Forays into my New Age Rage
by Jenny Valentish
© Kathryn Renowden
Wait. Did John Butler just 12-step me?
I’m locked in a Tarago, newly sober, with the John Butler Trio. They are heading to a gig in Newcastle and I am leeching along, dictaphone in hand. I’m concentrating fiercely. Beneath all the talk of uranium mines and the importance of cracking the States, I can hear an undercurrent of something big – a hidden message of some sorts.
Butler is talking about the importance of being fully present, about putting out his intention and handing over his will. He talks of grabbing the reins of his life and riding it like a wild, bucking bronco.
My ears prick up. I’d recently started going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and I recognise these patterns of speech. Up till this point I’d been about as spiritual as a sock; suddenly I’m the empty vessel into which strange new vocabulary pours – usually in the form of a rhyme or acronym. That’s what happens when you quit drinking. One month you’re just a limbic lobe on a wobbly brainstem, the next you’re epiphanying righteously all over the place and talking in tongues. Now Butler seems to be strongly hinting he is one of us.*
Veering wildly off the interview script, I start lobbing in some unusual questions. “Do you have a few drinks before you go on stage?” I ask, thrusting the dictaphone between the front seats, where he reclines with his feet on the dash. “What about after?”
Butler frowns, perhaps presuming I have run out of Wiki ammo and am about to ask him his favourite colour. “I might just have a few beers,” he shrugs, and stares back out at the freeway.
‘Alcohol’ in Latin is ‘spiritus’
What I had failed to realise was that while the foundations of 12-step programs are built upon Jungian theory and cognitive restructuring, in the past few decades the community has acquired plenty of nouveau spirituality. Thanks to the popularity of books like The Secret, The Power of Now and guru-anointer Oprah, the language of enlightenment is infiltrating everything. Alcoholics Anonymous has been particularly ripe for pop-spiritual assimilation. As Jung himself wrote to AA founding father Bill Wilson right at its genesis, “‘Alcohol’ in Latin is ‘spiritus’ and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as for the most depraving poison.” Small wonder a sudden switch to abstinence would leave one grasping for meaning in their life. Some kind of epiphany from your chosen Higher Power is often top of each member’s to do list.
Butler’s own appreciation of Buddhism and his interest in neurolinguistic programming and self-improvement programs ticks many boxes of modern spirituality, just as AA does, hence I saw a pattern. But up until this point in my life I would never even have realised I’d just taken a trip in the Tarago of true enlightenment.
(* I should say here, I checked Butler’s rider when he was on stage and he’s not “one of us”.)
New age rage
I stopped going to AA meetings when I was told I was spiritually sick and unlikely to improve. It’s possible I took this statement as a direct challenge when I immediately started up the blog New Age Guinea Pig.
Over the following year, I’d road-test dowsing, pranic healing, ThetaHealing ™, a Scientology e-meter, reiki, kinesiology, a gong bath, 5Rhythms dancing, singing about angels, psychometry, acupuncture, lucid dreaming, tai chi, tantra, EMDR, EFT, NLP, a laughter club, a woman’s healing group and the talks of several gurus. It was super fun and super expensive, as most of these treatments inexplicably are. It probably replaced the pursuit of drinking and tapped into something lying dormant within me.
As a kid, I was a sucker for religious paraphernalia. My parents were atheists, but my father was partial to divine architecture (the bricks and mortar kind) and thus we’d visit many a house of the Lord so that he could cine-film the eaves. As he whirred away, I’d make a beeline for the booklets bearing photos of crepuscular rays, or I’d shimmer a silent language at the statues. I felt like I channelled the spirit of God and would demonstrate this through the medium of “internal yawns” at the dinner table, to no one’s delight (try yawning without opening your mouth. Feels all shimmery). Skipping off to church alone on Sundays made me feel pious, but I found none of my anxious questions were answered. The worries that I couldn’t tell my mum and dad, for which I’d sought comfort from a celestial third party, were exacerbated.
At puberty I coldly cut off my spirituality and worshipped at the altar of alcohol. I couldn’t keep setting myself up for disappointment, I’d decided, and from thenceforth the slightest sniff of soul healing and salvation left me bubbling with new age rage. Show me the flyer of a “spiritual doctor of psychology”, “fourth-generation metaphysician” or “angel healer” (moonlighting as a middle-aged woman in dreamcatcher earrings) and my fists clenched. But shouldn’t you baulk at someone who waftily claims to cure cancer via “Transcendence Healing, an individual process assessing powerful Universal energies in order to facilitate your healing at a soul level”? I think so.
