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The Present Power of Past Lives: The Experts Speak


Hi, Everyone,

I am delighted to announce the publication of my new book,
The Present Power of Past Lives: The Experts Speak.

It is now available on Amazon!

In late 2013, I conducted a series of radio interviews on globally-based VoiceAmerica with experts in the field of past lives, past-life regression, and the expansion of consciousness. Based on those interviews and with additional materials, my book starts with my practices and tips for helping a client achieve a successful past-life regression and finding an appropriate regressionist.

After I interview three of my clients about the healing that past-life regression can provide, I discuss what Karma is and is not. In contrast to a time-bound, cause-and-effect mechanism that tends to focus on what amounts to predetermined punishment for transgressions committed earlier in the present or in a past life, I see a pattern of freely-chosen contracts/choices made with others to try out a different path.

Following the chapter on Karma are ten other chapters devoted to the different contexts in which practitioners have accessed past lives. See the Table of Contents below.

Through the text and Endnotes, I comment on what is presented in the interviews from the point of view of Seth, that “energy personality essence” channeled by Jane Roberts from 1963 to her death in 1984.

Making this perspective even more concrete are the interviews with two of Jane’s ESP students, Rich Kendall and the late Lawrence Davidson, who share what it was like to have Seth comment on several of their own past lives.

This book will appeal greatly to followers of Seth, those interested in the expansion of consciousness, those curious about past lives and related matters, and novice and experienced practitioners of past-life regression.

I hope you will purchase and read the book and, if you like it, write a review of the book on Amazon.


Table of Contents
Preface 13

Introduction 23

Chapter One: The Nature of Past-Life Regression and
Participants’ Stories 37

Chapter Two: Karma: What It Is and Is Not 57

Chapter Three: Past Lives and The Seth Material, Part 1: 70
An interview With Rich Kendall

Chapter Four: Children’s Past Lives: 89
An Interview with Carol Bowman

Chapter Five: Past Lives and Attached Entities: 111
An Interview with Greg McHugh

Chapter Six: Past-Life Regression and Shamanic Journeying: 130
An Interview with Dana Robinson and Shana Robinson

Chapter Seven: Past Lives and Soul Contracts: 151
An Interview with Linda Baker

Chapter Eight: Past-Life Regression for Intact Groups: 169
An Interview with Janet Cunningham

Chapter Nine: Past Lives and Natal Regression: 187
An Interview with Tim Simmerman-Sierra

Chapter Ten: Past-Life Regression to Capture Lost History: 205
An Interview with Joanna Prentis and Stuart Wilson

Chapter Eleven: Edgar Cayce and Past Lives in Atlantis: 225
An Interview with Nancy Eubel

Chapter Twelve: Past Lives and Life-Between-Lives: 241
An Interview with Dee Chips

Chapter Thirteen: Research on the Positive Effects of
Past-Life Regression: 259
An Interview with Heather S. Friedman Rivera

Chapter Fourteen: Past Lives and The Seth Material, Part 2: 275
An Interview with Lawrence Davidson

Postscript 288

Appendix I: Further Tips for Having a Productive Past-Life Regression 291

Appendix II: Grounding Exercises for Spiritual Journeying 295

Appendix III: Comparing Shamanism to Past-Life Regression 303

Appendix IV: Images and Words from Dr. Janet
Cunningham’s Book, A Tribe Returned 318

Bibliography 323

Guest Bios 332

Host and Author Bio 344

Chapter Notes 347



Seekers of expanded consciousness will revel in Dr. Joe Mancini’s compilation of cutting-edge work and key practitioners in the field today. As a talk show host, he takes the reader on a journey into other dimensions that offer new ways not only of healing ourselves, but also of recharging and reconfiguring our minds, hearts, physicality and spirituality. He dares to lead us into our own natal experiences, past lives and life between lives. He explores the Seth Material’s perspective on Karma, time and space and leaves the reader empowered with choice. This is a powerful book for novices and professionals alike!

Barbara Lane, Ph.D., CHt., is a past-life researcher and has regressed thousands (of people). Her work has been featured on TV, radio and in newsprint. (For over a decade, she served as hypnotherapist at George Washington University’s Center for Integrative Medicine in Washington, D.C.) Her most recent book is Celebrity Past-Life Clues: A Closer Look into the Past Lives of 50 Famous People.


