welcomed something far less drab.  Nevertheless, I looked forward to being near the water that always revived my spirits.

After we had boarded the large, tour boat catamaran and as its engines started to roar and move the vessel away from the pier, I walked near the bow, trying to get my bearings.  My sense of unfamiliarity was not due to changes in the environment, which was the case near my old home and Federal Hill, but rather to my never having seen this part of the Bay, at least while being on the water.  Though I could dimly perceive, about seven miles south of us, the Jamestown Bridge arcing from the mainland to Jamestown (Conanicut) Island, I was vaguely feeling myself in a suddenly strange land.  And when I opened the tour brochure, I was again surprised, this time because we were to visit ten lighthouses distributed along both sides of the lower Bay—I had never heard of eight of them!

Plum Island Light

Plum Island Light

Our first stop, approximately 2 miles south, was the Popular Point Lighthouse, which seemed to be simply a large, attractive house with a turret.  It was very close to artsy Wickford, where my father’s artist brother had won awards for his edgy, avant-garde paintings and where my father and I had fished a few times off the large wharf without any “luck.”  I had never before seen this lighthouse.  Soon, puzzled by what was unrecognizable, I focused intently for a sense of grounding at the Plum Beach Lighthouse that the boat was fast approaching, though toward a side of it that I had never viewed.  Nevertheless, with a strange sigh of relief, I watched the white, black and plum colored structure come into sharp relief, as it stood staunchly on a shoal as always, not far from the Jamestown Bridge.

Especially when coming back in the ’54 Chevy from fishing on the Island, my father and I had always glanced down on this Lighthouse, located a few hundred feet north and a quarter mile west of the center of

Rusty Grating of Old Jamestown Bridge

Rusty Grating of Old Jamestown Bridge

the arch. When I was a ‘tween, I wondered why the superstructure seemed to be made of a much larger version of the beams with triangular holes that made up much of my Erector Set; more important, I also wondered why the see-through grating at the very peak of the Bridge was always rusty, so much so that I feared it would break apart and cause us to plummet 135 feet to the frothy waves below.  As a teen with a driver’s permit, I worried more about safely negotiating this very narrow, two-lane bridge, nearly a mile and a third in length; so intense was my white-knuckled concentration in steering between oncoming cars and the concrete curb that I knew we had reached the peak of the bridge’s arc only when I heard the distinct hum of the car’s wheels on that rusty grating.  And yet, despite the minor terror, the bridge was a friend that brought me to an Island that was a sanctuary to me, whether I was fishing with my father or staying with my Uncle Vincent at the “beach house.”

But the essence of that suspension bridge back then was revealed to me only on moonlit nights when I would lie comfortably on my back wrapped snugly in a blanket on the sloping lawn of that beach house, high on a cliff fronting the West Passage of the Bay.  From that vantage point, I would look towards the right at the great, shining necklace of streetlights, either standing gracefully along the Bridge’s roadway or hung on its superstructure.  The lights’ luminescence softened and transformed, not only the sharp edges of the girders, but also the otherwise stark display of the Bridge’s constant threat of rust.  The Bridge became then an ethereal symbol of my constant reaching beyond where I was, of imagining limitless, new possibilities.

In that luminescence, the enchantment of the Bridge could be matched only by the wonder of other lights shining to my far left, back across the Bay at Bonnet Shores, where the first major crush of my life, Holly,* would spend her vacation in her parents’ summer home.  I had known then some of what Gatsby must have felt when he stood on his vast lawn and looked across his bay at the lights on Daisy’s estate.   And, after Uncle Vincent, who shared my love of the Bridge’s magic, asked what I was doing lying there, he insisted that I overcome my shyness and create something new; the next afternoon, he drove me to Holly’s home, where I spent a delightful hour or so until I climbed back into the car, smiling, and grateful beyond imagining to someone who understood my deepest, adolescent feelings.   Over fifty years later, that moment was the first memory Uncle Vincent recalled after I had not seen him for about fifteen years.

Old Jamestown Bridge (Before Demolition) South of New Bridge

Old Jamestown Bridge (Before Demolition) South of New Bridge

General Location of Beach House

General Location of Beach House

But now, fifty years after I had last slept in that house, I once again felt the malaise that I had felt in Providence; for, the old Jamestown Bridge was simply gone, demolished one day and turned into scrap iron for recycling and also into huge chunks of concrete that became reefs, now far offshore in the Atlantic.  In its place was a sleek, four-lane, all- concrete bridge that was safer by far, but simply had no character.  And, as the tour boat passed under the new Bridge about a half mile from the Island shore, I could not find my Uncle’s house, even though I knew it was only a few hundred feet to the south of the Bridge, where it was absorbed by the Island.  Uncle Vincent had warned me that many more houses had been built over the years, obscuring easy detection of the beach house, and, more important, that his house no longer appeared the same because of structural changes made by the new owner many years ago.  In vain, I tried to find at least the old steps leading down the cliff from the lawn, steps made of huge flats of slate, many of which I had struggled to carry up from the rock-strewn shore.   In my sadness, I recalled also how Uncle Vincent and I had stayed one rainy night in the house that was half finished, with no windows in the side fronting the Bay; I had half-cursed the lightly falling rain, when my Uncle turned to me and said quietly, “I like it, Joey; it makes me feel peaceful.”

Back then, his gentle, yet definitive words had shocked me out of my slump into new awareness, but now the remembrance of his startling perspective only made me sadder.   I was anticipating a further accentuation of that disquiet as the boat picked up speed and headed toward Dutch Island Lighthouse.   It was situated across a narrow strait near a point of Jamestown Island called Fort Getty; the fort, like others around the Bay, had been occupied by the military looking for ocean-cruising U-Boats entering the Bay during World War II.   Starting sometime in the ‘60s, it had become a remarkable fishing spot with its huge L-shaped wooden wharf; later, when the Town of Jamestown realized it could make money from entrance fees, it was turned into a recreation area that grew so much in popularity that boaters from as far away as Connecticut and Long Island dropped anchor in the cove near the wharf.   Soon the hills between the wharf and the remnants of the Fort were infested with dozens of campers from three states.

But the earliest days of its draw as a fishing spot, when few knew about its charms, were those I recalled with fondness.  For then my father and I, and sometimes his fishing

Fort Getty Wharf in 2012

Fort Getty Wharf in 2012

buddy, Ernesto,* would fish for the occasional striper from the shore, as well as “tinker” mackerel and “doormat” summer flounder from the wharf.  On that platform we would greet the other “regulars,” females as well as males, characters worthy of novelistic study with their idiosyncratic baiting and fishing rituals, their craggy faces and often-unkempt hair, and their endless lunches chilled in coolers side by side with their “catch.” We seemed to make up a very loosely connected “family,” with one of the member’s dubbing me “Little Joe” to distinguish me from my father, as if that were necessary.  When the newcomers with their chaotic fishing styles started to arrive, the old-timers reluctantly made room on the already crowded dock; in contrast, at fourteen, I did welcome some of them, the young girls from the campers, two in particular, whom I might have connected to if not for the disapproving eye of my overly-protective father.

When I was forty-three, on that very same wharf, the heavy, massive beams of which had already started to rot away, I had switched that protective role with my father, making sure he did not hurt his somewhat unbalanced, seventy-nine-year-old body as he insisted on casting his rod again and again on his last fishing trip.   But that day everyone except him got “skunked”—he was the only person on the dock to catch a good-sized flounder, expertly flipping it up and onto the wharf despite his now stiff joints.  That was in August, 1989.  Four months later—four days after Christmas—he passed over, on his hospital table a piece of driftwood I had found near the dock and had imbedded with stones from our various Bay fishing spots, along with braided fishing line and a couple of hook-less lures.

Now, while my heart grew increasingly heavy as the tour boat came closer to Dutch Island Light and the Fort Getty wharf a few hundred feet beyond, I suddenly became aware of

Dutch Island Light and Fort Getty Beyond on Right

Dutch Island Light and Fort Getty Beyond on Right

another, insistent, but vague feeling.  Just as I had become disoriented earlier when we had first cruised south on an unfamiliar part of the Bay, I was now perplexed, closer than I had ever been to the Light and also seeing a side of it I had not viewed before; from this perspective, even the wharf a short distance away looked oddly different, improbably interesting.  Curiosity, even a kind of fascination, began slowly to displace the malaise in me.

Before the tour boat operator pushed the throttle forward, I suddenly looked right and back along the shoreline, trying to find other fishing spots I had known as a youngster near the high cliffs and massive granite formations on the mainland shore: Saunderstown, where one of the first ferries from the mainland to the Island had been docked long ago, and South Ferry (which, for some unknown reason my father called Fort Coney) where I first learned to cast a fishing rod not far from the dock now taken over by the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography.  I could find neither.   And, yet, what I did find was a topography, picturesque, but strange to me, since I was looking at it from a vastly different viewpoint. As the tour boat captain pointed out the cape when he steered past it, even Bonnet Shores, where my first love lived in the summer, was almost unrecognizable, yet truly exquisite.

Travelling between the Island and the mainland on our approach to Beavertail Light at the tip of the Island, I looked ahead and saw a dark shape looming up from the water.  An eerie excitement started to flood my body as I wondered if this was the mysterious “thing” that I had observed first from Beavertail when I was a youngster and about which my father had no clue; I had supposed it to be the conning tower of a submarine that had left the Quonset Point Naval Station for the ocean.

Remnants of Whale Rock Light

Remnants of Whale Rock Light

But it had not moved then and did not do so now.  When the tour boat slowed down and circled the structure, the operator declared this to be the caisson remnants of the four-story Whale Rock Light, constructed atop a treacherous reef in 1882 with a focal plane height of 73 feet—the highest lighthouse ever built in Rhode Island.  In the freak, Category 3, 1938 Hurricane, most of the lighthouse, along with Walter Eberle, the keeper, was swept away, possibly by the ferocious 120 mph wind and/or by the huge storm surge and/or even by a tidal wave observed in the general area.  But this sudden demise of the Lighthouse, said the tour boat captain, was only the last of several dramas involving previous keepers, including the attempted murder in 1897 of keeper Judson Allen by his crazed, knife-and-shotgun wielding, assistant keeper!

