Like most of the people who been at the Lake of Li, I drifted for the next few years, getting and losing jobs, entering and leaving community colleges, traveling from town to town, living on the streets occasionally, and trying to make sense of my world. I took some psychic training on and off (when I could afford it) at a psychic school that was also a church for tax exemption status. The school taught people how to see and heal auras and chakras*, read people clairvoyantly, and heal physical illnesses or karmic troubles.
*Your aura is thought to be an energetic field that emanates from and surrounds your body. Some psychics can purportedly see or feel your aura and diagnose issues in your body and your life. Your chakras are thought to be a series of vortex-like energy centers in and around your body (many are at the sites of your endocrine glands). These vortices can purportedly be seen or sensed by psychics, who use them to diagnose specific conditions in your body and your life. In my New Age career, the aura and chakras were in my area of expertise (see this post about my current approach to the aura and chakras).
I learned a lot of useful things at that psychic school, but I found a great deal of trouble there as well. I won’t name that school, because these psychic schools are all very similar and everyone deserves their privacy. For the purposes of this story, however, let’s call it the Flying Circus Psychic Academy (FCPA).
It was intriguing to go to such a place after my Lake of Li experience, because unlike many of my fellow students, I was able to identify and avoid anything that smelled of cultish behavior. The influence of Python comedy also helped me identify and avoid (for the most part) the wild-eyed and pompous characters who had infiltrated the academy’s hierarchy.
While the FCPA psychologically damaged many students, my hard-won cult savviness protected me (for the most part) from the most outrageous behaviors — and I was able to learn some very useful things about healing, even amid (or perhaps because of?) the chaos.
As it is with most psychic schools, this one relied upon a hierarchy of allegedly advanced psychics to create a false underclass among the students. However, making people dependent upon the approval of so-called superiors was one of the least damaging things the FCPA did.
One of their unofficial mottoes was: “You may be psychic, not crazy.” While this motto helped many highly sensitive and intuitive people reorganize their approach to their own lives, it was also a siren call for many deeply disturbed people. Many FCPA students would have benefited from competent psychiatric help, but they didn’t get any. Instead, these troubled people took classes, got psychic healings, and destabilized, often in frightening ways.
The original comedy of the FCPA turned quite serious for me when I saw the despair all around me, and I did what I could to help my fellow students. I and others had no choice but to help, because the founders of the school were antagonistic to conventional or Western medicine (this antagonism, which I learned at my mother’s knee, is a bedrock attitude in the New Age*).
Definitions for clarity: Spirituality is widely defined as anything that involves religion, gods, deities, the afterlife, or the “other world.” Many people make a distinction between the cultural construct of religion and the worldwide phenomenon of spirituality, which encompasses all religions and supernatural belief structures. The New Age refers to an entire movement that first arose in the late 1800s, and includes splinter Christian beliefs such as Christian Science, Religious Science, Science of Mind, and Unity – and splinter Eastern philosophies such as Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Western Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, and so forth (Jungian and Reichian psychotherapies are also in the New Age category). Alternative medicine also became popular at this time, with homeopathy, Christian Science, and Theosophy, as did fasting, purging, miracle foods, restrictive diets, intense exercise, and health retreats. Metaphysics is a subset of the New Age that encompasses belief in the aura, chakras, chi or prana energy, psychic abilities, past lives, reincarnation, astrology, spirit guides, ascended masters, extraterrestrial beings, and cosmic energies that are thought to influence humans or contribute to their healing. Western versions of Shamanism, which is a metaphysical and spiritual belief system spanning numerous cultures, is a later addition to the New Age.
This antagonism toward conventional medicine had very serious consequences, because the troubled students’ hallucinations, anxiety attacks, intermittent rages, depressive episodes, or other symptoms of instability were explained in terms of disordered auras and chakras or intrusions from disembodied spirits or past-life personalities. And of course, all of these symptoms had alternative cures that were offered by the FCPA.
