On liberation from formal religion


I recently listened to an audiobook – The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God: Why New Atheism Grew Old and Secular Thinkers Are Considering Christianity Again -by Justin Brierley. Brierley thinks the present ebbing of Christianity in western cultures is about to change. That’s okay. He is an apologist, and this is his job. But this isn’t going to happen.

The book explores the decline of the kind of muscular atheism expressed by materialists, and it is true that a handful of intellectuals have discovered some value in traditional Christianity. Some have abandoned atheism for Christianity. There’s nothing remarkable about that. This has been going on for years. Changing camps goes both ways. People find what they need.

The title is somewhat misleading. Not all professions of atheism are hard core. So much is a reaction against Christianity in its intolerant dogmatic expression. For some it’s enough to just abandon the faith. For others there is a progressive rediscovery of some idea of the divine free from dogma and tradition.

There is a trend showing more people are saying they are not aligned to any religion. The category ‘spiritual but not religious’ has been growing steadily in recent decades. The Pew Research Centre has some interesting data from December 2023. This is US data. Overall, 70% of Americans say they are spiritual, including 22% who say they are spiritual but not religious. Around 28% say they have no religious affiliation (atheists, agnostics or ‘nothing in particular’).

Interestingly a Jan 2024 Pew report notes that 41% have become more spiritual, whereas 13% have become less so. But while 24% say they have become more religious, 33% say they have become less religious.

The trend seems clear, more people are becoming more spiritual but less religious. Brierley’s hopeful prognosis for Christianity seems far more optimistic than realistic.

Growing beyond formal religion

Pew notes that, “An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults (83%) say they believe that people have a soul or spirit in addition to their physical body. And 81% say there is something spiritual beyond the natural world, even if we cannot see it.”

The trend isn’t away from spiritual beliefs, only from the organisations and cultures which once held dominant sway over the community. This trend might include solo DIY spirituality, membership of groups and communities – everything from yoga classes to wiccan covens or occult orders. In essence, being spiritual has increasingly little or nothing to do with religious affiliation.

Over the past few months, I have been moved to get into books on alternative perspectives on our spiritual influences. The list isn’t exhaustive of what is available, only what I have read/listened to recently.

  • TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information by Erik Davis
  • The Sacred History: How Angels, Mystics and Higher Intelligence Made Our World by Jonathan Black
  • Encounters: Experiences with Nonhuman Intelligences: Explorations with UFOs, Dreams, Angels, AI and Other Dimensions by D. W. Pasulka
  • Knowing What We Know: The Transmission of Knowledge: From Ancient Wisdom to Modern Magic by Simon Winchester
  • Modern Occultism: History, Theory, and Practice by Mitch Horowitz
  • Magisteria: The Entangled Histories of Science and Religion by Nicholas Spencer

The compelling takeaway for me was the reminder of just how strongly esoteric and occult thought has influenced western culture since the birth of the Renaissance, and especially since the 19th century.

The idea that Christianity has dominated the evolution of spiritual and moral values in western culture over the past 1700 years is deeply misleading. This is not to say Christianity has had no significant influence, but it does add a dimension on why Christianity’s influence has significantly declined in the past 150 years.

Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalismis a compelling account of how Christianity contributed the evolution of Western secular liberalism and the rise of individuality. In a way it is a description of how the faith made itself redundant. It had a use by date, which has come due for many of us.

Formal religious organisations have been losing their appeal in our contemporary times steadily. In part it is reliance on anachronistic content that is poorly attuned to our times. You can’t effectively communicate resolutions to contemporary issues by relying on 2,000-year-old stories. They can be a guide but not a solution. In part it is also the manifest moral failings by ordained representatives. Ordination has been proven to be no assurance of integrity – rendering the ceremony no more than an administrative performance to be randomly interpreted at an individual level. In essence an organisation saturated in the past, avoidant of contemporary knowledge, and unwilling to fully engage with current reality cannot survive, let alone thrive.

The issue isn’t the moral dimension. Religions have no ownership of morality, as biological and psychological research shows. They can shape it, but not always in accordance with contemporary expectations.

Religions create a social discourse that frames ethical and moral imperatives in that social dimension. Our biology and psychology trigger moral values independent of religions and their cultural and historic foundations. This is why there is a clash between ‘progressive’ values and religious values. Attempts to assert ownership of, or primacy over, moral values will fail without force to impose that ownership. That force has been countered by the emergence of more democratic, liberal, and inclusive values – especially in the past 60 years.

The role of formal religion was once central to a community’s survival. But that has changed as our communities have become larger, more complex, more diverse, and more concerned about meeting internal needs of harmony and inclusion. The idea that religions might thrive by resisting the forces of social evolution is absurd. This is why formal religions have become more aligned to ‘conservative’ values as our communities continue to evolve toward more tolerant and inclusive pluralism.


I quit Christianity when I was 6. I was obliged, under threat of physical chastisement, to attend Sunday school when I was 5. When I chastised my father for being unforgiving, I was hauled off to church, away from the influence of Jesus. I liked Jesus. He was a very nice man, way nicer than my father who was somewhat disturbed. But I wasn’t sent to Sunday school to learn to be like Jesus apparently. I was removed from the light of love to the darkness of spiritual anger and tribal drams. I loathed the church, and I loathed the unloving self-righteous people who infested it.

I couldn’t fully live out my quitting for another 4 years, after my parent split. And then it was total. I retained an affection for my Sunday school Jesus. I had nothing against him, and there was a lot to like. But I can’t imagine a 2024 Jesus being anything less than totally contemporary, speaking in terms anybody would fully understand. I imagine he would be fully familiar with current psychology, science, and philosophy.

I esteem the wisdom of the ages deeply. That is my bedrock upon which I have built my present search for spiritual insight. But that search is crafted from the best contemporary knowledge I can find. In what we call the humanities is an extraordinary wealth of knowledge and insight whose interpretation is energetically contested by materialists and the religious (dogmatists and open-minded inquirers) as well as the spiritual but not religious. Nothing is settled.

That contestation is the healthy way knowledge grows and individuals mature psychologically, intellectually, and spiritually. We all seek fulfilment of our own inner needs. But we must now understand that in the diversity of human experience conformity to dogma is no longer the way for all.

There is now no dominant authority of tradition or dogma – only the petty efforts of those who crave it for their shelter. They are a natural part of the diversity of inquirers. There is a larger, loose, and complex community of knowledge-seekers and truth-lovers contributing to an ever-evolving discourse. We can all find what we desire and/or need.

Who knows where things are going, and how they will evolve along the way. There is no doubt individuals will find what they seek, and the company of fellow travellers to celebrate and affirm what they value. But will we see future spiritual organisations exerting power over communities through dominating dogma and force? Maybe in some distant time.

In the meantime, we have plenty of dogma free inquiry and exploration to relish and celebrate.

Reflecting on the Superhuman


In his 2022 book  The Superhumanities: Historical Precedents, Moral Objections, New RealitiesJeff Kripal argues that academic studies under the broad heading of the humanities must escape the unidimensional constraints of materialism and embrace that other dimension we call by many names – spiritual, occult, magic, mystical, psychical, to cite a few.

This other dimension suggests the reality of ‘superhuman’ powers, but the idea of the super man has been distorted and debased by Nazism and materialism. Superpowers are preserved in our consciousness as fantasy, telling us something of the idea’s fundamental importance. 