I was momentarily bewildered by these revelations, so unsettling were they to my erstwhile beliefs about the structure.  By the time the tour boat turned east, southeast toward the Beavertail Light, we were at the edge of the Atlantic ocean.

And I was afloat in a new world.

As the catamaran rounded the Light, I could recognize the building and some of the huge rock formations splayed in a half-circle around it.  With some effort, I was able to detect those particular, sometimes dangerously slippery platforms my father and I had spent much time on, hauling in huge tautog when we weren’t losing rigs to the numerous rocks just below the water’s surface.  Still, in spite of such vague remembering, the coastline was not the same, for I was seeing the giant slabs from another angle and thus viewing aspects I had not imagined existed before now.

Fishing Off The Rocks at Beavertail Light

Fishing Off The Rocks at Beavertail Light

It was like seeing the other side of the moon.

That sense of intriguing strangeness continued as the boat coasted north now, up the East Passage of the Bay between the east side of the Island on the left and Newport on the right.  I was less familiar with this part of the Bay, though my father and I had fished at times amidst the gorgeous rock landscapes around the resuscitated, yet still partially dilapidated Fort Wetherill.  But now, from my offshore vantage point, that area, too, seemed from another world, as did the other lighthouses I had never seen: the squat Castle Hill Light, barely visible in its niche among the rocky cliffs; Lime Rock Light and Goat Island Light and Rose Island Light, the first hardly seen amidst the many structures in Newport Harbour, and the second and third eclipsed by the looming bulk of the Jamestown-Newport Bridge somewhat further north; and, finally, the Conanicut Light nestled among much taller trees at the northern tip of the Island.


When the tour boat had finished its circumnavigation of Jamestown/Conanicut Island and had settled back into its berth at the Quonset Point dock, I walked down the gangplank to the land, wondering what had happened to me; for I was no longer depressed and, in fact, was somewhat invigorated.  On the way back to our motel, I muttered largely incoherent thoughts to my wife, trying to make sense of the shift.

Soon, however, I sensed that the watery journey I had just taken was also a soul excursion designed to open my awareness beyond certain limiting beliefs.  Since the moment I had stepped aboard the tour boat, I had entered a seemingly known world made often curiously very strange by my now seeing what I had not observed before and now learning what I had not known previously.  Though the various losses and consequent pain were real, particularly given the absence of the old Jamestown Bridge, the deterioration of the Fort Getty wharf, and the seeming disappearance of my Uncle’s beach house, I did not feel as devastated as I might have been because my rigid beliefs about what was and was not present to me had loosened.  I was reminded now of the Gestalt psychology perspective on change:  things change, not by becoming something different from what they were, but rather by revealing more and more of what they essentially and always are.   Focused as I had been on deterioration and loss, which made anything I observed different from what it was, I had to be pushed by Spirit to see what else was present, to see a wider and different context, to see the other side(s) of what I supposedly knew.

In my musings, I was abruptly aware of having been guided by navigation aids, those mostly small lighthouses around the Bay, many of which were hidden to me until now, symbols of guidance signals from Spirit often ignored or simply unseen because of limiting beliefs about what is and is not.  Even the fond memory of the no-longer-visible Jamestown Bridge necklaced in ethereal light offered me the opportunity to soften the hard edges of those beliefs.  In addition, though the beach house was not readily visible, my Uncle’s fifty-year-old words about the peace of the rain had sounded strongly again, reminding me to perceive anew, to see what else is possible.   And what about those hair-raising, human-interest stories waiting to be relished in the history of that seemingly inconsequential “thing” washed by the waves in the middle of the West Passage!

Still, my earlier journey to my childhood home and Federal Hill seemed devoid of new context, new awareness, for me.  All that loss was definitely all that it was, or was it?  It was not until my wife and I had retired for the night in the motel and I had picked up and scanned a new book that I had brought with me, The Source Field Investigations by David Wilcox, that I knew Spirit was guiding me also in that first journey; I would have known that earlier if only I had opened to what else was present.  In his book’s third chapter on the significance of the pineal gland, Wilcox noted that many ancient spiritual traditions focused on this pea-sized structure in the center of the brain as the place where “telepathic thought transmissions and visual images are received” (p. 40) from others and from Spirit.  The gland was known as the Third Eye by the ancients, which is not surprising since modern research has determined that “direct photic events may occur in the mammalian pineal gland” (p. 57), even though it seems not to be exposed to light, given its deeply embedded location.

Vatican Cone #1

Vatican Cone

But what caused me to sit bolt upright on my motel bed was Wilcox’s note that the word “pineal” came from the Latin pinea, which mean “pinecone.”  In fact, said Wilcox, “pinecones are prominently featured in sacred art and architecture from all over the world—in an apparent homage to the pineal gland” (p. 41).  The Egyptians, Romans, Mexicans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Hindus, and Meso-Americans revered the pinecone; likewise the Popes use a staff featuring a carved pinecone.  Moreover, in the heart of my ancestors’ country, Italy, the Vatican embraces The Court of the Pinecone, where a gigantic, bronze pinecone is displayed.

In an instant, I realized with a tingly awe that La Pigna, the pinecone, a symbol of direct connection to Spirit, had overseen from high atop its arch the whole of the Italian

La Pigna at Federal Hill Entrance/Exit

La Pigna at Federal Hill Entrance/Exit

enclave where I was raised!  (The arch was another bridge, like the Jamestown Bridge, that I needed to pay attention to and perceive fully to “bridge” from a limiting to an expanding belief).  My driving under it was an invitation to me to view my entire experience in the stunning Light of the Divine.  I began chuckling and even outright laughing at this turn of events, of perceptions.  While the actual pigna had been erected over Atwells Avenue long after I had left my childhood home permanently, even that fact symbolized the gradual realization by the community, and by me, of what was and is always present and true: that Spirit is everywhere, that, as I said in a previous post, “Heaven on Earth,” All That Is is really all that is.

And then another revelation: in finally seeing what else was present, I was saying Kaddish for my childhood environment, somewhat the way Allen Ginsberg had said Kaddish in his poem by that name for his mother, Naomi.   In his long prayer for his dead mother, Ginsberg incorporated parts of the original Hebrew prayer of mourning.  But, unlike the institutional prayer that glorifies God but says absolutely nothing about the person who has passed, Ginsberg’s Kaddish recounts in vivid detail, not only his mother’s pastel vision of a peaceful world, but also, among other horrors, the wrenching pain his politically active, but ultimately insane mother brought to herself and her family before her death.  In writing this way, Ginsberg was insisting, in my view, that the Divine is truly encountered in its fullness, not at all by looking away from this world with its displays of seeming ugliness, loss, pain and horror, but by looking unflinchingly at all of it with an open heart until its essential Divinity reveals itself.

If I am willing to see beyond the rigidity of limiting beliefs, then everything is ultimately disclosed as holy, then everything is purposeful and serves my mission here: all the obvious joy and sweetness, but also the weeds in the yard of my Atwells Avenue home, the deterioration and demolition of structures on Federal hill, the babbling and drooling horrors in my mother’s nursing home, the rust eating away at the ultimately destroyed Jamestown Bridge , the reconfiguration and even invisibility of my Uncle’s beach house, and the destruction of the Whale Rock Lighthouse.  And nothing is ever really lost, not only because All That Is remembers all that is, has been, and will be, but also because in feeling deeply the apparent losses, I paradoxically preserve what is gone all the more vividly as parts of who I am.  Moreover, the seeming darkness that is loss can serve ultimately as a potential illuminator of other aspects, not only of that which has undergone change, but also of us, if we choose to avoid clinging to ossified beliefs and, instead, find our hearts’ opening more and more to perceiving all as Divine.  My journey is to continually rediscover those truths and so be released from the blindness that keeps me stuck in perceptions that limit the full and ecstatic flowering of the world in my consciousness.

So, Dear Reader, what resonates for you in my account of transforming my understanding of the transformation of my childhood environment?

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Multi-dimensional SelfThis is the handout for my talk at the Pathways Magazine Expo on March 24, 2013 at the North Marriot Hotel and Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland

In many traditions developed both in modern times and long ago, the psyche has been viewed as having multiple aspects, such as the Five Skandhas of Buddhism and the four “sheaths” or “bodies” of the Jiva (with a fifth being the bliss or eternal Atman) of Hinduism.  Relatively more recently, Freud described the self as composed of the id, ego, and superego, while Jung saw the self as comprising the ego, personal unconscious and collective unconscious (the latter sometimes personified as symbolic figures like the Father, Mother, Wise Old Man/Woman, Warrior, Lover, etc.).  Even more recent psychological schemas see still other groups of components making up the self, such as the “Top Dog” and “Underdog” of Gestalt Therapy, and the “Pusher,” “Inner Critic,” “Protector/Controller,” and “Inner Child” of Hal and Sidra Stone’s Voice Dialogue.  Other theorists, among them Assagioli in his Psychosynthesis method and Berne in his Transactional Analysis, list and work with yet other components.

All of the components listed above in the various conceptualizations of the self are simply partial aspects of the self; in short, the components are not relatively whole and relatively independent selves who have their own histories.  While Hinduism and Buddhism do conceive also of past-life selves and future-life selves that are mostly whole in themselves yet remain associated with the present individual, these selves are not seen as useful to the individual, except as stepping-stones OUT of the karmic cycle of suffering that keeps reincarnation going.

However, in the conception of the multi-dimensional self as described by Jane Robert’s trance channel, Seth, many relatively whole and relatively independent selves in addition to past and future personalities are intimately associated with the present individual and are dimensions of his or her overall identity; moreover, these selves are not only useful, but also vital, as I will show, to the overall well-being of the present self and to the development of its Entity or Soul.  In Seth’s conception, the Soul, like All That Is (otherwise called the Divine, Source, etc.) does not remain static, but instead evolves.   Following “value fulfillment,” the inherent, inescapable impulse to be and experience Itself in every way, in every possible dimension, All That Is creates infinite images of Itself, images called entities or souls that are also endowed with the impetus of value fulfillment; thus each Soul, constantly establishes images of itself in many dimensions, one of which is the material dimension where these images are known as flesh-and-blood personalities.  These three-dimensional personalities in turn seek to experience themselves in every conceivable way, creating with the help of the Soul many images, many alternates of themselves in various dimensions.