As a journalist writing for women’s magazines and the health supplements of newspapers, my brushes with treatments like reiki and kinesiology left me feeling thoroughly manipulated – and not by cleansing violet light. Psychics, meanwhile, would beadily eye my slovenly dress code and inky arms and deduce I was a raging pisshead. Ha! Three years too late, vague-looking lady.
Despite this, I was convinced there was something spiritual out there for me, to connect with my soul (“You don’t have a soul!” a sceptic friend snapped). Where to start? The town built on magical ley lines, of course: Byron Bay.
Byron Bay: it’s a bit Eat Pray Love
On my first day in Byron, I swam with big silver fish in clear ocean waters and then booked in for a massage so relaxing that I started to hallucinate. Part of the package was a session with a healer, Mark. Mark had a very empathetic face, useful in a job like his.
“I keep spacking out and losing my temper,” I told him. I’d realised immediately on this grande spiritual mission that I was the sort of person who’d have to tell a ‘soothsayer’ the truth rather than try and catch them out with a lie. Besides, you’d never learn something about yourself with a lie. “The rage is always there, just under the surface.”
Mark responded with a number of kind maxims. “Everything you’ve ever done, no matter what you think of it, has served a purpose,” was one of them, coming dangerously to my much detested, “Everything happens for a reason.”
I lay down on a table as he made plucking motions with his hands in the air over my body. “I can see all sorts of protective layers you’ve put over your heart,” he said, still plucking. “Some of them are tissue thin, some of them have heavy padlocks.” Pluck pluck. I drifted off, feeling like I was floating in the foetal position, breathing easily in golden fluid and bubbles. I’d had healing done a few times and felt nothing but intense irritation, but when Mark did it I bounced like I was floating on a lilo in the sun, a virgin pina colada in one hand. There was a subtle sense of being pulled upward, but more noticeable were the ripples pulsing down my body from my head, finally streaming out of my feet. It made me wonder if maybe, just maybe, there are real deal healers out there.
“Be careful crossing the road,” Mark said as he waved me off.
Riding on the breeze as I made my way down Byron’s main street, there came the distant rumble of bongos. But instead of the familiar knot of repulsion in my gut, I felt expanded, relaxed. I found myself imagining the satisfaction the bongo botherers were getting out of interlocking their rhythms and looping into infinity, like psychedelic fractals.
“Thank god,” said a passerby when infinity petered out; but at this they started up again, making me titter.
I set off to follow the sound.
Richard was not from anywhere in particular, but a citizen of planet earth. To be fair he didn’t utter this himself, but I deduced it from his rough, brown legs, straggly goatee and faraway stare. He perched on a rock, looked out to sea and requested a rolling paper. I shifted over to sit next to him and threw sticks for his sandy dog, which was wearing a bandana. The sun was setting epically over Mount Warning. Richard requested some tobacco.
“Get here earlier tomorrow,” he said. “You need to absorb some vitamin D from the sun and decalcify your pineal gland. That’s your third eye. It calcifies as you get older.” I pictured it scabbed and scaly as a cuttlefish bone behind my chickenpox scar.
Richard gave me a lentil pie he’d salvaged from a dumpster behind the bakery and cracked one open himself.
I thought about what to say other than, “And what do you do?”
“This is all just a figment of our imagination,” he offered before I could come up with anything. He swept his hand out at the shimmering horizon. “What we see here, we have created. Think about taking acid or mushrooms, and how differently you see things then.
“We’re all made up of energy,” he continued. “Like golden light. Sometimes when we meet someone with the wrong energy we’re like lightsabers, you know? Shwwwwung, shwwwwung. But we’re all just drops in the ocean. How do I know? I’ve read enough books and had enough conversations to be sure.”
It helped that Richard was good looking, in the same way that market researchers recruit hot young students to wield clipboards and bounce into your path. Sometimes you’ll weaken and listen. Richard talked some more about the meaning of life, and then drifted off. “Maybe your reason for coming to Byron Bay was for us to have this conversation,” he said in parting.
With this entire positive experience as my anchor, I started making regular trips to Byron Bay whenever times were tough, and I always made an appointment with Mark. Mark was placid as a panda bear; as warm as a roaring hearth. He was the sort of person with whom you can make prolonged and meaningful eye contact without wanting to stab out the jelly in yourvitreous with your car keys. This time around, he diagnosed an energy block in my abdomen.
“That’s funny,” I piped up. “I’ve always had a huge phobia about being touched around there.”
Mark suddenly saw arrows. “I’m being shown arrows,” he said. “You were shot in a past life by a jealous lover.” He gave a warm chuckle as I pictured my punctured ovaries. Another successful healing session later, I left: a big ball of loved-up expanded consciousness, floating off down the street to the sea.