This remarkable book, heavily influenced by the Seth material by Jane Roberts, is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the concept of past lives and their influence on the current existence. With a Harvard Ph.D. and other impressive degrees and certificates, including a specialization in Spiritual Hypnotherapy, Dr. Joseph Mancini Jr. has become a unique explorer into the past lives—and the implications of those lives—of many people. In crystalizing the concept through his own knowledge and the expertise of twelve practitioners whom he interviewed as host of a very popular radio show, Joe opens our own insights to a spectacular degree. This book is one-of-a-kind and not to be missed!

–Lynda Madden Dahl is Co-Founder of Seth Network International and author of eight, Seth-based books, including her Living a Safe Universe series.


Dr. Joe Mancini, Jr. takes the reader on a very interesting journey into not only past-life regression, but also, among other topics, Soul Contracts, Children’s Past Lives, Life-Between-Lives, Edgar Cayce’s Atlantis—all glossed through the perspectives of the Seth teachings. His book is a fascinating blend of interviews, case histories and even helpful hints about experiencing a past-life regression. Those new to metaphysics and professionals alike will benefit from this material.

Katherine Zimmerman is an internationally known author and speaker, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master, and EFT Practitioner. She is the Director of the California Hypnotherapy Academy, a former guest lecturer for the University of California Medical Center, Davis and a conference presenter.


Through interviews with experts in the field, Dr. Joe explores a fascinating array of topics related to past-life research and past-life regression therapy, ranging from natal regression to the Interlife to the true meaning of Karma. Encompassing both personal accounts and professional perspectives, Dr. Joe delivers the equivalent of a full-length course in a single volume. Best of all, Dr. Joe locates these conversations within the framework of Seth’s teachings on the nature of reality. In so doing, he makes a substantive contribution to the body of secondary writings that support and extend the Seth Material.

Joyce Kilmartin, M.B.A., MTP, Ph.D. is a former corporate consultant and now

a transpersonal coach and counselor in Barrington, R.I.; she is also the author of Worldviews in Transition: Applying Three Models of Human Development to the Seth Texts, and the creator of the blog, “Seth Says: Worldly Advice From Out of This World.”


For any reader new to metaphysics, Dr. Joe Mancini, Jr. has done an excellent job focusing on a number of intriguing topics within spiritual counseling, hypnotherapy and past-life regression. Using the Seth Material and Past Lives as a helpful lens, Joe interviews experts who discuss important areas that do not typically receive a great deal of visibility. Topics include, among others, Soul Contracts, Attached Entities, Natal Regressions, Shamanic Journeying, Edgar Cayce and Atlantis, and Life Between Lives. Plus he offers a helpful discussion about the research into the positive benefits that can come from exploring one’s Past Lives. I heartily recommend this book to those who are eager to learn more about these fascinating topics.

Peter Wright is a Santa Barbara-based, Board-Certified, Past-Life Regression Therapist with 24 years of experience in this field.


I’m delighted and honored to review Dr. Joe Mancini’s marvelous achievement, The Present Power of Past Lives—What the Experts Say. Dr. Joe is a modern day “psychic archaeologist,” whose broad talents include his first-rate ability to help people access not only their past lives, but also their future, probable, and parallel lives while under deep hypnosis. We are all multidimensional beings; and, indeed, Dr. Joe’s subjects reveal a rich tapestry of vivid, past-life experiences, many of which allow the regressed the opportunity to explore their own inner landscape and permit the regressionist, Dr. Joe, the opportunity to balance their inner and outer spiritual needs as necessary.  Dr. Joe’s work offers unique insights into consciousness explorations via various hypnotherapy modalities as accepted means of assisting people who wish to explore their “past.” I feel that we owe Dr. Joe a debt of gratitude for bringing us, with the help of other experts he interviews, to the cutting edge of this exciting field. Go Joe!

–Ron Card is a retired photojournalist and a Seth presenter and practitioner who has read and applied the principals and philosophy of the Seth Material for over forty years.