This material world then, far from being a place simply of karmic suffering, is instead an enhanced opportunity for personality and Soul growth and, ultimately, for the enrichment of All That Is.   Since All That Is is all that is, every perspective/learning attained by each of its creations, and its creations’ creations, and its creations’ creations’ creations…and so on, becomes a perspective/learning of All That Is.  Conversely, since every creation is part of the One, of All That Is, each creation has access to and IS all of the dimensions of All That Is.  So, though I remain an inviolate consciousness, a unique perspective, I am also all that my Soul is, for instance, all the past-life selves/personalities it has formed.

For each of its personalities, the Soul forms an Inner Self that mediates between the personality, which has free will, and the Soul with its overall intentions.  The Inner Self also provides the personality with access to all the dimensions or selves/personalities of the Soul, access that can provide helpful information and alternate models of thinking, feeling and behavior to the personality to help it grow and get out of stuck places. These models are grouped into four categories: past-life selves, future-life selves, parallel or probable selves, and counterpart selves.  What follows are brief definitions of these kinds of selves, definitions that have very many implications that are beyond the scope of this writing to explain.

Past-Life Selves are those personalities that we were in past lifetimes, which are usually easily accessed through a regression process.  Present-day personalities often find that their past-life selves are of a different gender, race, religion, country of origin, etc., and have often vastly different perspectives on life that can provide the present personality with new ways of viewing current issues.  Moreover, the various talents and other capacities of each of these past selves are available to one degree or another to the present personality, depending on its goals for the present lifetime.

One major misconception about past-life selves is that their misdeeds create karma for the present self, who has the inescapable burden of making up for those transgressions.  This is not the place to explain fully why karma is not real (see “Karma: What It Is and Is Not” on my blog).  But suffice it here to say that karma depends on cause and effect, which implies a time sequence; but, since time as we conceive it does not exist beyond this three-dimensional world, we are not encumbered by the actions of any past life self…that is, unless we choose to be so troubled in order to further our own growth in a certain way.

Moreover, just as past-life selves can provide information and models of being that we may or may not accept for our transformation, so, too, we can provide the same opportunities for past-life selvesby regressing back to a particular past-life and offering assistance in changing a decision, direction, path.  Such changes, of course, reverberate back to the present self who accepts the influence or not.

Future-Life Selves are our personalities that call us, in terms of time, from future lives.  Our beliefs, actions and emotions in the current life may shape what is likely to be the core of our next lifetime, not in terms of cause and effect (karma), but rather in terms of preferences, of choices made by both the present and future-life selves .  For instance, for an individual’s next life, the person, in alliance with his or her Soul, sees a multitude of possible selves that might emerge, but some are more probable than others, given the present person’s present inclinations.  And yet, the future-life self–which, like all of the selves discussed here, has free will—can itself refuse, accept or modify the preferences emerging from the present self.

Tuning into one or more of those probable (and even improbable) future selves as it or they are actually living their lives may give us glimpses of the pros and cons of what we might try to incorporate now, in our present lives.  For instance, a future self to whom we are greatly attracted can actually “pull” us now into a talent it has perfected, but which we have been timid to explore in the present.  In that way, just as we can influence our future-life selves, with their permission, from our vantage point, so, too, do future selves influence us from their stances if we accept their input.

Parallel or Probable Selves are those selves very much like our present selves, but who make all the decisions, take all the paths, that we have chosen not to make and take in the current life.   The Many Worlds Theory of Quantum Physics, as well as Seth, declares that, before any decision is made, however small, there exists a quantum wave of all the possibilities of how that decision could be made.  When the individual finally chooses one of those possibilities, all the other possibilities are also actualized, but each in a different or parallel universe.  As each individual makes a choice, that information is telepathically conveyed to everyone else around him or her, and each of these other individuals subconsciously chooses or does not choose to be a part of same universe—most make the choice to do so.  These transactions take place at “warp speed” continually beneath conscious awareness.

The usefulness of contacting some of our parallel selves is without question.  For instance, at some point in the creation of his or her reality, an individual for any number of purposes may have contracted to develop cancer.  When that moment happened, at least one (and maybe more than one, each with a slight variation) parallel life developed in which the individual does not have cancer.  By contacting this parallel self, the individual might understand what he or she could do or be without cancer and might therefore decide to heal the cancer in the present life.  If that happens, the healed individual becomes the central self and the self with cancer becomes a parallel life.   Yet, from the parallel self’s point of view, the self who is healed from cancer would be a parallel self, who in turn could be contacted for information.

Counterpart Selves form with the Soul’s intent to explore an issue simultaneously from multiple points of view (usually 4-6) through the creation of several personalities living around the same time around the globe.  Each person, then, has counterparts of himself or herself, of both genders and of various ages, living nearby or elsewhere around the planet, all of whom have chosen, guided by the influence of their common Soul, the same basic issue(s) to work out; but each uses different talents, perspectives, choices, emotions, ideas, etc.

For instance, if the Soul wants to work on the overall issue of weight, it might “divide” its incarnations of a certain time period into a fifteen-year-old girl in Kansas who is challenged by anorexia, a twenty-six-year-old Chinese man living in Taiwan who is obese, an eighty-six–year-old monk in Tibet who has voluntarily restricted his diet for spiritual purposes, and a middle-aged female researcher in Budapest who is working on developing a totally safe diet pill.  By incarnating all these counterparts, the Soul experiences the issue from multiple points of view at relatively the same time.  And it is not difficult to see how all the counterparts can find mutual benefit from the information that can be passed among them when they are in contact with each other, which may be in person, if they recognize each other, or through other means.

These other means may be employed to make contact, not only with counterpart selves, but also with any of the other three groups of alternate selves; these means include deliberate, conscious hypnotic processes like regressions, progressions, and other guided imagery.  However, there is also constant interaction among these selves on a subconscious level in dreams possibly every night.  Still other means are semi-conscious: “bleed-through” communications from alternate selves in waking life through “hunches,” spontaneous images or thoughts, or other “serendipitous” experiences.

These communications are possible primarily because all dimensions, all selves, though distinct, are inseparable, intimately related to each other; for all are part of All That Is.  Moreover, because time as we know it “exists” only in this three-dimensional world, all the alternate selves exist at once, outside of time, side by side, if you will.  They are constantly, mutually, influencing each other, though any one influence may or may not be accepted by a particular self.   As a result, no self, not even a past-life self, is finished in its growth.  While past-life regression which ends with the death experience of that self might seem to give the lie to what I just wrote, nevertheless, that ending is only a probable ending (only one of many possible terminations) that the present self has viewed for the past-life self in the regression to help the present self understand the influences it has accepted for its current incarnation.  Thus, it is possible to help the past-life self, if it so desires, to select a different death experience and so move into a universe parallel to the previous one; that change will also affect the present self if it so chooses.  So constant change is available to all selves, for no self ever ends.

But why do our souls/personalities have our three-dimensional brains arrange some of our alternate selves in a time sequence inthe first place?   Seth says that we do not create this kind of reality because we need to suffer for some reason; we create it, rather, so we can play with what the illusion of cause-and-effect can tell us about manipulating energy—with self-discipline, control, compassion, creativity and love.  These are the fundamental purposes of being human.  However, should we get too entrenched in this time-dominated dimension of reality and thereby forget all that we are, our alternate selves will find a way to reach through the veil and speak to us, illuminating the essence of our multi-dimensional core.

NOTE:  Image above is found at http://www.holisticcyprus.com

At the Crossroads of Beliefs

With a sigh and a shrug of her shoulders, she gazed down at her hands, her right index finger tracing circles on one of her jeans-clad thighs.  Slouched in the overstuffed chair opposite my own, she suddenly jerked her head up and said.  “But I’ve tried everything, and I still can’t find the perfect man for me…he just doesn’t exist!”  As she looked right at me, her eyes, imploring me for help, were filled with fear, sadness, anger, despair, and hope.

What I was seeing and hearing in front of me was not unusual in my hypnotherapy practice.  Heather* was typical of most individuals who came to me, desperate to understand how they could create change in their lives.  Certainly, I, myself, was not immune to the same quandary, but I had learned some truths about working through obstacles in order to move ahead.

In the last few years, many people, by watching The Secret and/or by reading books on manifestation and the Law of Attraction and/or by listening to speakers on the topic, have discovered keys to bring about some desired change.  Most writers agree that one key is setting an intention about what you seek; another key is “revving-up” the intention with emotion; and the final key is actually accepting what you asked for. A process that is simple…until it is not.  Throughout the manifestation process, trouble arises when the beliefs that are often hidden beneath our desires/intentions intersect at a crossroads and create cross purposes, a subject not often discussed in depth.  Before I can explain these conflicts of beliefs, I must first clarify what a belief is and is not.

The Nature of Beliefs

So, what are beliefs?  They are interpretations, translations, and assessments of Reality, but are not Reality Itself.  Because of the nature of our usual perceptual ability, which comprises the five senses, no perception/perspective/interpretation/translation/ assessment, even if it is positive and furthers our agenda, can capture the whole of Reality, which is infinitely multifaceted, frustrating any attempts to encompass it. Thus any belief is only one angle by which to perceive Reality.  While that angle or vantage point is valid as far as it goes—that is, it does indeed capture some aspect of Reality—nevertheless, it inevitably distorts what it captures since what it records is only part of a whole it cannot ascertain.

Think here about the conundrum of several blind men who meet an elephant for the first time: one, touching the elephant’s trunk, declares it to be snake-like.  Another, touching its huge ear, argues that the creature is shaped like an enormous wing.  Still another, touching one of its massive legs, insists that his compatriots are fools in not perceiving that the animal has an affinity with trees.  Each man’s physical blindness is, however, less important than its psychological counterpart; for each is blind to the fact that his version of the reality, while seemingly valid in its limited scope, does not encompass the whole.  As a result, each man inadvertently creates a misrepresentation of both the part and the whole, believing the part to be the whole; and each, if he believes the stakes are high enough, might actually fight to the death to defend his perception, believing it is the Truth, rather than only an imprecise and limited aspect of It.