The idea of past lives would never be one that I’d accept, but even so I let this occasion through to the keeper. I started making recommendations of Mark to all and sundry.
Whenever in Byron I was keen to explore the stranger end of the spirituality spectrum, like ThetaHealing™. In a backstreet, I found a little babushka of a woman who offered to re-strand my DNA in the method of guru Vianna Stibal. Stibal claims ThetaHealing™ can rewire someone genetically and cure cancer. A practitioner works with guardian angels to balance seratonin and noradrenaline levels in the brain, and pull heavy metals and radiation out of your cells.
“We believe by changing your brain wave cycle to include the ‘Theta’ state, you can actually watch the Creator Of All That Is create instantaneous physical and emotional healing,” goes one such claim. To the uninitiated this will simply look like someone waving their hands over your body. The Byron Bay practitioner assured me she’d cured herself of radiation poisoning after exposure at Chernobyl.
Technically speaking, ThetaHealing™ is exactly like energy healing, as both involve combing the fingers through the air above the body, but ThetaHealing™ is $60 more expensive. And I’m ashamed to say that after an ultra-personal line of questioning as I lay prone on a table, I wept a bit.
Experiment: Nectar of pure beingness
Despite feeling sheepish, I walked out of the treatment room completely buoyed and super peaceful. I tried to project my energy as I hovered past the surf-wear shops, and gave other people’s energy a sly rub.
That evening, I decided to go to a talk by Gangaji – an Oprah-approved guru from California. Just as Eckhart Tolle does a nice line in pop Buddhism, one critic complained of Gangaji and her partner Eli (who had a Jimmy Swaggart-style fall from grace, FYI): “What they are teaching is a super-watered down version of what Ramana Maharsi lived, which was at least a little close to the Advaita teachings, which originated with Sankaracara about 1300 years ago.” Tonight though, people were dropping the word “satsang”, which meant we were about to be in the company of a true “spiritual leader”.
As we waited for Gangaji to take the stage, I felt like I was in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. All around me came the guttural sound of deep breathing (some of which was a tape loop), and scoping the room I realised the vast majority of the audience were off on some other plane already. Fifteen minutes later, Gangaji materialised on stage, and wordlessly led us through a further quarter hour of meditation.
She’d nailed the beatific stare, but Gangaji’s approach to speeches was ‘minimalist’. Slowly – ever so slowly – she pondered the concept of being “here”, “just here”. “Whether it is you, I, he or she that is here is immaterial,” she beamed. “We are … here. You are … that.”
I suppose there are only so many ways you can relay the message of “stop trying to fill the void with attachments and just exist in the moment” before you have to rely on nodding and long pauses to fill the gaps.
Looking around the room at people nodding back sagely, there came to me the deafening thought: “I don’t like the idea of being shared consciousness with any of this lot.” But that, of course, was my ego mind talking.
A procession of women from the audience took to the stage and fell into some kind of trance. “I don’t need to say anything any more,” one observed after failing to say anything in the first place – and she was met with great approval. She’d tapped into what Gangaji called “nectar of pure beingness”. The woman did some startled head wobbles, blinking and looking around like she’d just been born.
Later, the snarky lady giving me a lift back into town declared: “I hate that woman,” her unspiritual outburst triggering my insufferably pious gland. “She was definitely faking it,” she continued. “What do you think? There’s no way. And what was that dress all about?”
I dunno. I didn’t dislike the woman on the stage, or Gangaji, but I’d have to agree with this lady about the tendency of some new agers to fake enlightenment with a sense of desperation. If you don’t epiphany publicly, are you a failure?
The five cornerstones of nouveau spirituality
I spent a lot of time in bookshops like the one in Byron Bay, in which I heard two psychics behind the register debating how to break it to someone that they are dying, and it was within these shelves and in the pages of new age papers like Living Now and Nova that I came to identify five cornerstones of nouveau spirituality. You may disagree.
1: Eastern spirituality ($)
Buzzwords: Awareness; your authentic self; shared consciousness.
Gurus: Eckhart Tolle; Deepak Choprah.
My experience: See ’Nectar of pure beingness’.
2: Self improvement ($$$$$)
Organisations: Landmark; Pathway; Mind Dynamics.
Tools: The Law of Attraction; Neurolinguistic Programming; Emotional Freedom Technique.
Gurus: James A Ray; Jack Canfield; Anthony Robbins.
My experience: Frequently the ambition of disciples is financial gain, as was the stated aim of almost everyone in the EFT workshop I attended. You tap at your body’s acupressure points as you intone instructions to your subconscious. We were all slapping away at ourselves as a participant was asked to relive a traumatic occasion. I hope it wasn’t a sexual trauma as I suspected, because it sounded like a porno flick in that room. Our instructor referenced The Secret frequently. “Trying to rationalise something like EFT,” he scolded, uses “rational lies”.