Christianity set out to eradicate unauthorized superpowers – with only God, Jesus and saints being permitted actors. All else were of the Devil and were, by their very nature, evil. Later, as science developed a more assertive materialistic culture, anything that did not fit a rational materialistic model was dismissed as fakery and folly. Superpowers became fictional or the stuff of weak-minded belief. 

Despite what religions and materialism insist, our unmediated culture retains links to a deep intuition we have that these superpowers are a birthright – in our imagination, at least, for now. We will have all different memories of our childhoods, but the younger you are the more you will have been exposed to superhumans and superpowers as the media transitioned from paper comics to movies and animation. Superpowers are very much part of our now. But are they fantasy or heritage?

As a scholar of religion Kripal has carved his own unconventional path. He does not imagine the ‘divine’ expresses only through formal and approved channels. He sees it erupting into our normal in manifold ways. This is no sudden insight, as the following books show:

  • Mutants & Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal, 2011
  • Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred, 2012
  • The Super Natural: Why the Unexplained is Real (with Whitley Strieber), 2018
  • Changed in a Flash: One Woman’s Near-Death Experience and Why a Scholar Thinks It Empowers Us All (co-authored with Elizabeth G. Krohn), 2018
  • The Flip: Who You Really Are and Why It Matters, 2020

I have read a lot on religion over the decades. And I have explored the transgressive essences of this other ‘super’ dimension thoroughly as well. That was a necessity, given my own lived experiences. 

Kripal is arguing for a bold and necessary move forward out of one dimensional thinking about who we are as humans and into a two dimensional comprehension of who we are. This transition is becoming urgent. 

Human as Two

Kripal writes of Human as Two (H1+H2 – these symbols are my idea, as far as I know). This isn’t just a reference to body and soul but two distinct consciousness – one generated by our organic existence and the other of a more fundamental nature, but still (for the most part) mediated by our organic being. Sometimes this second sense (H2) of being can be experienced without organic mediation – as in out of body experiences. 

For many, it is Human as One that is alone true – only H1. Also, H2 can be seen as a highly limited domain that we are discouraged from engaging without powerful dogmas that can act as an effective invalidation of anything beyond pure imagination – effectively making it a fuzzy H1 affair.

None of this is novel or radical, but we have engaged with this theme in messy ways and for a long time, lacking clarity and intellectual discipline. 

Kripal’s book is a call to academia to release its grip on the materialistic biases that have distorted and limited its vision. At a time in our culture when reason and intellectual rigor are highly esteemed, alongside the scientific method, clinging to materialism is little more than indulging in ideological bias – and unworthy of any claims to genuine advancement in knowledge. 

In a way what we have created is a profoundly unbalanced progression. I like the ideas of the anthropologist Robert Redfield who wrote of the technical and moral orders of a community in his 1953 book The Primitive World and Its Transformation. We have progressed the technical order while the moral order has been allowed to atrophy, relatively speaking. I think Redfield’s use of the term ‘moral’ as related to traditional and archaic cultures and can be inflated to embrace all the 2nd dimension (H2) themes and the psychological as well as the moral. The point here is that ‘moral’ in an archaic culture embraces the precepts of animism, myth, and magic as part of a relational connection with a living cosmos. 

Redfield noted that technical order used to be subordinate to moral order, but that has flipped. Now the technical order dominates. Now we measure our success in terms of technology and commerce rather than in any relational sense concerning human and other lives.

Of course, academic inquiry hasn’t completely ignored H2. There have been plenty of PhDs awarded on H2 themes – but not always celebrating it. As Kripal notes, often an inquiry is driven by a form of critique – and that can lead to efforts to invalidate or re-interpret in H1 terms only. There are H2 courses as well, available in some institutions. But the point is that H2 themes are still taken to be contested and in conflict with the H1 only perspective. Things are, however, changing in the right direction. 

I get that there’s a need to intellectually validate H2, but it’s not a battle that has to be constantly fought. At some stage the irrationality of materialism must be admitted, and a white flag raised on its behalf. This is, however, likely to happen via generational change rather than the emergence of a revolutionary insight.

Kripal has dragged the debate out of the shadows – well, to the extent that the H1 only adherent will address his challenge. However, his arguments will add clarity to kindred spirits. I noticed that the Kindle version Superhumanities seemed to be priced as a student’s book rather than for a more general market. So, he is speaking more to the next generation via university students?

My recent posts have argued that we need to rethink our spirituality and Kripal’s book fits neatly in with that sense – as if there is a current of inspiration flowing and we can clamber on board. 

I read/listened to Ingo Swann’s Resurrection of the Mysterious and D. W. Pasulka’s Encounters recently as well. Swann reminded the reader of the determined anti-psychism spirit that is part of both Christianity’s denial of unauthorized awareness and materialism’s denial of anything not anchored in the H1 only mindset. 

A crisis of consciousness 

A few weeks ago, I listened to a discussion looking at the astrology of 2024 on The Astrology Podcast. It was super technical at times, and a bit beyond my knowledge, but it moved me to reverse my decision not to have a reading for the year ahead.  What was of particular interest to me was the comment that there are major technology changes that may be foreshadowed in 2024 but which will really hit in 2025-26. These changes will be revolutionary. It’s not that I necessarily believe these forecasts, but they do gel with other indicators. 

Pasulka’s book put a lot of emphasis on AI. This interest in AI was also reflected in a short article on management themes for 2024 from the founder of the Neuroleadership Institute, David Rock that I read a few days ago. There are other indicators as well that suggest something that might be a watershed change is in the offing. The focus may be on the technological dimension in a purely materialistic sense, but we must not ignore the psychosocial and psychospiritual elements as well (H1+H2). It is difficult to imagine AI as relevant to H2 without understanding it as a form of ‘animation’ of the human-made world. You need an animistic perspective to see this. Without this angle AI seems like a threat to the H1 only mindset. But please wonder why we want a human-made environment that talks back, communicates and thinks, relates to us as seeming peers, possesses powers we do not have, and may serve us to do evil upon us? Its an animistic cosmology.

I have been reading in management and organizational psychology for a little shy of 40 years. It’s an area that has attracted a growing level of academic interest – and hence it’s a good trend indicator for wider social and cultural themes. The human is (now) at the centre of our inquiry. There has been a steadily increasing trend toward empathy and inclusion that requires higher levels of self-awareness and psychological maturity. This is still mostly H1, but we can see the dawning light of H2 on the horizon.

As AI evolves there is an evolutionary impetus for us to become more empathic and holistic. Sure, the technological growth is often driven by unempathic and almost sociopathic types (maybe in search of a AI agent who will give them unconditional love), but the rest of us embrace what is offered.

With technological trends as well, we are being pushed into various crises of conscience and consciousness as a tension between adaptive and reactive responses grows. 

All in all, a watershed change in 2025-26 seems not unlikely. Part of that adaptive/reactive tension is likely to be the tension between H1 only and H1+H2 adherents (with H2 Champions). We must flip the technical/moral dominance to bring the moral order back. That, by the way, includes embracing the suite of holistic environmental and quantum science implications as they apply our sense of who and what we are. 

It is worthwhile repeating here that certain religious faiths fall squarely in the H1 camp precisely because they are motivated to curtail or control H2 experiences. For example, for some US Christian nationalists, Jesus has become “too woke” for them.  We must not automatically assume religions are pro the superhuman. In fact, the opposite is often true. A purely mythic superhuman can be a rationale for insisting followers remain controllably within the H1 camp. The idea that a true believer acts in the imitation of Christ is often considered a challenge to authority rather than  fulfillment of the faith’s objectives.