Like the blind men, many of us do not actually see most of our beliefs or acknowledge them as such.  Think about when you could not find your car keys, only to notice, finally, that they were in one of your hands under the package you were also holding.  Or remember the last time you were looking all over your desk for a particular envelope that you ultimately found right in front of you.  Or what about your glasses that, strangely enough, were on top of your head the entire time you were frantically searching for them. Why couldn’t you notice these items?  The answer is that your limiting beliefs about where they could be literally blinded you to the “obvious” whereabouts of these artifacts.  For instance, you might have believed that you left your keys somewhere in one of the places you looked for them—in no way could you believe you were holding them in virtually plain sight.  As for the envelope, well, you believed, knew without a doubt, that the envelope was the brown, 9” X 11” type.  As you scanned your workplace with this belief, this template of perception, the white, business-size envelope right in front of you did not fit this template and so was literally not seen.  And those glasses—well, you never, ever place them on the top of your head; and thus that location isn’t part of the search, even though part of your scalp is actually feeling the pressure from the clinging temples.  Such beliefs actually keep us from seeing all that is before us, including the very existence of the beliefs as such.  In the examples above, it never occurs to you that you are searching for things through a limiting belief, one that filters out what does not fit its parameters.  You simply know that you are open to everything around you—to think otherwise is just plain crazy….uh huh!

Moreover, we very often do not recognize any one belief as an interpretation of reality because each one is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Because the belief allows us to perceive only that which it focuses on, what it focuses on validates the belief as the Truth, rather than just a perspective on the Truth.  You see what you believe, and then believe what you see.  With its subjective, inadequate spotlight, the belief does not illuminate any data that would disconfirm its validity as the Truth.  So the young lady in my office complaining about not finding “the perfect man” is actually telling her truth; for her limiting beliefs—about what such a man would be like or how able she is to attract him—never allow her to see him, even if he were to sit beside her on a park bench.  Her reality comprises only that which her limiting beliefs allow her to perceive.  Like one of the blind men adamant about his conception of the elephant, she is, in effect, trapped in that portion of Reality framed by her beliefs.  And thus her beliefs are so constantly reinforced/validated that she would be thoroughly shocked to discover that Reality is quite different from what she thought It was.

Ontological Shock and Disconfirmed Beliefs

In fact, the shock might be so great that she refuses, momentarily or permanently, to accept the disconfirmation.  In such a case, to accept that Reality is so substantially dissimilar from what she has held as the Truth would necessitate a complete reconfiguration, a change of identity, of both self and the world.  Other people, when faced with an even greater disconfirmation, might fear losing their sanity if what they deem sane is identified by an authoritative other as a limiting belief.  In Passport to the Cosmos, one of two books he wrote on alien encounters and abductions, John E. Mack, M.D, the late Harvard psychiatrist, uses the term “ontological shock” to describe the experience that many abductees go through at the moment when they can no longer deny that what they have undergone is in some way real” (p. 52).  He goes on to note that “A worldview….is a source of security and a compass to guide us.  For an individual it holds the psyche together.  To destroy someone’s worldview is virtually to destroy that person….People who present ideas that seriously challenge a worldview are punished—by death for heresy in the past and now by ridicule, debunking, and efforts to destroy their reputation” (p. 34).

While most of us do not have to face this particular encounter with a much more complex reality, nevertheless, such psyche-altering situations happen quite frequently to us in a vast array of physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually traumatic situations.  Even the normal transitions between life stages, such as adolescence, mid-life, and old age, can trigger huge shocks that may or may not result in positive transformations.  The ontological shock is such because the worldview, often called a paradigm, is not just one belief, but rather a series of layered/interlocking beliefs that govern most of what we experience.  Thus, these intertwined beliefs are mutually reinforcing and create a seemingly impenetrable thicket or matrix, which is fiercely defended. No wonder some of my hypnotherapy clients react with a degree of hostility to my efforts to show them that their limiting beliefs about identity and Reality frustrate their getting what they say they want.

Such was the case with Heather, who had cast herself as the all-suffering victim of some outside force that refused to bring her what she consciously, seriously thought was her greatest desire.  Even after I actively, empathically listened to her account of innumerable strategies she had employed to seek out her beloved, she reacted with narrowed eyes, slightly clenched fists and even an air of condescension to my wondering if she was missing something in her analysis.  For hadn’t she just provided me with unassailable proof that what she said she wanted was actually what she wanted?

The Multi-Dimensional Self: “Parts-of-Me” vs. “I”

What I had next to do was to explain, gently, the notion of the multi-dimensional self, the idea that the self is not unitary, but rather a gathering of many aspects that sometimes function in unison and sometimes not.  Using common examples—from her trying to decide what type of ice cream she wants today to choosing what educational institution she wants to attend—I demonstrated to Heather how all of us constantly make choices between one wish, inclination, or desire and at least one other.  The fact that we have to choose so often between two or more directions strongly suggests that there are competing yearnings and therefore competing parts of the psyche, each of which has its own structure of beliefs.  Unfortunately, when Heather (or anyone else) tends to speak with “I” as the subject of her sentences, she fosters the illusion that she is univocal and that, therefore, there could be no inner conflict.  When I asked her to speak instead with “part-of-me” as the subject, she at first resisted and then complied, sensing that that construction was more accurate.  She reluctantly came to understand that there might be other inner perspectives not totally in alignment with that part she labeled “I.”

To illustrate more concretely what I was suggesting to her, I told her the story of a young man who came to me many years ago when I was a traditional therapist.  A vibrant, good-looking man of 32, Jerry* had been divorced about a year and a half before he came to see me.  He was managing fairly well as a single father of two boys, 8 and 10, though sometimes  felt overwhelmed.  What Jerry was not managing well was his love life.  Feeling ready to begin dating again, he described himself as “quite horny,” but could not find anyone with whom to begin a relationship.   Just after his divorce was final, in order to help himself get grounded and focused, Jerry committed to a church which he really enjoyed, except for one thing: there was a prohibition on pre-marital sex.  A conundrum of the highest order, to say the least!

As I listened, I wondered what this conflict of yearnings and the beliefs that sustained them would bring to him.  A week later Jerry announced that he had met an incredibly beautiful woman—a picture he showed me of her underlined that fact—who was very sexy and wanting to make love to him.  He might have succumbed to her charms, except for one problem; she belonged to the same church that frowned on premarital dalliances!  After a while, the sexual/spiritual tension was too great, and they split up.  A couple of weeks later Jerry proclaimed that he had met another woman, who was nearly as attractive as the first woman, who was ready to have sex, and who did not belong to that church.  Once again he might have chosen sex over his religious affiliation, but—you guessed it!—another problem arose when she disclosed to him that she was a single mother of three boys.  The thought of managing five boys was more than overwhelming, and Jerry said goodbye to her also.

Had all of these occurrences not been so painful to Jerry, I would have shared my amusement with him.  What happened to him was a perfect illustration of the Law of Attraction: you get what you focus on.  Since he focused on both celibacy and sexual attraction, he received in his experience with each woman a combination of both desires/beliefs.

This un-integrated, unresolved combination of conflicting wishes/beliefs caused Jerry much anguish; he felt victimized, extremely frustrated and overrun by something he could not understand.  But, with some gentle prompting from me, he soon began to discern his competing needs and beliefs; still, we both sensed something else lying beneath this conflict of desires.  As we turned our focus to how he felt about his divorce, it was not long before Jerry realized that he had felt so blown away by his wife’s betrayal in having an affair for several years that he made a half-conscious decision not to get close to another woman again, fearing a repetition of the infidelity.  Hence the conflict between sex and celibacy served Jerry’s underlying belief that he should not get deeply involved with a woman again.  When we explored further his near-phobia of intimacy, we found still more global, limiting and obstructing beliefs, such as the “fact” that all women (including his mother) betray men, the “fact” that all women (like his other girlfriends) use sex for control, and the “fact” that all men (including his father and uncle) eventually fall victim to women’s machinations.  Though I do not recall if we checked for the influence of beliefs he may have imported from one or more past lives, they would certainly be another source of relevant, limiting beliefs, such as the idea that the world is not a safe place.

Despite his initial bewilderment, once he became more open, Jerry saw that it was relatively easy to find those conflicting beliefs that prevented him from getting what he consciously said he wanted.  As Jane Roberts’ Seth repeatedly says in his dictated books, for the most part, these beliefs are not deeply hidden in the subconscious, but are instead mostly conscious and relatively easy to access if we learn to step back, change focus and have the courage to ask what inner perspective may be getting in the way of our getting what we say we want.  However, such access will not seem easy if we refuse to believe that opposing beliefs exist—how can they exist if we believe the self is univocal? Operating from the belief that the self has one voice, Jerry, at the outset, did not even look for a competing belief/self.

Nor are we likely to see these beliefs if they are self-reinforcing (as explained above) or if we see through them as though they were glasses.  Those of us who wear glasses often forget we have them on, even if they are tinted sunglasses!  All glasses distort the world we see, either to allow us to perceive something we would not otherwise see as with prescription lenses; or to appear “cool” or to hide; or to protect our eyes from sunlight; or to give a “color,” tone, mood to what we observe.  In each case, the distortion serves a purpose just as all beliefs serve purposes that seem positive until they are not.  Even when the distortions that are beliefs serve a useful purpose, problems inevitably arise when we forget we are deliberately distorting reality or seeing only one aspect of it.  What we need is the reminder that the right side mirror on most vehicles provides.  Inscribed on the mirror itself is the caution: “Objects are closer than they appear.”  In order to provide the driver with a greater field of vision, the mirror is shaped to show objects farther away than they are; but, to prevent an accident, the mirror reminds us that the useful distortion is still a distortion.