As a practicing, certified, clinical hypnotherapist who specializes in past-life regression, I found Joe’s book not only insightful, but also compelling and greatly enjoyable.  Dr. Joe’s book lovingly furthers the conversation on reincarnation and the very real potentials for healing and learning in the present lifetime by including a wealth of perspectives from first-person experiences of past-life regression.  The Present Power of Past Lives—What the Experts Say is accessible and coherent, and is presented in a practical format, which is of use to both the clinician as well as lay explorers of consciousness.

Jeff Ennor, CCHT


Joseph Mancini’s new book is an exciting array of eclectic therapeutic disciplines. Comprising a broad selection of inspiring, thought-provoking information, this book appeals to a broad, avid readership for both the curious professional and the spiritually-oriented reader. Using the “Seth” material and past-life regression as the focal point, The Present Power… introduces some of “the worlds beyond our ordinary space-time reality,” e.g., prenatal regression, earth-bound entities, between-lives material, soul contracts and group reincarnation. Shared in the format of radio interviews, the amassed information is easily understood and has a nice flow. Curious professionals can glean a number of valuable techniques for expanded exploration. This book contains also an excellent section of clarifying notes interspersed with Seth material, as well as the therapeutic perspectives, beliefs, and findings of those professionals interviewed. Mancini’s book is a most welcome edition to the expanding field of transpersonal regression therapy.

–Albert Marotta, MA., CHt.


This book is one man’s journey through the fields and valleys of his intellect and intuition with the Seth material and his Self as his guides—as he explores the minds he meets and tries to answer metaphysical, psychological and practical questions for himself and all of us, questions concerning how the existence of simultaneous time and past and future lives expand our present awareness and identities, and greatly impact our present experiences.

Barrie Gellis is a teacher, poet and one of the original New York Boys in Jane Roberts’ Elmira ESP Seth Classes in the 1970s. Among Barrie’s 4,000 poems is the poetry book, Outside Is A Secret Key.



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.”

A Meditation on Judas

Though I am no longer what I would consider a Christian, every Easter I think about Judas.

Growing up Catholic, around age 12, I attended religious instructions to prepare for my upcoming Confirmation, the process by which Catholics consciously affirm that they are willing to die for their faith. But, while I was always drawn to things Divine, partly because of a pious mother, I was starting to think for myself, starting to wonder about whether the concepts I was being taught by the nuns were making sense.

During one of the weekly lessons, I recall when our nun—was she Sister Mary-Joseph?—started to talk about Judas, the Arch-Nemesis of the Good. In her rendition of him, which embellished a bit on the Biblical text, he appeared as a thin, pale, anemic and angular man permanently hunched over the way most villains have been melodramatically portrayed. How could he not be such, this infamous excuse for a human being who would dare to betray the Son of God for any reward, not to mention the legendary thirty pieces of silver? Suitable gasps of horror escaped the lips of my fellow students, while the Good Sister, nodding approval, pursed even more her already pursed lips.

I, meanwhile, sat deep in thought, thinking about how other presented doctrines, particularly the omniscience of God, squared with Sister Mary-Joseph’s portrayal of Judas and his actions. If God, I remembered thinking, is all-knowing, then He had to know from all eternity, that Judas was going to inform on Christ. Moreover, if Judas had not brought the centurions to the Garden of Gethsemane and kissed Christ to point Him out, there would have been no Crucifixion and no Resurrection, the latter being the most important event in all of Christianity. Somebody had to take on that role. Somebody had to take the rap and be cursed throughout the succeeding centuries. That person did not have a chance—he was set up; he could not have not chosen to be the Betrayer. So why was Judas the “fall guy” for this betrayal of betrayals? What had he done to deserve this horrible and crushing fate? Nothing in the Gospels suggests that he was a heinous individual before the betrayal.

While I am certain that, when I was twelve in that classroom, I could not have said anything quite as articulate as the reasoning above, I did raise my hand and, when recognized, did stand up and say something about what seemed like the grossest unfairness of the situation facing Judas. I was truly perplexed, hoping that my mentor in black and white would make sense of what seemed horrifying nonsense. But I recall that a chilling silence immediately prevailed as I looked at the immobile nun, arms interlocked at chest level, who must have experienced, for a moment at least, what I would now call “synapse failure,” a disconnect in the brain. Then, after an interminable second, only her lips moved, barely, as she voiced in an even, but hard tone, “Sit down!”