With a student body composed of outcasts (like me), highly sensitive people (ditto), and the psychiatrically disturbed (?), the atmosphere of the school could only be chaotic. Unbidden, I became a kind of “triage psychic,” because my own experiences with childhood abuse and dissociation (more on that in a later post) had taught me how to deal with psychological trauma.
By the seat of my pants, I learned how to calm and ground people so they could reassociate, refocus themselves, and return to some semblance of normalcy. This became my shadow job at the FCPA; I worked hard to stabilize the unstable and disturbed students who wanted to believe that they were psychic, and not crazy.
But I really couldn’t do much to stem the tide of trouble. Each day brought a new emergency, a new conspiracy theory, a new factionalism, or a sudden expulsion. Slowly, the healing modalities of the school (which were created to help sensitive people calm and focus themselves) became just as disordered as its population. By the time I left, people in the FCPA were performing psychic abortions, psychically changing the weather, and telepathically reorganizing the brain structures of the children in their FCPA preschool (without the knowledge or permission of the children’s parents).
I didn’t believe that any of my teachers or fellow students were actually capable of these feats; I just knew that their interest in such antics meant that the entire FCPA had lost it moral compass.
I have to admit that I was asked to leave quite a few classes at the FCPA — because I shook things up by asking a series of questions about the psychiatric illnesses and immoral psychic antics going on all around the academy, and the ethics of charging people money for psychic readings or healings. I felt that if psychics were truly skilled, they should use their skills to find a good job or income (from the lottery, land or oil speculation, buried treasure, etc.) so that they could perform their readings as a public service.
The FCPA’s official answer — that psychics weren’t allowed to use their skills for personal financial gain — was preposterous, because if that were true, then they shouldn’t have been allowed to charge money for their psychic readings! People at the school vociferously and repeatedly argued with me about this money issue, but since their arguments were absurd and Pythonian, I just ignored them.
I also felt strongly that psychic healings for physical ailments should always be performed as a public service. The promises made about psychic healings (which could purportedly heal all illnesses, restore fertility, restructure or re-grow damaged tissue, reorganize a person’s chi or life energy, heal past life issues, re-wire damaged brain circuitry, etc.) were so extreme that I felt money should be left out of the equation entirely. My position was that if a psychic healing actually worked its miracles, then no amount of money could ever repay the psychic — and if the healing didn’t work, then no amount of money should be given to the psychic.
And anyway, if psychic healers were truly channeling healing energies of such magnitude, wouldn’t they benefit in amazing ways that would essentially constitute ample payment? Wouldn’t they get a healing by giving one?
As you can imagine, those arguments went over like lead balloons. Though I continued to take classes over the next few years at different campuses of the FCPA (and I continued to provide psychic-healing triage), I was known as a trouble-maker. Eventually, they gave up on me, and I gave up on them.
But I didn’t give up on the idea of a healing career, or on the idea of spirituality. I had learned so much about the other world, about the inner world, about healing, about restoring the psyche after severe trauma, about past lives … and at the FCPA and the Lake of Li, I had seen two amazingly rich instances of failures in spiritual groups and spiritual ideologies.
All this trouble had been so instructive, and I had so many ideas about how to address the trouble. I felt that my experiences with the Lake of Li and the FCPA had given me a special understanding about how and why a very worthy set of beliefs could devolve into a heart-wrenching catastrophe. I thought I could use my hard-won understanding to create something truly different. I was 21 years old.
I thought I could present what was good about spirituality and metaphysics, challenge what was wrong, and truly help people. I thought I could rescue spirituality from the Wild West atmosphere of the New Age — and from the influence of unbalanced leaders, power-mad hierarchies, cults, charlatans, and feuding sects. I thought I could present material that would help people own their spirituality, rather than being owned by it.
I thought I could fix what was wrong, and thereby protect people like my friends, my family, my fellow FCPA students, and myself from harm.
So I created my own healing career, separate from the FCPA and everyone else. My work wasn’t beholden to anyone or to any set of beliefs. I wasn’t slavishly devoted to specific New Age ideologies; rather, my work was based upon my sincere concern for the people in the New Age.
Next post: 5. My Brilliant Career