So, in summary, we often do not notice those beliefs that obstruct our getting what we say we want because: 1) We say that what we perceive is reality and not just a perspective on reality; 2) We see only what the belief allows us to see, and thus it is self-reinforcing and blinds us to disconfirming data; 3) Beliefs interlock with one another and become woven into our identity, which we do not want to change; 4) Many of us tend to think of the self as one-dimensional, instead of multi-faceted and thus use “I” when “part of me” is often a more accurate subject of many sentences we say about ourselves; 5) Many of us are sure that, if there are, indeed, competing beliefs, they are beyond reach in the deep subconscious; 6) Even when we are aware that beliefs may distort Reality, we usually eventually forget that fact.

We Create Our Own Reality (Even Our Not Getting What We Say We Want)

The biggest obstacle to getting what we say we want is, however, not knowing or not being willing to know (and function from) the fact that we create our own reality.  Seth has said that this fact is one of three statements he has made that is not in any way distorted by Jane Roberts’ channeling, and is, therefore, not really a belief, but rather a true reflection of All That Is.  Seth calls it a “primary” or “basic” reality, one operative in every system of reality/consciousness. Whether we open to this fact consciously or not, we still create every bit of what we experience, even our not getting what we say we want.  At every moment, we walk into the materialization of our thoughts, beliefs and emotions, whether they are in alignment with each other or not, and explore them, consciously or not, from the inside.  Becoming fully aware of this truth enables us to be totally conscious creators of our worlds.  To accept the fact that we create our own reality with no exceptions is deeply empowering; it allows us immediately to understand that, notwithstanding what we consciously intend, what comes to us is always, at the very least, the co-creation of all of our inner selves that are in or not in alignment with each other.

Yet, even those individuals open to the fact of self-creation often hedge here or there, thinking and acting as if some areas of our experience are not designed and generated by us.  To hedge like this is to disempower ourselves in many ways, including limiting our ability to see all the other obstacles listed above that get in the way of what we say we want.  Sometimes we show our hedging in the way we discuss how our intentions operate.  For instance, a short while ago, a beloved soul companion said something to me that I have heard often from others: “What if what we put out there is not what is supposed to happen?  Then what happens?”  Implied in this sentence construction, whether the speaker intended it or not, is the notion that there is something like God or the Soul, that ultimately “calls the shots.”  In one of Jane Roberts’ ESP classes in the ‘70s, Seth said:

You form the reality that you know, not esoterically, not symbolically, and not philosophically. Some great over soul doesn’t form it for you- you cannot put the burden there, either. You have in the past, collectively and individually, blamed a god or a fate for the nature of your personal realities – those aspects, indeed that you did not like.

The personality is given the greatest gift of all; you get exactly what you want to get. You create from nothing the experience that is your own. If you do not like your experience, then look within yourself and change it. But realize also that you are responsible for your joys and triumphs, and that the energy to create any of these realities comes from the inner self. What you do with it is up to the individual  personality.

In saying that the inner self (i.e., the Soul, the Divine aspect of each of us) provides the personality with a flow of energy for creation, Seth is declaring that that flow may have a general direction, but it is ultimately directed by the personality (with its many parts/egos), who may even direct the flow against the flow. Thus the Divine or Soul aspect does not hold the trump card.  And that is so because the personality has free will!  If we did not have free will, our personality self(ves) would be robotic and learn absolutely nothing to develop the Soul and contribute to the Divine.  The Divine aspect of who we are needs our personality self(ves) to be free-will explorers at the edge of what is known by the Soul; thus, even “detours” from the main line of development facilitated by the Soul aspect can provide knowledge, including, at the very least, information about why that route is not entirely useful to pursue.

In a rough analogy, the Soul is like the voice in my GPS that offers me the most expeditious route to my destination, given the time of day, one-way streets, the traffic situation and other parameters at that particular moment.  (Some GPS systems, like the one on the Apple iPhone present “equifinality,” giving three possible routes, each with the same outcome, but with a different experience, e.g., most scenic route, one that is quickest, or one that bypasses something.)  As the driver, no matter my reason (including just being “defiant” as I sometimes am!), I have the freedom to ignore the GPS voice, which, however, will continue to offer me new opportunities to reach my goal in the quickest, least problematic way.  Again, any so-called detour will always provide some new experience even if it might be relatively more onerous and takes longer to achieve the goal.  The Soul acts in just this way vis-à-vis the personality, though it does not give up after a while, as does the GPS voice!

Knowing What We Want: The First Step to Getting What We Want

Given the information about the nature of beliefs, the multi-dimensional self, and the fact that we create our own reality, how do we intentionally bring to us what we want?  The first step, as I noted early in this post, is to set the intention; but to do that, we have to know clearly, unequivocally, what we want.  And such knowing is not as easy as some people might think.  For, as I have shown with the case of Jerry, when we are searching for what we want, often several parts of us vie for dominance in choosing what is desired.  In fact, if we are not getting what we think we want, there is no doubt that an inner interplay of conflicting, obstructing forces is operating.

There are several hypnotic processes that can facilitate awareness and resolution of this kind of conflict.  One is past-life regression during which the individual’s subconscious is asked to take the person’s awareness back to a time when some vow or decision (even about the degree of ones worthiness or about whether ones actions in a prior life can be forgiven) was made that now, in the present incarnation, if the vow is accepted by the current personality, inhibits action/intention in a certain conscious direction.  For instance, an individual who believes he wants to set up a practice as a psychic recalls a vow never to do so, a determination made at the end of a lifetime in which he misused his psychic gifts or was murdered for speaking of esoteric truths.  Or a woman who desires a career as a gymnast recalls a past life in which, as a child swinging joyously on tree limbs, she slips and falls, breaking many bones in her body.  In each case, to bring that part of the individual that is still fearful or doubtful into alignment with the aspiring part requires a new perspective, e.g., the individual may simply acknowledge that circumstances in the present life are far more advantageous and thus limiting vows are no longer needed; or may alter the outcome of the past life to a much more positive, less inhibiting ending; or may change the fearful part’s role from anticipating terror to prescribing caution.

A related process is to go back to the Interlife when plans were being made by the personality with or without other personalities for the upcoming life.  At least two primary modalities are possible here: the first is Michael Newton’s Life Between Lives Hypnotherapy, a thorough, but very long process that allows the individual in trance to examine not only the pre-conception contract, but also many other aspects of the Interlife.  A much briefer, though still effective process developed by David Quigley, the creator of Alchemical Hypnotherapy, leads the individual in trance directly to the contract he or she made with another individual or with God/Higher Self, a contract that has proved exceedingly burdensome and inhibiting of progress toward what the individual now wants.  When the contract is with another individual or small group, the person seeking a change in the contract needs to “clean up” what caused the contract to be made in the first place; he or she then does a replay of the contracting experience more in keeping with what the person presently wants.  The person, in trance, then communicates the new contract to the other individual who may or may not accept it; if the new contract is not accepted, the person who desires change will either renegotiate or completely end the contract.   If the contract is made with God or the Higher Self, the petitioner, in trance, engages that Entity in a dialogue, hoping to end or at least mitigate the terms of the contract, especially if most of the lessons have been learned or if the purpose of the contract can be served in less painful and inhibiting ways.

Another hypnotic process to facilitate clear intention is what NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) practitioners do every time they assist an individual to sumount blocks to achievement: they ask the subconscious if every part of it agrees to the change.  This is called “checking ecology” (the degree of integration of parts in the psychic environment) in such NLP modalities as 6-Step Reframe. A part that disagrees is summoned to image itself in the individual’s inner world in a symbolic way that reflects what/who it is.  The part is then asked what its positive intention is in frustrating the forward movement of the individual.  Always framing the intention as positive allows the part to feel heard and respected.  The individual is then asked to summon his or her creative part to help the inhibiting part to accomplish its intention for the psyche without the present negative side effects.  If the inhibiting part accepts the new way of accomplishing its goal, the individual then once again checks the ecology of his inner world of parts until there are no objections.

Negotiating with inner parts/subpersonalities to achieve an agreed-upon intention is the overall object of various other parts therapies, such as Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis, Gestalt therapy, Hal Stone & Sidra Winkelman’s Voice Dialogue, and David Quigley’s Conference Room.  Each of these therapies emphasizes some inner dynamics over others, e.g., Gestalt’s focus on Top Dog/Under Dog, Voice Dialogue’s concentration on the Inner Critic, and Quigley’s spotlight on the Inner Child.   But all of these modalities agree that the psyche is multi-dimensional and thus all aspects/parts/subpersonalities must be in alignment for the person to consciously set an unequivocal intention for what he or she truly wants.  (Byron Katie’s modality, called “The Work,” while not a form of parts therapy, is also useful in questioning the validity of limiting beliefs, in effect deconstructing them so that room is left for other, more expansive beliefs to emerge.)

Emotionalizing What We Want: The Second Step to Getting What We Want

Once all the parts agree with each other as to what the intended outcome is to be, that intention requires some “juice,” which is accomplished by adding emotion to the mix.  No matter how clear the intention, without our emotionalizing it, the intention loses its power to materialize.  While some individuals might think such a prerequisite is onerous, they might pause a moment to reflect on what would happen if this requirement were not operating: in that case, every thought and whim, with or without emotion, would be immediately materialized, creating infinite chaos.

As Seth has said many times in his books, every thought, no matter how small or insignificant, has an electromagnetic reality.  Thoughts, then, are “things” of greater or lesser substantiality or energy.  If every thought were amped up and materialized to the same degree, it would be impossible to have any meaningful experience on the Earth plane because of lack of discrimination, prioritization, and overall organization.  When we are outside of this plane, our creations are instantaneous, but not substantial in the way manifestations show up on this plane; in the Other World, then, we are better equipped to deal with such creations.  However, we cannot learn in the Other World what we can learn here, where creation is slowed down so we can become much more aware of and responsible for what we bring into being.  Here we have time to think twice or thrice about our choices; fortunately, for most of us, wanting to “kill” someone who has hurt you does not immediately translate into action as you cool down and understand your emotions.  In a less dramatic scenario, for instance, my client, Heather, has time to thwart her growing desire to “swear off” men before she becomes an emotional hermit.