Kripal’s employment of the superhumanitues is provocative in a good way because it forces a reimagining of an idea that has been relegated to a corner where it can be ignored or invalidated. I have a memory of a book well known in academia that I will not name because I cannot verify my memory. My memory is that it says, “because there are no such things as spirits…” and heads off on an argument based on that assertion. But I do clearly recall numerous instances of writers in anthropology reinterpreting the ideas of indigenous peoples because they were presumed to be mistaken in their interpretations of their experiences. 

The superhuman is thus often redefined as part of naïve delusions and immature fantasies. This is why we now find the theme in movies meant for 12 year olds, but described as ‘family’ so permission for adults to enjoy can be smuggled in. Arguably only 5, at the most, of the 50 highest grossing movies of all time are ‘real world’. The other 45 fit into the fantasy category, and 10 at least (by my count) fall into the superhuman category – but that’s a matter for debate. 

Equally, we can argue about why we watch movies – to escape from some state that is oppressive or to aspire into a state that is liberating and fulfilling? Is what we call fantasy hopeless dreaming or anticipation?

The ‘supernatural’ was considered the misperception of the ‘primitive’ mind in a lot of early anthropology. Anthropology doesn’t like to be reminded of the disrespectful notion of ‘primitive’. Now it ‘respectfully’ re-interprets perceptions and interpretations to correct and improve understanding. Not ‘primitive’ (sorry about that), just wrong. 

In our culture the H2 stuff is about what we see as superpowers. We are conditioned to see them as mythic or scarce – applied only to exceptional people.  Or its all superstitious and ignorant BS. But they also can be read as part of our destiny – potential or inevitable sometime down the track. 

The standard sci fi vision of humans living in a hi-tech world – as in 2nd Gen Star Trek – is that they have the time to pursue self-development as if that means only H1 competencies like sports, arts, and education. The goal is still the refinement of the individual – only not in the H2 sense. Imagine otherwise. What if our self-development goals were H2? That would disrupt the narrative that proposes only technologies evolve and humans evolve only in adaptation to the technologically dominated and mediated environment. What if human evolution was not Darwinian (driven by adaptation to the physical environment), but by a H2 level impetus?

Kripal observes that our traditions, going way back, celebrate the superhuman. So why isn’t our H2 potential knitted into our vision of who we are? Why are we merely monkey-made-good and not that other soul/spirit side as well? The present ‘rational’ perspective is that seeing our H2 nature is optional is rational because it is not substantiated by evidence and is hence no more than a matter of (irrational) opinion. 

That simply isn’t so. The evidence is abundant, but it can be accepted or ignored, depending on motive – like any evidence. Motive is something we need to think through. Why would you choose ignore/deny half of who you might be?

I am reading/listening to an interesting book called The Misinformation Age. It explores how valid knowledge can be distorted and misrepresented. The actuality of our H2 nature is distorted by propagandistic efforts from both religion and academia where there is a motive to distort or deny evidence. That motive is about control and authority, and surrendering either will likely precipitate a crisis of consciousness – and identity – among those who desire to exercise control. This is no conspiracy theory. Somebody (individual or group) exerts control over a community – imposing and policing norms. As we evolve into ever more complex and pluralistic communities those controls become more abstract. This is precisely what current right-wing passions are reacting against. They want simple and singular. This applies also to materialism.


At the opening of The Superhumanities Kripal shares a poster for a course – Mutants and Mystics: Race, Sexuality and the Future of the Human(ities). The poster features a costumed superhero character asking, “Are you one of the mutants?” 

This gives me a thrill. It is clearly aimed at a younger student audience. I so wish it was available when I enrolled at UTas in 1970s. I didn’t stay long.

What I love about the poster is that it takes a playful approach to a deep matter. It creates a sense of excitement that is very present, and future looking. Kripal puts the potentiality well in saying, 

As someone who was once trained in Hindu and Buddhist philosophies, which insist that the real as such cannot only be known as such but that this is the very purpose and goal of a human life-form, I have always found this Western academic assumption to be a rather obvious and most dubious piece of Eurocentrism. Why stay within these reasonable (European) limits when much of humanity has not? Who says they are limits, and to what end? (P 97)” (The bold is mine)

There is also a sense of ‘irreverence’ in the poster. But who says reverence is the only way? What about curiosity and innovation? What about excitement? Religions have relegated so much of human potential to dark corners and basements through invalidation or denial. Kripal observes that, “most of all, religion is looking the wrong way: it is looking backward to the past, not for- ward to the future.” (P 94).

Rational intellectual inquiry into the whole of who we are should be our best hope, but that won’t be something we can realise until the choking fingers of materialism are loosened from the throat the spirit of inquiry. – and we are allowed to be mutants without fear. 

Kripal’s works are invigorating and unsettling, and getting unsettled or disrupted is necessary if we want to open ourselves up to our future and our potential. The books are also demanding. That’s a good thing, but these days we are seduced toward the easy. To consume input that demands we pay attention and find something that makes us work hard to get best benefit can be a surprise. I highly recommend Kripal’s works, but I don’t want to mislead. You’ll have to work for the reward.

Imaging formally studying the humanities (psychology, sociology, the arts, philosophy and so) with a H2 perspective on who we are. What a blast that would be! Why isn’t this how it is now?

Why we need to end the science v religion dichotomy


It is beyond doubt that the great civilisations were religious in some form or another, and this did not impede scientific development. It is also beyond doubt that ideologies and dogmatism impede scientific development, whether they are religious or scientific.

Materialism has a cranky intolerance of religion in general. Its aversion to religious dogma is frequently well-founded but unbalanced and mostly ill-informed. It is at best an ideology driven by unaddressed personal issues. And we also have fundamentalist religious dogmas that are irrationally intolerant of science.

We have extreme aversions. Each camp presumes it is right and the other is wrong. Atheists debate fundamentalist Christians in pointless performances that pander only to their own. They are not debates seeking to resolve an issue. Neither camp has depth knowledge of the other. This is what happens when combative ideologies engage in ritual combat.

Science and religion are essentially fairly modern ideas – especially as contestants. We need to understand this. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on religion quotes Paul Griffiths (a theologian I think) as saying: hardly anyone has any idea what they are talking about—or, perhaps more accurately, that there are so many different ideas in play about what religion is that conversations in which the term figures significantly make the difficulties in communication at the Tower of Babel seem minor and easily dealt with. I recommend reading the full article.

I think it was the American philosopher John Dewey who denied there was Science, only sciences and scientists. We often talk of Science as if it is a settled body of knowledges and beliefs rather than a method of inquiry. But capital ‘s’ Science isn’t really a rational thing. It’s a convention or habit (and a bad one at that). Scientists can be deeply dogmatic and cruel to those with whom they disagree, as well as dishonest.

In essence, while there might be ideals fairly associated with science and religion, they cannot be applied universally. We may have to offer only finely nuanced descriptions of what we intend to convey if we want to avoid being misunderstood. Indeed, maybe we should come up with new ideas and words about both.

A personal position

I grew up with a passion for science and an aversion to the Christianity of my parents. I wasn’t anti-religious, just anti bullshit. By the time I turned 15 I had been hammered by an array of non-ordinary experiences that left me unable to turn to either science or religion for guidance. That’s still pretty much the picture today.

Between the two was a strange zone which offered succour through what is variously ‘pseudo-science’ (a term I detest) or sundry ‘New Age’ beliefs. It was often attractive – if one’s intent was to discover a comforting dogma to indulge in. But the absence of intellectual integrity was always a danger signal to me.