3: Pseudoscience ($$$)
Buzzwords: Quantum; dianetics; theta; succussion; water memory, frequencies.
My experience: Most notably, reading the Guardian column and book – Bad Science – by Dr Ben Goldacre. Goldacre is the Lord Flashheart of sceptical journalism, lancing the boil of pseudoscience and fashioning meaningless hyperbole into a frilly bonnet. He relishes taking homeopaths to task – something that’s not so tough now that Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council has declared homeopathy unethical. That and the high profile case of Western Australian woman Penny Dingle’s death from bowel cancer in the hands of a science-hating homeopath, who in turn was consulting a clairvoyant.
4: New age conspiracy (0)
Buzzwords: The Mayans; reptilians; Alpha Draconis; George Bush; Indigo Children; WAKE UP!
Gurus: David Icke – the former England football goalie who has maintained for 21 years that many world leaders and celebrities are shapeshifting lizards (his son Gareth is a recording artist who writes indie songs about the same); Nexus – the international conspiracy and ‘health breakthrough’magazine that’s based in Queensland; Jim Corr (from Irish band The Corrs. If you play a Corrs record backwards you’re going to hear all sorts of weird shit).
5: Prophesy and healing ($$)
Buzzwords: Angels; energy; clairvoyants; spirit guides; psychics; psychometry; mediums; telekinesis; totem animals; past life regression; astrology; palmistry; crystal healing; violet light.
My experience: My history teacher at school once told the class that the superstitions practised by people dying of the plague in the Middle Ages – like cuddling hens and rubbing human faeces on buboes – may seem ridiculous now, and they probably did then, too, but when you’re desperate you’ll try anything. It can’t hurt! But that’s why I highly recommend that you 1) Have a think about the 1968, as-yet-unclaimed offer of $100 (now $1m) by magician and sceptic James Randi to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal abilities under laboratory conditions, and 2) Check out a mentalist’s live show, which will show you every ‘mind reading’ trick in the book. Because putting your faith in something intangible doesn’t hurt, no, but it will set you back $100 that could be better spent on a great slab of vintage cheese or something.I’ll even share with you my own sham psychic training that I arranged through Meetup.com, that hive of weird hook-ups…
The evening was all a-bluster as I trundled over the West Gate Bridge and pointed the quackmobile towards Geelong. It came as a surprise that there was a psychometry group out in this part of the world. While the Mornington Peninsula is a hotbed of psychic activity and angel guides, the Bellarine Peninsula is usually less concerned with esoteric wisdom.
En route to this Monday night gathering, at which we were to give psychic readings for other members, my cohort Esther and I rehearsed our scripts, utilising the cold-reading tips set out in Professor Richard Wiseman’s book, Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There. He’s an expert in the predictability of the human brain and how we can be duped.
I practised my double-headed platitudes, designed to hook the recipient with one end or the other: “You’re a person with great depths who enjoys pondering the big stuff alone, yet people seek out your company,” I postulated.
“You’re not one to gossip, but people value your advice,” Esther countered.
For today’s mission, we would need some kind of personal trinket, which would be put anonymously into an envelope and picked by someone else, who would do a reading based on it. Esther had a rummage in her handbag for something I could use.
“But it’s got to belong to me,” I pointed out.
She looked at me sharply. “You say that as though makes a difference.”
Nevertheless, once we got to the venue, I couldn’t help noticing Esther had a superstitious riffle through the empty envelopes on offer until she found one with her favourite number printed on it. Sap!
Terry also noticed. He was the leader of this group, and also – according to my googling skills – a local performer in the vein of Tom Jones. I saw him lurking under the pretence of handing us nametags as I stuffed an earring into my envelope.
There were 12 of us – all women, including Terry’s wife – sat in a tight circle in a barely lit Masonic hall. We weren’t allowed to cross our legs as Marg led us through a guided mediation, presumably so that the ‘christlight’ in us could seep out unhindered.
After the meditation we were all asked to share what we saw. Everyone, bar us two interlopers, admitted to having had a conversation with their spirit guides. Terry had also conversed with a dolphin “that seemed to know me” and seen all sorts of spectacular wizardry that Ronnie James Dio would have baulked at.
Next it was the bit we’d been waiting for – the psychometry. Terry picked my envelope, and waxed lyrical about a totem animal, an eagle. Very flattering. Nicely done.
I opened my envelope to find some kind of necklace with a ‘T’ on it. I passed it from one hand to the other, tangling the chain between my fingers.