However, if Heather keeps repeating to herself that she wants to “swear off” men, then what amounts to a hypnotic auto-suggestion becomes more potent, more emotionalized through that repetition.  Repetition is a key way to emotionalize and energize, for it produces a trance, a framework of beliefs, that is self-reinforcing because of the aforementioned nature of beliefs to blind one to disconfirming data.  In Heather’s case, her emotionalizing and energizing her limiting beliefs is mostly unconscious and productive of misery.  Yet, if she was aware of emotionalizing and energizing a more expansive belief about her possibilities with men, she would more likely get what she says she wants.  Moreover, if her emotionalizing is accompanied by her concretely imagining with all of her senses what she wants (what Neuro-Linguistic Programming calls “future pacing”) she will truly experience herself as a conscious co-creator with All That Is.

Still, if we have to add emotion and energy to our intention, that effort implies that we did not do as good a job as we could have in seeking the input of all of our parts about our intended outcome.  If all of the parts had agreed, the emotionalizing and energizing of the intention would have been automatic because at least one or more of the parts would amp up intentions.  In doing “parts work,” we often overlook one or more parts who may be afraid to exercise their powers (for fear of some retribution), or may be hiding to gain and exercise power behind the scenes, or are being repressed by other parts who speak louder and more insistently.

To rectify this situation, we must go back to any of the modalities outlined above, e.g., past-life regression, contract work with others or with God/Higher Self, Gestalt therapy, Voice Dialogue, NLP ecology work, Psychosynthesis, or the Conference Room.  In parts therapies, we must ask directly, “Is there anyone here who objects to giving energy to this intention?”  As when we are asking about the intention itself, parts may reveal themselves and “speak” through body sensations (e.g., itches, sharp or dull pain, stomach rumblings, sudden desire to sneeze or cough, curious smell) or through images that suddenly surface in the mind’s eye.  We then dialogue with the part, which may respond with further images, body sensations, inner voices or automatic writing.  Once again, some negotiating needs to take place with the help of other parts to bring the dissenting part on board.  Occasionally, in doing such dialoguing, a spontaneous regression to a past life or the past in this life (or even to the future or the Interlife) may occur as a response demonstrating the part’s objection.  One can also ask the part directly when it was “born,” when it came into being a dissenter.  For instance, in the case of Jerry, the part that objects to intimacy with a woman may have been born in this life, when he saw the effects on his father of his mother’s infidelity. Or that part may have been born in response to a past life in which his female past-life persona was the “other woman” in a marriage.

Receiving What We Want: The Third and Final Step to Getting What We Want

So let’s say that your intention is clear and energized, and you focus on it repeatedly.  That should do it, right?  Uh, no, those conditions are not enough for complete manifestation of your desire.  You need to be open fully to receive what you asked for.  Many of us are not.  The adage, “Be careful what you ask for—you may get it!” is operative here.   Whenever I discuss this part of the manifestation process with clients, I often get looks of utter shock, of profound disbelief that I could say something so…stupid!  “Why wouldn’t I want it?” says the typical doubter with annoyed condescension.   When I broached this perspective with Heather, her narrowed eyes and tight lips told me she was containing her anger, concluding that I am downright crazy.

But I am not (at least not in that way!).  Yet, I can understand how Heather could wonder about my mental stability, given how much time, effort, and tears she expended to create what she says she wants.  When she came down from her haughty perch, however, I reminded her of the phenomenon of ontological shock, which I first discussed relative to ones finding out that the universe is far more complex than one had thought.   Now, in this final phase of the manifestation process, ontological shock may emerge once again when some part of the individual realizes that a great deal may have to change in his or her environment and in himself or herself–even his/her identity!–if the manifestation is truly embraced.  For instance, Heather would have to see herself as an empowered woman instead of as a victim, as someone honestly open to intimacy instead of someone pursuing what she is also secretly afraid of because it is so foreign.  We tend to stay with our old, even painful limiting beliefs because they are frequently more “comfortable” than the more expansive ones that nevertheless often seem very strange, if not downright alien to our usual way of showing up in the world.  Remember what Hamlet said, “Our present fears are less than horrible imaginings.”  Or recall the saying, “The Devil I know is better than the Devil I don’t know!”

Unfortunately, many individuals like Heather will not believe my warning until they have a real chance of getting what they want.  Then, suddenly, they don’t have the time to receive something new because of an impending physical relocation for a job, a sudden illness, or, as in Heather’s situation, the reemergence of an old, but toxic lover.  What has really happened is that still another part of the psyche has been ignored, not adequately seen or consulted, or downright repressed.  What needs to be heard is that part’s beliefs about the internal and external changes likely to occur if the individual gets what she/he says she wants.

Once again, to make contact with the part that holds off acceptance requires doing some of the same parts work I outlined for the other two steps of the manifestation protocol, and/or doing contract renegotiation, and/or investigating past-life (and future-life) situations.  In doing past-life regression, for instance, Heather may discover that she is hesitant in this life to embrace full intimacy because, in a past-life, her soul-mate may have died soon after she married him, or because she may have experienced a conflict between marrying someone and an opportunity to travel the world experiencing multiple, very different relationships that made her feel immensely and exotically desired.  Whatever part is objecting to embracing what the person wants and receives must be respected and dialogued with if there is to be total alignment of all the aspects of the individual.

Only then is the manifestation process complete.  Only then at the crossroads of beliefs is the traffic managed properly and thus allowed to flow without obstruction.

*Names are changed to protect privacy.

Ultimate Presence

There he stood with a curious grace, all 230+ lbs of him, dressed in shaggy, faded blue jeans, a red-and-blue plaid shirt with short sleeves rolled up even shorter and, low on his brow, a dark blue baseball cap, the arch of its visor matching the curve of the friendly smirk brightening up his face.  “I don’t teach dogs how to sit, stay, roll over and all that stuff,” he said, the smirk transforming into a wide, confident and infectious grin as his audience of dog owners struggled to keep their variously-sized charges from lunging at each other and now wondered if they had come to the right training class.  Obviously enjoying his showstopper as he swept his gaze from one side of the room to the other, he then said with slow emphasis, “I teach them…how to be.”

His name is Dave,* a very wise man seemingly disguised as a hillbilly, good ol’ boy.  Though his words oddly resonated deep within me, and probably within many of the nine other humans there, his impact on the dogs was even more pronounced.  A couple of the larger canines, a chocolate-brown, slobbering Lab and another that was a cross probably of a Boxer and a Pit Bull, were nearly dragging their frustrated, even somewhat frightened owners off their chairs and toward the man they wanted to eat raw.  Without flinching, Dave instructed each owner to dig in his or her heels and hold tight the leashes; then he faced each bared-tooth animal and snapped a command, “Ou(t)!”  It was the word “out,” but without the “t,” a vibration, he explained later, that was the archetypal sound of the mother dog directed at her wayward pups.  Within literally a second, these seemingly ferocious dogs were sitting, panting happily, then tranquilly lying down and gazing up at the man they now loved and licked as he stroked each of them behind its ears.  Puzzled, even awed expressions took over the human faces around the room.

A miracle?  No, simply a manifestation of presence.  Dave has his techniques, but what he has most is the way he is, the way he shows up in the world, at least when connecting with dogs and their owners.

So, what is this powerful quality that most people know when they encounter it, but nevertheless have trouble articulating?  This post is an exploration of the many aspects of presence, from the most common attributes to what I believe is its ultimate expression.

Most dictionaries will agree that someone manifesting presence truly, really exists here and now, close by in time and space, and has an air or aura of self-assurance, poise, coolness, equanimity, unflappability, and an overall powerful, sometimes dignified and in control (as opposed to “controlling”) bearing and comportment.  (see http://www.thefreedictionary.com/presence) The legal definition of presence adds to this portrait; an individual is present or displays presence only when he or she is truly capable of giving consent, when he or she personally acknowledges something as valid, or when he or she is “constructively present” through valid representation by a designated party. (see http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/presence).  And presence is even important in understanding how we now connect electronically with each other.  “In an instant messaging (IM) system, [presence] is the status of a person’s current availability (online, idle, offline, etc.)….”Rich presence” implies conveying more information about the user’s current status, including type of device being used and its operating environment, location and local time of user and any other messages the user might wish to announce (http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/presence).

Putting much of the above together gives us a fuller portrait of the individual manifesting presence: he or she (to repeat) truly, really exists here and now, close by in time and space, is truly focused and undistracted, and has an air or aura of self-assurance, poise, coolness, equanimity, unflappability, and an overall powerful, sometimes dignified and in control (as opposed to “controlling”) bearing and comportment. In addition, the individual displaying presence is choice-full, fully empowered to give his or her consent and validation to anyone representative of him or her, and clear and communicative about whether he can be or is fully present at any one time.

Dave certainly exhibited many of the features listed above as he managed the canines.  And he displayed another quality of someone with presence: the ability to elicit the same state in those near him; the dogs immediately recognized his ability to free them from their own distractibility and fears and thus to encourage them to be focused and present in their natural, loving state.

Presence as the Authentic Self

Here I am reminded of two other men I had encountered many years ago when I was a soldier in Vietnam.  One was the epitome of someone without presence; the other was the quintessence of it.   In 1970, I was sent from advanced Army training in the States to the 3rd Squadron, Fifth Calvary (I do not remember the regiment, etc.) operating from Dong Ha, eight miles below the DMZ.  Though I was supposed to be a tank crewman operating in the “boonies” for three months at a time, my education helped me get a job as an Operations Clerk in the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) located in a bunker twelve feet below ground near the center of the compound.  In case the enemy breached the perimeter, which was about five hundred feet away from the TOC, a main target of the enemy, everyone was assigned a defensive position.  Mine was near the top step of the only entry into and only exit from the TOC.