To be clear, I don’t disparage the discovery of a comforting dogma. Sometimes that’s an achievement – if the root of the comfort has integrity. Shelter from the storm of doubt has its appeal. But it’s just not something I am into. I had to resolve my non-ordinary experiences into some kind of theory that satisfies my personal needs.

So, I grew up with a hunger that was not assuaged by the offerings I found, though I drank eagerly from cups offered by both science and religion. However, they were more like hospitality to a pilgrim rather than temptations to dwell. We all have our own path to walk.

I read extensively in the sciences and in religion/spirituality. I was a sci-fi and fantasy devotee for a few decades. I have read only 2 fiction books in the past 25 years. I have been tracking my audiobooks since Dec 2018 and I have been getting through 4.5 a month on average. This doesn’t include podcasts and Kindle. I mention this to emphasise that I am a serious inquirer.

What kicked of my audiobook list keeping in December 2018 was the discovery of Donald Trump’s extraordinary impact on the US. This became a deep fascination for me because it triggered an intense curiosity about the nature of belief. My Trump book category has 59 inhabitants. The largest group is political history – 60. I needed a refresh so I could make sense of Trump’s environment in a non-naïve way. Allied to this need are the 36 social commentary books. My religion/spirituality group also has 59 occupants, including quite a few on American expressions of religion. There are also 12 books on metaphysics and 2 on mythology.

I have had an enduring parallel interest in how workplaces have been evolving. I have a category called professional development with 58 books on organisational psychology, management and diversity, equity, and inclusion. This has been supplemented by 22 books on psychology.

Apart from the 1 fiction book, there is 1 book on writing, 2 on economics, 4 autobiographies, 9 on indigenous culture and history, 11 on ET/UFOs, 15 on science, 16 on philosophy, and finally 16 books on history (including 6 on ‘pseudo history’). 

I have tried to explore the world I live in using contemporary knowledge to discover something of the human drama and how we are responding. Trump represents a profound existential crisis at a cultural level. It’s not just the US – it’s just way better examined and documented there. My professional development and psychology books have explored the individual in social and organisational settings with an emphasis on moral dimensions.

The UFO/ET books have driven home the drama of our opening awareness to other lives and dimensions. This has been reinforced by the books on metaphysics and science. This drama accompanies expressions of religions of course, but it’s a common human heritage that should be as much a part of our shared secular discourse as any other theme.

Trump represents an appeal to tyranny – a purely human effort to resist the evolutionary forces that are transforming our experience of being human. The past 30 years or so in particular have utterly transformed living in ‘advanced western’ countries. I have no doubt this is true for other countries – I just don’t have the lived experience to assert it is so without qualification.

We are change resistant creatures in a maelstrom of transformation. Exhaustion and resistance are normal. It is easier to articulate resistance concretely and harken back to the known than it is to voice confidence in an unpredictable future. Resistance may be futile, but at least it seems comprehensible.

The present as a balance between past and future

The balance is important to me. Reliance on texts from pre-modern agrarian cultures strikes me as crazy. For example, the Bible no doubt aspired to contain the best wisdom and insights of its time of creation, but valid ancient ‘wisdom’ will be validated by modern wisdom – eventually. So many foundational insights of ancient wisdom are affirmed by contemporary human sciences. On the other hand the messy struggles to make sense of new spiritual ideas will not ensure unless they become baked into ideologies demanding compliance and faith rather than reason and discernment.

The mystical nature of Jesus, the core of Christianity as a dogma, cannot be validated. It remains a personal election as an essentially unimportant matter. This unimportance is a profoundly contentious matter for believers. Atheists have gone beyond it, as have those who have adopted alternative paths. The ability to discern between wisdom and dogma is developed only through discernment and struggle.

There’s much our sciences won’t explore or validate, but what they have is of immense value as affirmed enduring truths – rather than metaphysical guesses and acts of faith and belief that deny any obligation to seek the adjudication of educated reason.

Modernity is a celebration of intellectual passion – for good or ill – and refusing to be a part of it is to profoundly misunderstand the wisdom of the past in favour of dogmas that dull minds and stifle imagination. A god wants this to be the preferred way?

We are on the cusp of profound changes. The technologies that facilitate our aspirations may not be wisely husbanded, but they will continue to change how we experience our lives. Regardless of the cause, climate change will oblige us to adapt to unwelcome extremes. Our engagement with other sentient agents will become more overt and intense.

Every now and then I tune into popular culture to see what’s trending. Movies can be a remarkable barometer. A few years ago, when I started looking at lists of top grossing movies, I was astonished to see a mere handful of ‘normal life’ movies in the top 100. The most were sci fi and fantasy. Oddly Titanic, one of the few ‘normal life’ movies was #1 back then. 

It seemed our spiritual and religious passions were being catered for via sci fi and fantasy. Our imaginations were way beyond the iron age agrarian settings of our foundational spiritual sources.

Time to seriously rethink.

What next?

About 2,000 years ago a small movement generated by a Jewish spiritual teacher became a world transforming force. It would be unrealistic to say this movement caused the transformation, but it certainly was the carrier of a great evolutionary impulse – and came to symbolise it. It was not the exclusive carrier, just the dominant one. That impulse has flowed on, and the carrier has waned in power and significance.

Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual is the most compelling exploration of this idea. It is little read by folks interested in religion because nothing about the books suggests it has anything to do with the theme. Even the subtitle – The Origins Of Western Liberalism – hints not at all that the book is on the impact of Christianity.

Through Jeff Kripal who taught me to see religion in a secular context, I came across Luke Lafitte’s Machine Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm – Spiritual Freedom and the Re-animation of Matter. Lafitte’s book was no easy read and I am not sure I read it the way he intended. I wrote him a thank you note but he didn’t reply. But it pushed me to understand that we must see our spirituality in our own context – for most this is urban and high tech. It’s not agrarian and iron age. There’s no reason why our next ‘saviour’ may not be ET or a cyborg.

Incidentally, in looking up Jeff Kripal on Amazon I discovered he’s finally got a new book out (see the hyperlink above). Even the Kindle version is priced as an academic text. But he’s one of my favourite, and most provocative, authors – so no audiobook. I bought the Kindle version. The title, The Superhumanities: Historical Precedents, Moral Objections, New Realities, hints of another fascinating adventure. The website blurb proclaims – A bold challenge to rethink the humanities as intimately connected to the superhuman and to “decolonize reality itself.”

Reality isn’t terra nullius. This is a difficult concept to grasp at first, because we create our experience of it. But in so doing we impose our preconceptions, our conditioning, our habits of thought. We can shut out what is there by imposing ideologies and dogmas that flood our consciousnesses with asserted ‘truths’. These ‘truths’ include our faith traditions, materialistic ideologies and other beliefs and opinions. This also includes concepts baked into our cultural norms – religion and science are good examples.

This kind of thinking might be unfamiliar to the reader steeped in the standard fare on spirituality and religion. It could even be unsettling. The familiar spiritual and religious discourses carry a sense of the known, even if we don’t know much about them. They are established. But they are also backward looking – and there’s something of value in that – especially if the spirit of the past is absent in the present. However, looking backwards doesn’t help in the current age – unless our goal is to return to the simple low-tech agrarian life.

Thomas Campbell’s My Big TOE opens up and entirely different landscape – one that straddles the physical and the metaphysical. Campbell is associated with the Monroe Institute, established by Robert Monroe, as is Frank DeMarco, an author whose works have fascinated me.

These are not the only source of different ways of engaging with spiritual an religious ideas, but they are forward thinking and the direction we need to be heading, backed by contemporary sciences. We have new territory to expand into – as explorers, not colonisers. The inhabitants of the deeper reality aren’t into us trying that stuff.