“I get the feeling this person has been waiting very patiently for their time to come,” I said. “They’ve watched others have their moment in the sun, but they really feel it should be their time now. And it will be.”
“That was 60 to 70 per cent right; so that’s really good,” complimented Terry when I was done. He spent the rest of the meeting trying to unsnarl his necklace.
“I’m getting bananas,” Esther shouted when it was her go. “I don’t know why, but I can smell them really strongly … and I can feel a pain in my head, here.”
Carmen reclaimed her ring. “I quite like bananas,” she admitted politely. “And I get headaches sometimes.”
I noticed that there was a script of sorts being stuck to here. Almost everyone complained of a burning sensation emanating from their object, and “I can tell this person has great wisdom” was bandied about a lot. My overwhelming feeling, though, was that I was in a room full of curtain twitchers.
We finished off by healing Annie, who – I deduced – has a serious illness. We stood in a circle around her and held hands as she wept. Terry warned her about a couple of dubious men in her life who meant her harm, touched her head and gave it a little push, faith healer-style. Cured!
As we bid our farewells, two of the women told me I had a remarkable gift, steadfastly ignoring Esther. “I actually did see a banana!” she yelped indignantly as we jumped in the car, never to return.
I really hope Annie seeks proper medical attention.
And now, a short intermission and admission.
I like David Icke
“I can tell you how the World Trade Centre came down. I served in the Special Armed Forces, the Secret Service, I know all the world bankers. I know the cure to breast cancer. I could become a very wealthy man.”
The rant came thick and fast, low and sexual, delivered with a prowling gait. It was surprisingly succinct and coherent, with a bitter little twist.
No, it wasn’t David Icke, it was a bloke on the 86 tram. Pacing up and down with straggly hair falling around his face like Jesus. Or Frank from Shameless. Once he jumped off, everybody breathed a sigh of relief – so presumably they weren’t on their way to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre like me.
On this day in November 2011, Icke would talk for nine hours on his The Lion Sleeps No More tour, brought out by a company called Positive Path. You know David Icke – the Pommy goalkeeper-turned-Green-Party-pollie-turned-New-Age-conspiracy-theorist. The one with the lizards. The giant, blood-sucking lizards that are running our governments, our media and our minds. Their number include George Bush, the Queen and Willie Nelson. Yes? Now?
I was expecting something slick and unnerving like Tom Cruise in Magnolia. Instead we got a pot-bellied, slightly peeved, nutty professor – albeit one with crazy eyes. Icke’s self-deprecating humour (in the sense that he’s decided to laugh at himself before you get a chance to) covered all his humiliations: his cruel dressing down on British talk show Wogan (YouTube it), his “turquoise period” (during which he moved his clairvoyant mistress into the family home, called himself the “son of the godhead” and would only wear turquoise in an effort to attract Universal positivity), his dabblings with psychoactive plants (could he be seeing the same giant lizards Hunter S Thompson saw?), and Richard Dawkins’ persistent poking fun at him. In fact, his motto is “Still crazy after all these years”. You can even get the T-shirt.
As the story goes, Icke lost his mind back in 1990, when a psychic told him he’d say things that would change the world as we knew it. He found himself called to Peru, where he had an awakening atop a mountain, so powerful that he found himself drilled into the ground in a Christ-like pose, with the elements rushing in to baptise him. Ever since, he’s been refining and refining his theory: that the human race is neck-deep in a triple conspiracy to keep us dumb, while giant reptilians from the star system Alpha Draconis manipulate our reality.
As allegories for modern society, some scholars point out, Icke’s theories are brilliant. But, the same scholars concede, he’s probably not talking allegories.
Or is he?
Or is he?
The first third of today’s proceedings, anyway, fucked us gently.
In a seamless flow of rhetoric, Icke pulled apart religion, the monarchy, the CIA, mindless television, the Lord Mayor’s reaction to Occupy in Melbourne and blind adhesion to a rat race existence, overseen by sinister, shadowy overlords. Icke had logical explanations for UFOs, astrology, palmistry, crystal therapy, chakras, numerology and all the New Agery I’m highly dubious about, but explained so fast I had no time to keep filtering back through his claims and cross-referencing. Still, learning physics at school also required a massive suspension of disbelief that I don’t even remember having to hoist. The ‘big bang theory’. Really? Icke laughs in the face of it.
“Don’t trust your thoughts; you are not your thoughts,” Icke was saying; shouting, actually. But whereas that’s a mantra of modern-day psychologists and mindfulness practitioners, Icke means our thoughts are literally being inserted into our heads – by “Them”.
As a slow drip feed of information, it all seemed perfectly reasonable, whereas if he’d leapt from “While you’re watching Deal Or No Deal things are happening without your consent” to “We are all holograms projected from the edge of space” in one fell swoop, well, I’d have laughed.