During the day, from this vantage point, I could see the officer’s hootch (quarters); among its occupants was the Executive Officer (XO), a major, who fancied himself as the reincarnation of Patton.  At least several times a week, when he was in from the field, he would strut around the TOC, much to the repressed laughter of the other personnel, including me.   Invariably, he wore a shiny helmet, which he may or may not have exchanged for a dull one in the field so as not to become an enhanced target for an enemy bullet.  Clinging to the helmet was a set of goggles, even though these were not important in an environment without the extreme dust Patton had encountered in North Africa.  Around his neck, the XO had tied a yellow cravat, meticulously arranged to match the scrupulously starched uniform he wore, complete with jodhpurs—after all, wasn’t the tank corps the modern equivalent of the cavalry?  Moreover, he wore his jodhpurs “bloused” (tucked) into his always spit-polished boots in the way only paratroopers were allowed to wear their trousers during the War.  I have a dim remembrance of at least one pearl-handled pistol holstered at the hip.   And, topping off this elegant regalia, was a riding crop, one end of which he used to slap an open palm as he swaggered around the TOC.  I always wondered if he occasionally used it to slap the tank turret to make the machine go faster.  And I wondered also if this distracting, preposterous posturing had ever gotten one of his men maimed or killed.

One night around 1:30 a.m. while I was working alone, later than I usually did, in the TOC, the dreaded siren sounded, alerting us to a possible breach in the “wire.”  As I clamped on and fastened my helmet, shouldered my flack jacket, grabbed my M16 and flew up the stairs to my assigned position, I suddenly realized that I had not been given any rules of engagement.  These rules regulate when to fire and where, a crucial issue given that I would not be able to distinguish foe from friend in the darkness that descended when the compound lights were deliberately doused to deny illumination for the enemy.  In my utter fright at the possibility of my first firefight, I chambered a round, crouched down and waited for I knew not what.

Suddenly, the door to the officer’s hootch burst open, and out hobbled the XO, constricted by his untied boots whose laces provided him with a major opportunity to fall on his face.  Still shiny, his helmet lay cockeyed on his head, unfastened, a dangerous situation when one may be facing imminently the abrupt, physical movements of combat.  Covering his torso was a regulation Army T-shirt, which I soon realized was inside out.  As for his trousers—well, he had none on…which allowed anyone interested to view his shorts decorated with huge, red polka dots.  In his right hand he grasped a .45 pistol, which he waved nervously in my face after he had finally shuffled and crouched his way to me.  “What’s going on?” he said, terror flooding his eyes.  “Where the f— is everyone?”

Though I had been nearly shaking in my own fear, I could barely suppress my laughter and disgust at my superior officer’s total lack of presence.  As I was about to respond, from around the mound that was the top of the TOC came the Commanding Officer (CO).  Dressed in a dull helmet and in Army fatigues distinguished only by his camouflaged, colonel insignia sewn on the shoulders, the CO was the portrait of leadership.  His broad shoulders and erect stature were an outward manifestation of his inner commanding presence.  Barely suppressing his anger and repugnance at the nearly sniveling XO, he said, “Go put on your pants!!  Get the hell out of here!”  Away scurried the XO while, again, I could hardly contain my amusement; yet, immediately, I grew fearful once more, wondering what the CO would now say to me.

I met his gaze, which was stern but not unfriendly.  After a moment, he calmly said, “Son, do you have a round chambered?”  “Yes, sir,” I said, waiting for the reprimand.  “Give me the rifle,” was all he said.  After taking the weapon from me, he quickly ejected the round, then handed it back and said, “Don’t chamber another round until I tell you.”  And off he walked into the darkness.

Thankfully, the siren soon stopped, a false alarm.  Along with my relief, I felt a renewed strength, as well as a certain awe and inspiration.  By the CO’s model in the moment, I developed a growing sense of my own presence.  And, though I had and have no love for war, I would have followed this CO into battle.   In his bearing, authority, attention, understanding, fairness, and discernment about what was going on for each of his soldiers, he was manifesting an irresistible presence, unlike the XO who was inauthentic and, in short, a fake not to be respected or followed—by the way, I never saw him again after that night!  In Leadership Presence, Halpern and Lubar say about the leader with the CO’s presence: “The world sees him as secure and fully comfortable with himself; he never tries to be someone or something he’s not.”

Presence as Improvisation

Halpern and Lubar note that presence is also “the ability to be completely in the moment [conquering fear, distraction, and pressure in ones daily performance] and flexible enough to handle the unexpected.”  This description further describes the CO and Dave, while revealing an aspect of presence that suggests its even deeper roots.  Halpern and Lubar are here describing presence in terms of improvisation, the process of staying in the moment while being open to and making use of whatever is available or emerges.  An individual can practice improv only if he or she is totally in the here and now and thus observant of everything not only around him or her, but also within in terms of all the mental, emotional, and physical assets he or she has.  Such a person is like a tennis player totally focused with heightened sensitivity and receptivity, waiting for the opponent’s serve, and balancing on the balls of the feet, ready to move back, forward, to either side, or up or down to connect with the slammed ball that may land anywhere in his field of responsibility.

Yet, this is possible only if the player first recognizes both the expansive beliefs that help him or her discover and tune into various kinds of inner power and also those limiting beliefs that constrict his or her sense of self and thus the depth and fullness of his or her presence.  In short, to actualize all of the qualities already listed and still others that inform presence, the individual must continually grow, that is, develop more and more awareness of all that he or she truly is.

A case in point is the stuttering King George VI, informally known to his family (and soon his voice coach, Lionel Logue) as Bertie.  In The King’s Speech, Bertie at first believes his stutter is congenital until Logue, with much effort, persuades him to see that his upbringing by an angry father, cold mother, physically hurtful nanny, and teasing brother inhibited his expressing himself and caused him to develop limiting beliefs about who he is and his weaknesses and strengths.  Believing his demanding father who tells him his stuttering makes him useless as a potential monarch, and believing that protocol must be preserved at any cost, Bertie does everything he can to stifle his own desire to become king; such is the case even when his brother David eventually ascends the throne and neglects his duties in favor of an affair with a twice-divorced commoner whom he wishes to marry.   When David finally abdicates and thus propels Bertie into succeeding him, nevertheless, because of continuing limiting beliefs about his own abilities, Bertie is still not fully present to accept the coronation.  Only when Logue, during preparations for the coronation, provocatively sits in the ancestral coronation chair and thus angers Bertie, does Bertie demand that the seemingly impertinent Logue get out the sacred chair.  Logue asks by what right does Bertie make such a demand; Bertie responds with a major declaration, finally claiming what, before this moment, he has been too scared to pronounce:  “I have a voice!” shouts Bertie without stammering, thereby owning his fuller self and kingly aspirations.  He is now on his way to becoming wholly present as he learns to give less and less halting, yet eloquent speeches to his countrymen, who are hungry for inspiration from their monarch during WWII.

Multi-Dimensional Presence

After the first of the King’s successful speeches, Logue ceases to call Bertie by that name and, instead, finally addresses him as “Your Royal Highness,” thereby acknowledging the monarch’s kingly presence.   Still, there is more to the King that could be present, if he expanded his awareness and knew how to access those dimensions.  I am referring here to his multi-dimensional self.  In Jane Roberts’ Seth Books, Seth constantly notes that each individual comprises not just many traits,  but also many dimensions or selves, all of which affect the nature of our presence in the world.  Besides reincarnational and future selves, we have and are parallel selves and counterpart selves.  As for parallel selves, these form at every moment we decide to do one thing (as simple as a finger movement to the right) and not one other or several others (finger movements to the left, up, down, curled onto itself, etc.).  By choosing one such action, we collapse the “quantum wave,” which contains all possible actions; the one action we choose may be as small as (or much smaller than) finger movements, and as large as (or larger than) dropping a series of gargantuan bombs to end life on Earth.  While we have chosen one of these actions, our other probable selves nevertheless actualize in parallel universes all the other possibilities not chosen by us in this reality.  And, of course, each of our other probable selves creates its own parallel selves each time it acts, and so on infinitely.

In this life, for instance, Bertie chose to claim his kingly aspirations; in one parallel life, he chose not to take the throne with the result that the government shut down with grave consequences to England in the upcoming war.  In another parallel life, Bertie became a shadow king advising his brother on what to say and do without taking any credit and so diminishing himself still further; in another parallel life, Bertie became mentally incompetent from the stress, and his daughter Elizabeth took over at age 10 with tumultuous consequences.   Likewise, in this life, the CO reprimanded the XO; in one parallel life, he overlooked the XO’s deportment and thereby possibly endangered everyone; in another parallel life, the CO never came by, and thus the XO and I were left to decide what to do…and so on.  In each parallel life, a different decision by the Bertie or the CO led to a very different result for each of them and for those around each man.

As for counterpart selves, these are other aspects of ones Oversoul, living in the same time period—though each is a different age—and working on the same basic challenge; but each does so from a different perspective.  For instance, Dave, my dog trainer, may have a male counterpart who is 6 years old, living in an impoverished country and eating wild dogs as his only sustenance.  Another counterpart might be a woman of 22 in Texas, who is researching how to extend the life of thoroughbred canines, while another counterpart might be a shaman of 85 in China who has Dog as one of his power animals; and still another female counterpart is 52 and runs a rescue shelter and regularly and with much grief has to put down unwanted dogs.  All these incarnations of Dave’s Oversoul, including Dave himself, may be working simultaneously on different ways to view and relate to canines.  And the Oversoul Itself, which embraces and knows all of the selves/dimensions and how they reflect an infinite number of approaches to the Oversoul’s current mission, may be accessed directly through meditative, hypnotic processes.

Most important in this discussion of presence and the multi-dimensional self is the fact that there are constant “bleed-throughs” among all these selves, communications that appear in dreams, hunches, waking fantasies, and, more deliberately, in visualizations and other kinds of spiritual hypnosis.  For someone who wants the fullest presence possible, learning to accept the reality of these selves and then consciously to access them will provide new resources, even talents and abilities, to enhance what the individual can bring forth, improvise, from within in the present moment.  For example, in at least one parallel life, Bertie is not a stutterer and is, in fact, an eloquent orator; by tuning into that self, Bertie in the present life might then have his own, inner voice coach.  Or Dave could connect to a counterpart self who knows how to extend the life of thoroughbred dogs and thus make helpful suggestions to clients whose purebred dogs are nearing the end of their lives.  Or the CO could have opened to a future self as a Major General and thus gotten advice on choosing better junior officers.