So I sat down. But I didn’t shut down. For years the enigma of Judas’ fate and the nun’s response continued to annoy, unsettle, and intrigue me. Looking back, I now know that the nun’s reaction was perfectly created to set me on the course I needed to take: to find my own answers in sources other than conventional authority. Yet, as my general education became broader and broader, I still could not find anything that could come close to granting me a satisfactory answer, even if I had known what “satisfactory” meant.

Then one day, I went to see Zorba the Greek playing at the local theatre. I was enraptured with Zorba’s (and, by extension, his creator’s) zest for and exuberance in life. So, I sought out another of Kazantzakis’ works and found The Last Temptation of Christ. As I settled down to read this magical text, I found myself in a powerful trance that, nevertheless, felt more like reality than the reality I had known. When Judas came on the scene, I was transfixed.

For here was a rendition of the man that Sister Mary-Joseph could never have imagined, or, if imagined, would have had to reject or face possibly a permanent synapse failure. (While I did not check my memory by skimming the novel before writing this post, I am telling you here what was imprinted on my consciousness about Kazantzakis’ portrayal.) If Sister Mary-Joseph could embellish the Biblical account, so, too, could Kazantzakis. Onto his scene strode, not the mousey, sniveling Judas of St. Mary-Joseph’s imagination, but rather a behemoth of a man, a mountain-man type, with huge muscles and stalwart stature.

This Judas was not only a disciple, but also a confidant and protector of Jesus. As a bodyguard, he accompanied Christ everywhere and swore allegiance to Him.

While this image of Judas was startling enough to me who had been programmed to think of him as extremely different, there was one scene between him and Jesus that brought shivers and tingles to my body, that made me jump from my chair and walk with great energy, arms gesticulating in triumph, around my room.

In this private scene, Jesus tells Judas that he has something very important and very sad to tell him. Wanting to ease Christ of any burden, Judas is very eager to hear the disclosure. Jesus goes on to tell him that he, Christ, is going to be betrayed, arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Upon hearing this news, Judas is outraged by what his beloved Master is about to endure; and he is immediately ready and willing to crush the betrayer, fight the authorities and even take Christ’s place and be executed.

With great compassion, Jesus looks up at this man who, to confirm his faith in the conventional way, was more than willing to give up his life for Him; Jesus then says, “No, Judas, you have the harder thing to do…you have to betray me.” It still chills and thrills me to repeat those words.

Finally, I had found the answer I had craved in my youth. My intuition that something was not quite right with the conventional story of Judas was validated by an author who wrote, not from doctrine, but from the deepest well of his heart. In betraying Christ, Judas was not acting as the demonic figure he has been labeled as, but rather as the most loving friend who sacrificed his public honor and legacy for the sake of his Beloved Master and His Mission. Judas then agreed to, chose to, do what on the outside was viewed as the most despicable act, but whose true nature was not discovered and articulated until the heart of one, Kazantzakis—who loved life, often, like Zorba, in the face of death—dared to speak it.

Such was the Sacred Contract, to use Carolyn Myss’ words, that Judas and Christ had with each other, the former probably in order to experience and pledge the deepest love possible, the other to set in motion a covenant of Love, no matter how distorted it would come to be by his followers. In effect, Judas went through his own Confirmation by sacrificing, not his body, but rather something more important—his good name—for his faith; if he had not betrayed Jesus according to their contract, if he had not believed Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and asking, Judas would truly have betrayed Christ and disconfirmed his faith.

So, now my Confirmation of Faith validates the belief that nothing happens without purpose, however as yet unknown; that, as Jane Roberts’ Seth says, we choose all that happens to us; that the Heart knows that which the Mind knows nothing about, and that we co-create freely and deliberately, often with love and atypical (even counter-intuitive) sacrifice, all of our shared reality. This is the New Understanding that rises, Easter-like, again and again, from the death of no-longer-useful and thus limiting beliefs.

Source of Judas Image: http://us.cdn1.123rf.com/168nwm/candyman/candyman1004/candyman100400183/8511695-judas-on-engraving-from-the-1800s-perfomed-by-george-lechner-in-the-oberammergau-passion-play-publis.jpg

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