So this is how mind control – the very type he warns us of – works: careful attrition of what you think you’re sure of. No wonder some extra-conspiratorial conspiracy theorists reckon Icke’s a double agent, a right-wing rube.
Three hours in, we broke for lunch and despite my intrigue I kept on walking. I felt like I was betraying Icke – and I’ll never know for sure who THEY were – but I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t have made the apostles sit through a story that long, and having to listen to the converted yell “Yes!” and clap with a self-righteous fervour was threatening to explode my head, Scanners-style.
And while Icke may approve of that dramatic scenario, I don’t think he’d want me for one of his lions.
© Kathryn Renowden
Eckhart Tolle vs David Icke
Despite having aligned herself in the past with gurus who have since been variously accused of manslaughter, child torture and fraud, Oprah Winfrey has never been pictured cuddling David Icke. Eckhart Tolle, on the other hand, she’s all over like a rash.
Yet I have compared the ‘awakening’ moment of Tolle (as described in The Power of Now) to that of Icke (as described at every opportunity), and really, it’s the same, minus the mountain accoutrements. Check this out:
“I cannot live with myself any longer.” This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one or two?” If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”
I was so stunned by this strange realisation that my mind stopped. I was fully conscious, but there were no more thoughts. Then I felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of energy. It was a slow movement at first and then accelerated. I was gripped by an intense fear, and my body started to shake. I heard the words “resist nothing”, as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself being sucked into a void. It was as if the void was inside myself rather than outside. Suddenly, there was no more fear, and I let myself fall into that void. I have no recollection of what happened after that. — Tolle’s version of his awakening, aged 29.
There were magnets pulling my feet to the ground… and then my arms go out at 45 degrees, for the best part of an hour. This energy coming through me. My body started to shake with it and I had two very powerful thought-forms pass through my head.
The first one said: “They’ll be talking about this 100 years from now.” The other one was: “It will be over when you feel the rain.”This energy just kept coming through me. And I kept going in and out of, if you like, awareness, consciousness, like driving a car and you go: Crikey. Where did the last two miles go?
I watched this storm come out of the mountains… I’m seeing faces in the clouds. And then it’s a wall of rain. I’m watching it coming towards me. By this time I’m hanging on, you know, with this energy coming through me. Eventually it hits me – torrential rain – and everything stopped. That’s when I staggered forward and my shoulders were agony and all the rest of it. — Icke’s version of his awakening, aged 39.
Whoever you think wins that awakening contest, I’ve got to hand it to Oprah: she has managed to transcend my own innate fear and revulsion of new age men and made them her army. I do apologise for my frankness, but frankly, they give me the creeps. And so I decided to prod that feeling with a stick for the blog.
5Rhythms originated in the 1970s and uses tenets of shamanistic, ecstatic, mystical and eastern philosophy – although to the uninitiated it looks like flailing around to music. On this day there were around 150 of us in a convent hall.
A DJ span languorous ambient music, causing one woman to roll around on the floor, showing her undies. Other people waved their arms around like trees in the wind. We’d be doing this – to varying BPMs – for the next few hours.
Ten minutes in, I was still grimacing at ground level. At some point I knew I’d have to get off the floor, upon which I was trailing the odd limb, and get jiggy with it. The BPMs were rising, and in response, people ran around the room like aeroplanes or bucked their hips wildly, as though re-enacting the voodoo sequences in Live and Let Die.
I got up and got stuck in, and after some initial dying inside, I found I was completely forgetting myself – and pulling awesome shamanistic dance moves, hitherto unseen. I snuck a peak at my scepto friend Esther. One minute she was interpretative prancing through the air with her frock sailing behind her, the next she was raving to an internal munted-mix, happy as Larry.
An hour went by. I love this, I thought. I was secretly dying for someone to gasp of my chops: “You mean to say you’ve had no formal training?” However, I couldn’t quite lose the “Get fucked, seriously” attitude whenever someone came whirling like a dervish into my personal space.
One shirtless man with an unruly beard and orange fisherman’s pants curled up in the foetal position on the floor. Another man drifted over to him in a non-threatening manner and slowly reached out a hand to touch his shoulder. They remained in this chilling tableau for many minutes.
The BPM rose a notch. There was clapping. Some people tumbled on each other like acrobats. They embraced. Women tucked their dresses into their knickers and rolled their eyeballs around their sockets. One woman curled into a ball and a man wrapped himself around her like a limpet. Another couple touched each other’s fingers and stared into each other’s eyes, kissing.