Ultimate Presence

If we look for an example of such full-blown presence, we might examine the doctrine of “Real Presence,” promulgated by Catholic, Orthodox, and some Anglican Christians.  This is the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Wafer consecrated by the priest during Mass to become mysteriously the actual body and blood of Christ and then given to qualified participants to eat.  Theophagy—god-eating—was, according to Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough (1922; accessed at http://www.bartleby.com/196/120.html ) a ritual known to many ancient societies.  What may be unique, though, in the Christian view is the nature of the god’s presence: “None of these churches sees what is really in the Eucharist as a lifeless corpse and mere blood, but as the whole Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity,” even though the wafer and wine appear to be only what they seem. (http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Real+Presence).  More emphatically “…in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ is really present in what was previously just bread and wine, and not merely present in symbol, a figure of speech (metaphorically), or by his power (dynamically)” (http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Eucharistic+theology).  In short, Christ with all of his living humanity and divinity is completely present in/as the Wafer.  As such, as well as in his historical form, Christ, hypostatically merging his full divinity and complete humanity, is the exemplar of the Ultimate Presence possible, open to all of His infinite dimensions/selves.

Yet there is more to understand about Ultimate Presence if we go to John 6: 51-57 (The Jerusalem Bible translation), where Christ Himself describes his Real Presence:

I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world….I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you.  Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.

As is commonly understood, Christ seems here to be emphasizing several points: 1) that He is the Sacrifice exacted by the Father to atone for the sins of mankind; 2) that when the faithful consume his Flesh and Blood and connect also to His Divinity, they are thereby bonded to Him and to each other; and that individuals not participating in this communion will not have everlasting life.

However, these interpretations seem to rest on the assumption that Christ is essentially different from humans, that He is one-of-a-kind, and only through absorbing His Unique Presence is there life everlasting.  Yet, the Church teaches that Christ is wholly human.  While the understanding of Christ as Divine is certainly underlined in the passage above, nevertheless, His “Son of Man,” Human, flesh-and-blood nature is even more emphasized.  So, unless his followers eat, take in, his “real food” and “real drink”—his material existence—and experience its utmost value, and make it one with their own tissue, paradoxically, they cannot experience immortal life.  What Christ is ultimately saying here, I believe, is that matter, flesh and blood, earthy existence are inherently sacred, even immortal at some level—recall that He later rose with His Body into Heaven after the Crucifixion; that His mother, Mary, was also taken into Heaven with Her Body at death; and that He noted that he was the “living bread which has come down from heaven,” a curious statement seeming to imply that he was already one with materiality before he was born!

Thus, Christ seems to declare that there is no real distinction between the physical and the spiritual, between the body and the soul; and that the body is the soul’s expression,”face” or extension into three-dimensional existence.  If Christ were to deny that the material world, His Body, is sacred, He would be repudiating His full reality, His Ultimate Presence, and thus also not be telling the truth when he says eternal life comes through His Flesh.    Furthermore, if Christ is wholly human, his Physicality that is His Soul made Flesh is no different from that of anyone else.  Thus, when one eats Christ’s material being that is also His soul and His Ultimate Presence, one is simply eating, ingesting, absorbing in a very concrete way one’s own divine humanness.  In this view, anyone who truly and completely realizes this truth can manifest the Ultimate Presence that Christ models.

This means that an individual who is Ultimately Present, in addition to all that was described earlier, is also fully in his or her body, which is wholly sanctified as the 3-D expression of his or her soul; is aware that to claim life everlasting is to fully realize that matter is simply divinity of high density; is committed to earthly, material life as the necessary means for the soul to realize more of its potential; and is grounded in here-and-now existence.  In contrast is the individual who believes that to be spiritually present is to want to depart physical existence, to escape the “heavy,” constricting body, and to focus on cultivating only the higher level chakras.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As Robert Bruce says in Energy Work: The Secrets of Healing and Spiritual Growth:

Modern New Age people tend to stimulate and attract mainly higher spiritual energies.  But to function well on all levels…we need a balanced intake of energies.  Low vibrational energies are not negative or toxic or bad, any more than are low musical notes and tones….Low vibrational energies are grounding, balancing, and healthy, and should be an essential part of ones elemental dietary balance (p.113).

Using Ultimate Presence

Just as Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist cultivates communion with others, so, too, when an individual shows up with his or her Ultimate Presence, he or she is able not only to connect quickly to provide solutions and solace, but also to help elicit the other’s own presence.  Dave showed this faculty at one level when he tuned in to the growling dogs and drew from them their calm presence to match his own.  At a deeper level, mental health and health practitioners—those with “healing touch,” for instance—first tune in to their full selves, paradoxically, in order to tune into their clients.  To the degree that their helpers become present to them, clients typically respond positively, emotionally and/or physically.  Because of trauma of one kind or another, these clients frequently disembody and un-ground themselves in an attempt to leave what has harmed them.   However, the helper’s grounding presence, void of any deliberate masks, subterfuges, or distortions, signals to the client that it is okay to stay embodied and present.  The helper can give this indicator only if he or she accesses from within whatever he or she needs to stay in his or her own body experienced as soul.

Another use of Ultimate Presence is best illustrated by what happened to me during one phase of my writing of my doctoral dissertation at Harvard in 1975.  I had just finished a chapter on one of John Berryman’s poetic masterpieces, Homage to Mistress Bradstreet, which was, among other things, Berryman’s own experiment with presence.  For in this poem he wanted Anne Bradstreet, living in the middle seventeenth century as American’s first published poet, to come alive again, be fully present to him, so that he could dialogue with her.  To explain completely how Berryman accomplished this would take up far too much space (check out my book, The Berryman Gestalt); suffice it to say that, with some difficulty, he opened himself and became present to her reality, speaking initially as her in the poem, until she was sufficiently concrete and present for him to address her.

To do so required him to call forth dimensions of himself, some of them represented by Anne’s own character, which he had not until then explored or allowed to surface, including his ability to love deeply.  His now greater presence allowed him to quell his initial intent to seduce Anne and instead open lovingly to her soul manifesting as flesh.  At the end he discovers that being fully present is equivalent to loving deeply.  When he breaks off the dialogue with Anne so she can go back to her life and eventually experience her death, he continues to encounter her powerful presence because he has not shut down, constricted his now expanded sense of who he is: “Hover, utter, still/a sourcing      whom my lost candle like the firefly loves” (ll. 457-8).

Thus, while I had discovered through Berryman’s Homage another use of Ultimate Presence—the evocation of profound love—there was more for me to learn directly about this phenomenon. When I started to explicate his Dream Songs, his major work, I found the poems often quite opaque.  One day, while working in Harvard’s undergraduate library, I started reading books about Gestalt Therapy, one of whose modalities consists of inviting the client to have dialogues between and among aspects of himself or herself.  One of Berryman’s syllabi—he had been a teacher at the University of Minnesota until 1972—featured one of these books.  As I read the text, I unexpectedly felt a rush of energy flooding my body.  I suddenly saw that Berryman was doing Gestalt dialogues with aspects of himself in the Dream Songs—he was discovering even more of who he was, thereby expanding his sense of his own presence beyond what he had learned in dialogue with Anne.

Likewise, by beginning to understand the new and greater dimensions of his presence, I, too, was becoming open to new aspects of myself, a process that allowed me to connect to him even more. For about two weeks after my initial discovery of his core poetic tactics, I started every day by reading in the Gestalt texts to get that rush of energy going that expanded who I was; then with more of me present to listen deeply to the Songs, I was amazed how easily they offered up their meanings.  I found that Berryman, in his quest to discover his full presence, was using not only Gestalt dialogues, but also many triple and quadruple puns to elicit and embody and present together many of his different and even conflicting voices/selves.**

Then one day, the energy became so expansive within me that I felt propelled out of my chair; pacing up and down the room I was in, I could barely contain the physical energy, as well as the mental acuity I was experiencing about what was going on in the Songs.  When I finally sat down and looked out the window, thinking that the rapid expansion of my identity might thereby be relieved or at least slowed down, I experienced just the opposite.  In a split second, everything in the room and outside became what I can call only super real, that is, super present.  The edges of everything, from the paper clip on my table to the stain on the brick wall of the building thirty feet away became at once very solid and very fluid, glowing without glowing, a combination of energy and matter, soul and body.  I was experiencing not only my own extended self, but also the expansive essence of each thing, its here-ness and there-ness, its eternal now.

And the experience went on.

A second wave of energy suddenly swept through me; and, abruptly, I was in a review of my life and remembered everyone who had touched me, positively or negatively and everything that had moved me, again happily or sadly…and all of that was…totally okay, completely right on, in a way I could only deeply encounter, but not articulate.   It was an experience of my totality, all my humanness and divinity emerging from a complexity beyond understanding but experienced fully in an instant.  In that instant I have no doubt I was consciously my multi-dimensional self.

And when the third wave of energy washed over me, my sense of my own presence extended to include everything around me, as I felt compassion (i.e., feeling with) beyond understanding, encompassing every single thing, including the dust mote dancing in the sunlight streaming through a library window, the thief stealing a wallet in Harvard Square, the ink blotch on a paper on my table, the reeking garbage in the wastebasket just outside the door, the spectacular colors of the descending sun. I finally understood and experienced for myself what Berryman must have felt when he was fully present for Anne’s death while also welcoming her continuing presence: “In the pain of rain and departure, still/Love…presides the sun and elfs from silence melody” (ll. 454-6).

In that sublime moment of ecstasy, in that flash of “standing outside” of my constricted self, I was experiencing Ultimate Presence…I was Love.


So, Dear Reader, what are your most important experiences with presence of one level or another?  What was the effect on you and others?  Have you experienced still another dimension of presence?

*Names are fictitious to preserve privacy.

**Evidence of how fully present Berryman became to me through his poetry and I to him through my finding inner resources to listen more openly and closely to his presence were two things: 1) the fact that I once felt his actual presence in the library and telepathically heard him give me a clue about why he had committed suicide four years earlier, and 2) the comment made in a testimonial for me by Edward Fitzgerald, one of my thesis readers, a sometime friend of Berryman, and the renowned Harvard translator of the Iliad and the Odyssey;  “Joe has written about Berryman the way Berryman would have wanted.”

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