My grandson is turning 18 in a week as I write this. His spirituality is not steeped in old lore. Rather it is grounded in Star Wars and the Marvel universe. A few years back he asked his grandmother if there was a god and she said there was in a most unhelpful way. She was eager to affirm her belief and so lost the chance to ask an essential question, “What do you mean by ‘god’?” He has had no motivation to reopen the question. Maybe that doesn’t matter, but it seemed to me to be a lost opportunity to initiate a calm discourse blessed with subtlety and insight.

Old lore has its values if approached in a fortunate way. I grew up steeped in Theosophy, ritual magic, and Wicca, but not always in helpful ways. I had to struggle with credulous associates who were believers rather than seekers. But I got a good grounding in a decent idea of human spiritual anatomy. Nobody would expect a doctor to practice medicine with no understanding of physical anatomy. That is tangible and measurable in concrete ways. But no such requirement is imposed upon practitioners of spiritual or religious traditions. We are content with traditional dogma and commentary. That’s what killed so many people when medicine was a gentleman’s pursuit rather than a science.

Lisa Feldman Barrett, in How Emotions are Made, argues that our theory of emotions is all wrong. We don’t have an accurate anatomy of emotions. Our penchant for religious ideology has infected our capacity for scientific thought and perpetuated an affection for dogma disguised as reasoned truth.

There’s a lot about the past we must jettison. Yes, more transformation/change fatigue – especially if we get it wrong out of sloppiness, laziness, or ideological hubris. And the odds of that are high.

My grandson is a child of the 21st century. He is inner urban, high tech. His spiritually can’t look back – behind him there’s only a fog of ideology and ignorance far denser than what surrounds him now.

When I discovered the idea of animism, I knew quite quickly it was anachronistic, but I didn’t have good alternative to convey what it meant to me. Unlike others who took to the word I wasn’t in need of something to articulate a sentiment. I was looking for an explanation for lived experience. I am seeing now that religion and even science are words that are better scraped from our minds into the dustbin of redundant notions. But we can’t be too hasty. We must have at least made a down payment on what will replace them – and we are a long way from doing that.

If my grandson came to me and asked, “Is there a god?” I’d like to say, “That’s an interesting question. Tell me why you want to know.” Then we might have a conversation about our future, not our past.

Boundaries and filters


Between our sense of being in our world and how we imagine the divine we have boundaries and filters that are both organic and psychological. 

The organic boundaries and filters are created by our brains to ensure our organic being is able to function in the physical world – to at least survive and maybe flourish. 

The psychological boundaries and filters are more complex because they relate to both spiritual and psychological maturity. The extent to which this can be appreciated depends upon how we think about our nature.

A Christian will have an understanding that is essentially different from a Buddhist because each has a distinct theory of human nature and the soul. I have read extensively in both and found Buddhism had a more cogent theory of human nature. Christianity relied on dogma and faith. It was more a drama of philosophy. Each tradition arose from a very different root.

This difference is of interest as we discover more about what it is to be human – fusing new science with old lore. Considerably more intellectual energy in the west has been devoted to the eastern paths than Christianity.

In the first quadrant of the 21st century there are interesting trends in western cultures:

  • Christianity is struggling to hold onto its once dominant role.
  • Atheism has increased, largely as a reaction against Christianity.
  • Alternative expressions of religion and spirituality are growing.
  • There has been a steady growth in spiritually orientated inquiry in neuroscience and psychology.
  • Our access to ideas and information and the means to share or contest them is unprecedented.

The idea that what we believe, and value is a zero-sum game has taken root among those who are traditionalists and who have an adverse reaction to these trends.

This is a good time to reflect on how we behave as individuals and community members. We can contribute to the evolution of our psychospiritual environment. Or we can try to jam our stakes of hubris and dogma into the spokes of the evolutionary wheel.

We humans do not evolve in any orderly way. Any reflection upon the human condition globally will reveal a spectrum with stark differences. That lack of equality may be unfortunate, but it’s a feature, not a bug. It makes it harder for the ‘good guys’ to exert their beneficent influence. But who said being a ‘good guy’ was easy? This is nowhere better illustrated in the Biblical idea of the false prophet.

Consider this: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15). There is more at


Considering whether what you have been induced to believe looks like an obligation, but it is also a huge burden. It is way easier to find a comfortable nook of faith and belief and settle down than become an irritating type who questions the prophet.

In these days who really knows what is good and true and right? So many people in the present marketplace are motivated by personal gain to present themselves as prophets and guides.

I think our best defence against being a sucker to a fraud or a roadblock to our own evolution is to be aware of two instruments we have and use all the time.

We set boundaries and we create filters to keep us safe and to conserve our energy. If we take responsibility for doing so, and add a modicum of insight we improve our chances of not being suckered and distracted.

Beliefs as boundaries and filters and why they matter

Brain science suggests that the brain will process input from the material world and our imagination in a similar way. I had been listening to Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman’s Words Can Change Your Brain when this insight was casually delivered. The implications were stunning, and I had to stop listening because my head was off down a luminous path.

Our reality, as substantially organic beings, is created by what our senses tell us, plus our imaginings. I want to distinguish between imagination in the ‘creative’ sense and imagination arising from beliefs generated by the mere fact of being conscious organic beings. What we believe to be true, we imagine to be true. And what we imagine to be true we, we can believe to be true.

In our normal lives we process sensory data and modify it with guesses/predictions. This is mostly done in a non-rational unconscious way that can also conform with shared beliefs. Those shared beliefs can be culture-wide, held by a small community or entirely individual.

We modify our organic sensory experiences with multiple imaginations/beliefs, and these make up our reality. That multiplicity of imaginations/beliefs includes the sum of our subjective personal experiences which intersects with other individual subjective imaginations/beliefs and group imaginations/beliefs – family, faith, community, and culture. It’s a massive body of interweaving stimuli that we need to manage. Without boundaries and filters we would be overwhelmed.

What’s true or false, good or bad, sacred or profane, essential or optional, valuable or worthless matters massively. We set value filters and we set boundaries or limits on what we can think, believe, or entertain.

Filters in action

I share a passion for the sacred and the divine with most of humanity. I have beliefs and ideas that are my tools for engaging with what I imagine the sacred and the divine to be. They fit my needs.

I do my best to esteem values and beliefs that are good and true. But I am deeply aware that this is a highly personal business. My personal filters are adapting to new ideas – blocking old notions and being more responsive to new ones. And I resist some ideas when they seem to be too confronting – until I have had time to adjust myself them. But it is also possible to set my filter to block challenging notions.

We filter as we dare.

Boundaries in action

I must limit what I can engage with. Hence there are some religious/spiritual ideas/beliefs/practices I will not consider or pay attention to. They do not meet my needs.

This does not mean that I do not do honour other ways and disparage them as unworthy. They might be something I’d enjoy and value if I had a mind to explore them.

Boundaries are important. Some paths have deep and valued cultural traditions, and they demand time and attention that leaves no energy to engage beyond. Other paths may be a struggle between an alluring diversity and the need to develop depth on only a few options.

Fences keep some things in and other things out. If we manage our boundaries well, we can grow in a balanced way.

Seekers versus followers

We are in an age when being Spiritual, Not Religious is a class that distinguishes itself from the Religious. It’s a distinction that might be thought of as DIY as opposed to following an established method. Its not inherently superior because it has major drawbacks.