“Feeeeeeeel it,” a disembodied voice shrieked over tribal drums. We’re feeling it, we’re feeling it; if only in the form of flashbacks. In fact, as my learned friend noted later, this seemed to be an old ravers’ home, for those who had long since blown a gasket.
My interest started to wane 90 minutes in and I went to gaze out of the window. The mix faltered between tracks and I could hear everyone groaning, like we were in some soft porn flick.
As we sat in a massive circle afterwards in various states of undress, I drew one knee towards me to stop it touching the skin of the new age man next to me.This is fair enough though, as a friend had told me that a mate of hers goes along to these shindigs purely to pick up new age chicks who are helpless to resist a shirtless man in a leather necklace, dancing to the divine force.
The facilitator told us about a mid-week class called Relating on the Dance Floor, in which – reading between the lines – we would learn to touch each other and dance at the same time.
“You should do that,” tormented Esther in a whisper.
But I would go one better.
Experiment: tantric sex
The next logical step, having shared groans with new agers, was tantric sex. The reason I’d been determined to try this is because it sounds so excruciating. I mean, tantra’s all about spirituality, eye contact and effort, isn’t it? I doubt Sting saw his virginity as an indignity to be got rid of fast, or treats wanking like an aggressive formality.
The only morsels my Melbourne investigations unearthed were a thinly veiled prostitution service, in which Tatiana offered to touch me all over while we were both naked for a mere $250, and a website for Tantric Dave, who lies stretched out on the homepage with one thigh positioned over his ‘wand of light’.
Then I found a less salacious lady in Sydney.
Beatriz was Brazilian, and therefore well placed to laugh at the sexual repression of the English, which I am. She greeted me in leisurewear, but then produced a couple of skimpy kaftans. A room of her apartment was decked out new age-style, with candles, incense, cushions, didgeridoos chorbling away from hidden speakers and the heat up stiflingly high. Let me just open my kaftan a notch…
We started off with some pelvic floor exercises to get the blood flowing to the nethers and to learn how to, you know, sort of massage a man from the inside.
Breathing deeply through our mouths, we clenched away, and Beatriz suggested I move my hand up my body to help me visualise pulsing the good feeling right up to my heart. It was no use, though – try as I might, I couldn’t extend the warmth beyond the physiological vicinity of my reproductive organs. I felt like I was swinging a hammer at a test-your-strength machine and not pushing past ‘puny’. Meanwhile, Beatriz was clearly dinging the bell.
Next, we sat opposite each other on cushions and took turns musing on “what touches my heart”, while staring into each other’s eyes. Beatriz talked about sexuality and how Gen Z girls are expected to recreate porn scenarios while so liquored up they can’t feel anything anyway. Tantra’s a method of being aware of your body and its every nuance. But anyway, on to the masturbation.
Sitting side by side, we slid our right hands down onto our sexual chakras, with our left hands over our hearts, where I found mine was opportunistically having a sly tweak of my nipple. Beatriz started rocking in a figure of eight, arching her back in and out of the yoga cat pose. “It’s okay to moan,” she gasped. We were supposed to be visualising a golden sphere of light, but thanks to years of an oppressive male regime, I was only able to picture a massive cock.
Then it was time for the strokes. Leaping up impishly, Beatriz pulled a phallus out of a drawer and lay down on the floor, holding it above her groin. She demonstrated a variety of tantric ways to stroke it – ways other than furiously choking it, I mean – and gave me a go as well. I can now pop a cork and firestick someone with no worries at all.
That was it for our session and I walked out feeling really peaceful. There’s definitely something to be said for taking the time to acknowledge and nurture the sensations you’re feeling. Although, problematically, the idea of a bloke being into tantra makes my ovaries deflate.
And talking of that region…
The big problem of the alien implant in my groin
While I was certainly feeling the benefits of some new age practices, things came crashing to a halt when I went to Byron Bay to see Mark again.
I was a sceptic, sure, but Mark was my healer. He was my wild card; the aberration of science that I’d described as being the real deal in the same way that racists will have their one black mate who’s “all right”.
Mark had become the knife-edge on which my scepticism swayed. I’d told so many fellow naysayers: “but there’s this one guy…” I’d accredited him with dispensing of my circular thoughts, a broken heart and my smoking habit. Or at least, I’d thought of it as a dual effort between us – one with immediate results I couldn’t have achieved on my own.
As I’ve said before, past lives are about as high on my ‘Maybe Believe This’ list as Indigo Children – a new generation of supernaturally gifted kids with psychic powers and Steiner School educations – but in the name of consistency, I decided to return to this subject with Mark on my next visit. I.e., would he stick to the arrows-in-ovaries story?
“Last time I came here you said we should investigate an energy block,” I said.
Mark gazed at my energy for a bit. “I often baulk at saying things like this, because most people don’t react well,” he said, at which point my hips tightened a few notches. “But it’s an implant.”
“Yes. I’m seeing reptilian ETs – Zeta Reticulans. They used to rule the Earth and would quite frequently study humans by using implants, but these days we thankfully attract more benevolent beings of a higher frequency. The Zetas put an implant in you at birth to study your reproductive system. I can probably get it out.”
I decided to roll with this. It was deliciously close to David Icke’s theories after all.
“I’m not going to use the spirit guides in this operation, I’m going to use the friendly ETs,” Mark said, as I removed my shoes. I climbed aboard the table for 40 minutes. I usually love this bit, but I wasn’t feeling it as much this time, due to the inconvenient truth of Mark talking about aliens. There was a small possibility Mark had seen my blog and my enjoyment of Icke and was having a marvellous joke at my expense, but I reckoned not. I mourned the Mark gone by; the one who told me not to intellectualise spirituality, the one who said he had no interest in studying things like chakras and what have you.
I tried though. It could be true, was my mantra, up there on the table. You don’t know for sure; you only know your version of reality. Your critical mind could have created you a very limited universe.
I saw my individual cells, golden, spinning, shimmering and spitting like Coke bubbles. I felt myself opened up flat as a pancake on the table – although Mark later told me the operation was multidimensional.
“I’ve never seen one as big as this before,” he said when he was done, talking down at me as I lay on the table with my arms behind my head. “It was like the Tardis. There was a whole universe inside.”
“Really?” I said, unable to not be impressed.
“A universe in my pelvic bowl,” I marvelled, and we chortled.
“But of course, there’s a whole universe inside every cell,” Mark pointed out.
“The Zeta aliens actually came in at the beginning,” Mark said. “It got a bit nasty, but they were asked to leave. Could you feel the implant being removed from your brain? There were strands leading all the way up your spine, meshed into every cell, and up into your brain. It was a very tricky procedure.”
Mark didn’t seem too rattled after facilitating major surgery on the biggest alien implant he’d ever seen. He explained that I’d attracted bad sexual experiences to myself because of the implant. “Your critical mind will explain this away over the next few days,” he continued, “but you know it was special. There was a lot of love in the room. Don’t forget this experience you’ve had.”
“So,” I offered hopefully, as I swung my legs off the table. “Do you perhaps see this as a visualisation technique to hypnotise me into freeing myself from some emotional blockage?”
There came a pause.
“Or are you describing things in real terms?”
“In real terms,” he said. His eyes shone softly, as though he were just giving me a lovely recipe for parsnip soup.
As I walked out I conceded that Mark had pushed me past my limit of making allowances and moving the goal posts. And so, with reluctance, I wrote up my findings on the blog.
- But Mark will see this and he’s a lovely guy.
- He WON’T see this – he’s not psychic!
- No, but just in case he is?
In conclusion, in conclusion… I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m quite good at lying on a table and turning it on. Getting the chi flowing. Tapping in. Could it be I already found the greatest love of all, inside of me? Possibly. I read that ‘epistemology’ is the study of how we know what we know, while ‘epistemological modesty’ is the knowledge of how little we know: so I will declare myself epistemologically modest.
I know what appealed to me about this whole project: it was a desire for total understanding without having to actually get to know someone. Whether that understanding be from a little babushka in a Byron Bay backstreet or a middle-aged woman on disability benefits in a church hall down in Geelong, I didn’t really care. Know me.
In the end I got bored of waiting to be astounded, but I would like to close with the thoughts of Prince Charles.
The Prince of Wales is a patron of the Temenos Academy (“For education in the light of the spirit”) and has written a book on metaphysics and sacred geometry, and is generally a good egg. True enough, some of his ideas would make Dan Brown blush, but his dismissal in the British press over his esoteric beliefs is one of blanket disdain. At a Sacred Web conference broadcast on YouTube, he sighed and quoted TS Eliot: “Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
In other words, don’t be such a bloody know-it-all.
Jenny Valentish is editor of Time Out Melbourne by trade and human guinea pig by nature. She enjoys dunking herself into ‘interesting’ situations with ‘colourful’ people and writing up the results. http://newageguineapig.com/
Kathryn Renowden is a Melbourne based illustrator and an artist with a passion for printmaking. She enjoys creating work in a diverse range of media, from watercolour, acrylic and ink, to digital painting and collage. http://kathrynrenowden.blogspot.com.au/
If you would like to buy a copy of the Brow issue that contains Jenny’s essay and Kathryn’s art (issue 15), go here. Or you can even subscribe, and get all the good writing and all the good art delivered to you, every two months.