But what it does do is articulate a discontent with settled established traditions and aspire to new insights. This is pretty much like early post-Jesus movements. When the filters and boundaries become atrophied as components of a cultural artefact and tradition, they come to serve more the cultural dimension and less the sacred.

The divine is always breaking the rules humans set to contain it. But this isn’t through what we call ‘revelation’ which is a political term to suggest that the divine speaks only through approved established channels. A better term is ‘insight’- an ongoing evolution of awareness open to all.

But cultures need a sense of connection with the divine as much as individuals do. So, faiths serve a vital function at a cultural and communal level. That function esteems stability and conformity. Hence there have always been non-stable non-conforming minorities intent on ‘truth-seeking’ over compliance and conformity.

The importance of evolution

Everything evolves, but at very different rates. Western culture has been messed up by the dogma of perfect creation. Simply, what God creates has to be perfect – so evolution is ridiculous as an idea. 

But evolution is the ability to adapt to change, and change is everywhere. God didn’t create a static reality, so the ‘perfect’ creation is adaptive – evolving.

Humans are change resistant. We like things to stay the same, despite the hype over us chasing novelty with a passion. We like a healthy mix of stability and novelty – a lot of the former and a little (but steady flow) of the latter.

So, here’s the thing. Most humans like stability and they like their religion integrated into their culture and community in a way that lets them get on with the essential job of maintaining organic being on a spectrum from survival to flourishing.

But because the divine is always dynamic it puts pressure on the stable and change-resistant to adapt more readily to the changes that are flowing into our reality.

I think this is why movements like Buddhism, Christianity and Islam evolved. What we don’t know is what were the influences on the imaginative level that triggered these movements. We tend to think of the imaginative as not substantive, but if we see it as a dimension comprised of a fusion of belief, fantasy, thought, and emotion it is actually a powerful influence that is shaping our reality. You can call it consciousness if you like.

Our sense of reality is mediated by our brains through the combining of input from organic senses and our consciousness. Of course, there’s a whole field of inquiry about exactly what those words may mean. But the basic idea is plain.

Evolution is a theme that runs through it all. Its only a particularly obdurate, but small (though disproportionately influential) minority that resists. We need to imagine evolution in more fruitful ways.

Setting our own boundaries and filters

We all do this. It is necessary for our emotional and mental health. We can do so as members of large established communities of faith, as members of orders and covens, or as solo or independent loosely affiliated seekers or believers.

There are risks in any of those settings in terms of distorting truths. In fact, no filter will reveal undistorted reality. Filters are an inescapable element of our consciousness. We can’t remove them. We can only be aware we have them. And we need boundaries to protect ourselves from our own follies and conceits as well as protecting others from the same.

The needs of seekers are not met by the communities of followers, and vice versa. Enmity from either toward the other reflects psychological and spiritual naivety. 

We are each where we are. Pride in being who we are and in a contest with those who are not like us is psychologically and spiritually immature.

What we set for ourselves is in response to our needs and expectations. It’s not a measure of any contest we have with others.


We like to think that what we believe is true. It is – for us. Our reality is only partially shared with others. This is the awkward truth about our organic existence. We can know about ‘objective reality’ only via our brains which process input from our organic senses, plus our imaginations. In short, what we think is our experience of ‘objective reality’ is crafted our imagination/belief – and the ignorance, pride and immaturity that comprises a good measure of it.

To the extent that we value a shared/objective reality we must acknowledge that our beliefs/imaginations set boundaries and create filters that profoundly influence how we experience it.

And when it comes to the sacred and divine, what we can say as an expression of confident truth? I am starting to see objective reality as the stone inside a peach whose flesh is woven from all who engage with it and imagine it (human and other than human). We esteem the peach not for the stone, but the flesh.


Soon after I drafted this, I began listening to Lisa Feldman Barrett’s utterly remarkable book How Emotions Are Made. She builds on Newberg’s and Waldman’s work by arguing that what we think we know about emotions isn’t right.

There’s so much good work done in psychology and neuroscience these days that our notions of the spiritual/religious can be transformed – if we have a coherent theory of being human as a spiritual being.

Ritual by Dimitris Xygalatas is another beautifully conceived book that gives a fresh understanding of ritual as both a sacred and secular impulse.

For those who grew up in the Christian tradition and who are trying to decondition their mind from that influence, I also recommend the works of Daniel McClellan – his presence on YouTube and Tik Tok and the Data Over Dogma podcast especially.

We have religion all wrong


I think we have religion all wrong. I am not saying that what we call religion isn’t what we think it is, only that things we think aren’t religion are essentially the same thing as well. 

The error we make is in assuming that religions must involve some idea of God. In fact, God is an idea, a signifier, of some sense of ultimate being and cause. It is a seminal theory of everything – at its most fundamental level. To the materialist there is evolution and the Big Bang to signify being and cause. 

God is a big idea, but also vague, filled out by metaphysical imagination. The idea doesn’t have to resolve in any kind of personhood, but it may do so for some. When we survey the spectrum of big God ideas they vary greatly. Incidentally, I am using ‘God’ to denote a principal deity, not just the highly personalized Christian idea. All traditions have a singular overarching sense of deity. This includes the God of monotheists, the God of deists, the indescribable and unimaginable deity of mystic traditions, and various chief gods of the variety of polytheistic traditions.

The sense of The One or The All in its various renderings isn’t God in the same sense. Its more a unified pervasive consciousness (which raises the question of what we mean by consciousness) that’s closer to the mystical sense of indescribable and unimaginable deity – and may differ in name only. The word ‘God’ (with a capital G) can be employed to cover a spectrum of ideas but denotes a personal association with them. Whatever we mean by ‘God’ we include a personal association.

The materialist imagines Nature that is driven by evolution and bounded by laws. To the materialist reality is an ‘it’ and any ‘thous’ that exist arise directly from ‘it’. To the ‘religious’ ‘it’ has arisen from a primary ‘Thou’.

This ‘it’/’Thou’ distinction is a handy shorthand for some complex ideas that can overwhelm our ability to think clearly.

Whether we think reality is fundamentally a thou-generating-it (materialistic) or an it-generating-Thou(religious) essentially depends on our circumstances. If we are raised in a culture where religious faith is valued, we are more likely to assume an it-generating-Thou. Intense religious practice or experience will confirm the habit of thought. Rational aversions to religious practice, culture, or dogma may trigger a preference for a thou-generating-it explanation. Consciousness, in this view, can only ever be epi-phenomenal. 

The animistic perspective might be called a thou-generating-Thou. But let’s be also clear that the religious perspective is an ‘it and thou generating Thou.

To the extent we can exert intentional rational choice over what we believe, we make what I call a ‘metaphysical guess’ on which option is chosen and what detail we prefer. For most of us that guess is sufficient until something motivates a desire or need to change. That is to say that we can’t ‘know’ the truth in any objective sense, we can only decide what is true for us.

Does it matter?

To us as individuals or communities it does matter, because so much of our subjective psychology, as individuals, or shared cultures of meaning and value are constructed upon these choices/guesses.

But on a rational scale, in terms of what is true or false, it does not. This is because, absent a genuine fearless passion for truth-finding, people will inhabit a subjective zone of belief until it loses any value or utility. Truth finders will assert it does matter to them. But imposing the same values upon others is unwise. Their position is indistinguishable from any other subjective position to anybody else. Consequently, claiming nothing is often a good move. That is to say that silence can be the wiser option.

The Truth is likely more than we can presently believe. This suggests that all we can assert at any time is that we are truth seeking in the best way we can. This isn’t a competitive activity. It is not a zero-sum game. It a matter of belief – one held among many. It is the best opinion we can presently craft.

Our current high standard of truth seeking involves disciplined rational inquiry. We don’t value disciplined self-awareness to the same extent. But we can see from past traditions in many cultures that these 2 forms of discipline have been highly valued together. In fact, they have been an essential union.

Ardent truth seeking via faith, belief, and personalized subjective spiritual experience, as popular as it is, is inherently unreliable. It eschews rational and subjective discipline in favour obedience to unchallenged norms and conformity with unexamined ‘truths’. At best this approach is entry level. It is discarded as people become more reflective and critical. The entry level paths will not disappear any time soon.

It is a mark of our times (over the past 200 years for instance) that we have been undergoing a revolution in both rational inquiry (as exemplified by science) and self-inquiry (as exemplified by religious and spiritual, philosophical, and psychological inquiry). This revolution has by no means run its course. There are, I believe, a few centuries to go yet, at least. 

Do please note that both rational and subjective inquiry have been highly energetic. The pity is that it is uncommon to find both so energetically pursued in the same individual.

We are witnessing a steady transition away from traditional religion into alternative forms of thought, belief, and practice, and into atheism and materialism as this revolution progresses. In essence, our expression of our religious impulse is evolving and diversifying.

Truth matters, of course. But assuming one knows it is another thing. Of greater concern is whether our individual passions for ‘truth’ are cooperative, collaborate or collegiate rather than contested and combative. Whether we are good neighbors and community members or whether we want to pick fights and foster division is what matters in our mundane lives. 

What we believe has become more important than how we behave. This might be a post-Enlightenment legacy, but we can see the seeds being sown in early Christianity. Now we can condemn good people because we disagree with their beliefs, even though they have no adverse impact on us as individuals or the community as a whole.

This is changing as theological or faith-based dogma is being asserted as objective fact, absent any rational foundation. But this isn’t an abuse of ‘religion’ itself, just the manifestation of social expressions of fear and anxiety communicated through a particular community’s culture.

It is interesting that in our recoded history concerns about character have remained constant. All else may have changed – the cultural, political, economic, technological, or scientific – but the problem of character remains. We still haven’t figured that how we behave matters more than what we believe. What we believe influences how we behave, but this is often because we believe that what we believe matters more than how we behave.

How we manage our belief/behaviour is critical to our welfare. But this is linked also to identity at a cultural and individual existential level.

Is religion inherent in our nature?

In my early research into animism, I concluded that we had a shared psychological architecture that was animistic at its core. If we aren’t explicitly animistic, we are implicitly so. 

It is true that some people assert they are flat out materialistic and won’t have a bar of any idea they are in any way animistic. But have you ever heard a materialist talking about evolution? They cannot avoid ascribing agency to it, while defending their words by insisting it’s just a matter of language. Maybe.

I have come to see that we are also inherently ‘religious’. We all have a theory of everything. Now this is mostly entirely vague and not at all thought through – and extends no more than our need it to ‘explain’ our situation to ourselves. It doesn’t need to be objectively true, just subjectively coherent. It is an existential dialogue, not a rational one.

Our traditional idea of religion has served us well in doing this for most of human history. We mustn’t misunderstand it now.

This idea has two utterly imprecise, but related, ideas behind it. The first is – ‘as above, so below’. The second is allied – a sense of holographic reality in which any small thing models what is large. 

Even from a purely organic perspective we need to develop some theory of being and behaviour made up from the best ideas we can come up with. This is how we survive in the physical world. We don’t live in a fog of question marks. Our brains routinely fill in the gaps. In short, no matter who we are, we have the best theory of everything we can develop.

This extends beyond the organic to the psychological where our theory of everything blends our experience of organic being with whatever subjective awareness we can have.

As organic beings we have a most remarkable organ – the brain – whose function it is to receive and process input from our reality, regulate our own bodies and stimulate behaviour in response to the input. Neuroscience suggests our brains may be inherently holistic. Yet while we may possess an innate potential for holistic awareness we are limited by our sense of identity and relationship. If you like, our egos constrain how our potential for identity and relationship may express – as an individual, as a community member – how we think, feel and act.

Our cultures have an innate overriding theory of everything. This may be fused with religious traditions, philosophical traditions or other intellectual traditions depending on how complex and pluralistic the culture may be.

The term ‘religion’ isn’t always used in a spiritual context. The idea of a secular religion has been around for ages. If we understand it is in our nature to develop holistic notions about reality, no matter how vague they are, we may see that ‘religion’ is a universal form of encountering our reality.

There’s nothing about spiritual religious practice or belief that isn’t replicable in an entirely secular context. There’s nothing in our psychology that is distinctly spiritual as a separate attribute. Rather we are inherently spiritual – and this has a secular expression too.

Between spiritual and secular ‘religion’ we must distinguish between a common form and singular content in important ways. For example, the difference between French and Chinese cuisine is pronounced. You would be unlikely to mistake the two. But both are obedient to the same rules of chemistry and physics. Both serve nutritional and social needs. 

We could argue that Chinese food traditions and methods are not a cuisine because that word is French and Chinese food is cooked differently. But that would be pointless in terms of understanding food and the people who prepare and eat it. 

Cuisine and religion, as terms, are similar. If you define either in a narrow way the differences can seem to be about nature and not form. 

If religion is defined in a way that describes Christianity, then Buddhism seems less like a valid religion and materialism not at all. But if we define religion in terms of process rather than belief the distinctions cease to be so patently evident. 

The need for ToEs

The term Theory of Everything (ToE) has become popular from a scientific perspective in relatively recent times. A ToE is an effort to develop an integrated theory that ‘explains’ reality. We all have our modest versions of a ToE to ‘explain’ our lived experience, not to describe how reality works. It’s a personal thing. Our brain doesn’t do question marks. When we don’t know for sure, our mind thinks “There be dragons.” For dragons, substitute any number of other ‘fill in the gaps’ notions. These dragons can be hopes or fears.

Our self-consciousness is a small light which merges with reality as the known, the unknown and the unknowable via knowledge and emotions employing rational ideas, myths, metaphors, rituals, and symbols. Our options are to engage with it the best way we can and be content, or aspire to a deeper, more complex, and better-balanced engagement.

We are always crafting our holistic ToE to help us be conscious of the part of our reality we are aware of. It just happens to be mostly vague and often wrong.

Terms like ‘sacred’ and ‘enlightenment’ have spiritual and secular applications, and neither negates the other. While we do need language to distinguish ideas, we must move beyond the imagined antagonisms that pit science and religion, and spiritual and secular against each other.

We create conflict when we see members of the same spectrum as distinct and adversarial. This conflict happens when things are insufficiently thought through, and we activate our subjective impulse to be competitive. Then we are centred in our organic being, triggering all the primate mechanisms which sit ill at ease with our ‘spiritual’ nature.

Belief is a powerful tool, but also a stronger prison. Our ToEs can be compasses or confusions.


You will note that while there are endless scholarly books written about religion, you’d struggle to find many about materialism or atheism. There are plenty of books on both themes but not many as disciplined inquiries. We just haven’t thought things through in a balanced way yet.

We are on the verge of huge breakthroughs in understanding. Our past ideas about religion and spirituality don’t serve us well because they are polarised in a misguided contest that marks the early stages of revolution of thought. Time to let them go.

Our reality is complex and multi-layered. No single ToE will explain it (yet), but any of many may serve the needs of an individual or a community as part of an evolutionary progression. Spiritual religions, as ToEs, serve multiple primarily existential subjective needs. Secular ToEs may meet both subjective and rational needs. Intellectual ToEs may serve what seem essentially rational needs but can’t be separated from subjective and cultural needs. Of course, any of the 3 can be blended in any measure to meet singular personal or communal needs. We are doing this now.

So, have I lost something vital in all this? I hope only the narrow focus upon, and privileging of, poorly thought through claims and arguments. Our western culture has not championed self-awareness. We have debased emotions as weak and irrational. We have celebrated isolated rationalism in religious and intellectual pursuits for so long the trend toward deeper self-awareness is an unfamiliar and uncomfortable thing. One the one hand we have hyper intellectual materialists attacking religion and on the other purveyors of fundamentalist religious dogma attacking reason and science. Neither are psychologically healthy – and by that, I mean neither emotionally nor spiritually.

There are extraordinary dimensions to discover if we give ourselves permission. Religion is what made us who we are. It has been a healthy fusion of intellectual and scientific inquiry, psychology, philosophy over many millennia. Mind and emotions were honoured together. But like anything else human, it has cycles of expression. It soars and then plummets. It reaches a point where what has served to stimulate growth becomes a sea-anchor. 

Our love of stability is balanced by a spirit of curiosity and a love novelty. But we resist positive changes and pursue adverse ones because we are dominated by our organic nature and are hence captive to its often maladaptive and irrational reactions to novel situations.

We have a lot to rethink about ourselves and the reality we live in.

ET or ED? Is that the question?


I have been binge watching YouTube and listening to audiobooks after listening to Rick Strassman’s DMT The Spirit Molecule. I am on my 4rd Jacques Vallee audiobook as I write. Last week I finished listening to Ross Coulthard’s In Plain Sight – the best book on the UFO/UAP theme I have come across.

Coulthard’s conclusion is that the UFO/UAP phenomena are real but we don’t know who or what they are. Vallee, who worked on Project Blue Book, isn’t convinced that the operators of UFOs/UAPs are ET.

This matters to a huge extent because we are accustomed to imagining all visitors to Earth are from the same dimension – our familiar time-space sense of reality.

Vallee dissents – and is in good company. Strieber’s experience recounted in Communionis closer to Vallee’s interpretation. There is mounting evidence, in my opinion, that supports Vallee’s perspective. My direct experiences make much more sense if the Extra-Dimensional [ED] perspective is valid. 

Of course, there is no suggestion that the ET or ED choice is a mutually exclusive option. The point, rather, is whether what is being reported in any given instance is generated by ET or ED.

Why does this matter? Well, sci fi has accustomed us to ET. Think Star Wars and Star Trek. The key is in the word ‘star’ – those things we can see in the night sky if we are far enough away from light pollution. 

Star Trek 2nd generation introduced us to ED in a gentle manner. Whitley Strieber’s Communion doesn’t tackle the theme of ED in a specific way – but the hint is there. Strieber’s story isn’t a gentle introduction to ED. But then engaging with ED has always been perilous – as the many stories over human generations affirm.

What is relatively novel is associating ED with the ET/UFO. Strassman’s report of his DMT subjects encountering ET-like entities triggered my present interest.

The disturbing implication from all the claims and reports may be that our governments aren’t just secretly dealing with ET, but maybe also ED. It is this 2nd option that would most alarm – as it violates our model of reality – not just a sense of probability we have company in our dimension. The naïve question as to whether we are alone in the material universe is still being uttered – and believed as sensible. 

Surveys suggest a lot of folks are cool with the idea that ET is real. There’s always a disparity between what we imagine and the reality. Saying that you believe UFOs are real isn’t the same as being cool with a face-to-face encounter. For the past 70+ years we have been culturally tuned to be okay with ET. But imagine there’s more.

Extra-dimensionality is a whole different ball game conceptually. ED intersects with religion in ways ET does not. On an existential level ED precipitates a trauma whose dimensions can’t be casually anticipated.

The roots of existential trauma

I have memories, as a child, of waking up with my pyjamas in disarray [inside out and wrongly buttoned] and being the wrong way round in bed – head in the bottom of a tightly made bed [my mother was a nursing aid for a time] and my feet on my pillow.

I have other memories of being terrified of going to sleep because I would find myself spiralling down a well. I would black out eventually, but that early stage filled me with dread because it was conscious and inexplicable. I tried telling my parents, but as 6yo I wasn’t believed. I imagined it all and when I persisted in this silliness, I was taken to see the doctor – who had no clue.

Many years later the bed mayhem was described in a magazine I was reading on ‘alien abductions’. It wasn’t a case of believing so much as discovering other people had the same experiences. What is involved in taking your pyjamas off, turning them inside out, putting them back on after unbuttoning them and rebuttoning them out of alignment? Add to that getting out of a bed made with hospital precision to do all this and then getting back into bed headfirst while being asleep/unconscious the whole time.

The idea that I did this from the age of 4-6 in some kind of stupor is beyond credibility. The idea that humans came into my bedroom, performed all this without waking me or my twin sister is equally so. My parents? Who else would engage in such an elaborate exercise?

My point is that the ET/ED explanation offers sense of sense – not that I buy it, yet.

Zoom forward to the early 1970s. I am in the Sydney suburb of Glebe and in a house known to us as Chez Ritz. It’s a squat. It is abandoned and the hippies have moved in. A fresh batch of very clean acid has just arrived from the UK. I have a very nice trip and toward the end, in the coming down phase, I find a bed and settle down. Initially I am touring a vast museum of utterly stunning craftwork from across the galaxy [or so it seemed], and then I am suddenly in what seems like an industrial clinical setting lying on a metal table and surrounded by entities now best known as ‘Greys’. I freak out, sit up and have a cigarette. Then I lie down again because I want to get back to the museum. But I am instantly back on the table. This time I decide to quit the exercise and go get a coffee.

At this time, I know nothing about UFOs or ET. I have been reading a lot of sci fi but haven’t the slightest clue beyond that. Because I have no context for doing otherwise this experience drops away from my awareness for over 20 years.

In Bathurst, NSW, in 1995 I am reading a magazine that features a woman’s account of what she describes as an alien abduction experience, and it exactly matches my acid experience. I am startled by article, and it triggers an intense flood of memories of the acid experience. Was it real? I had no idea, but I was intrigued.

Soon after there is an advert for a psychic fair on the grounds of a local motel. This wasn’t a thing I would be normally into, but I had a strong urge to go, so I did. There was a woman talking about Alien Abductions and I went to her presentation. I booked a hypnotic regression session with her in Sydney a few weeks ahead.

I was to drive to Sydney from Bathurst leaving around 05:00. But my car would not start. I had a Mazda 626 which had been utterly reliable for several years. Never a problem. But now it seemed like the battery was dead.

Around 09:00 I rang up to apologise and reschedule and got an alt time around 15:00. I made that call because my car started with ease once I had no chance of getting to the appointment. But then, when it was time to leave for the later appointment, I was invaded by a potent sense of threat. If I went ahead, I would be involved in an ‘accident’. It was evident that something was determined I should not get to the appointment. I rang and cancelled.

I wanted still to follow up with some connection with people who had experienced ‘abductions’ and was given a phone number of a guy who was active in setting up and running support groups. But my efforts to speak to him were confounded by a series of bizarre events, including the sound quality of a call going suddenly haywire. It became evident to me that there was an intentional effort to deflect me from that objective.

I decided it was smart to quit any notion of hypnotic regression. I had been warned off.

I don’t know for sure that my nocturnal childhood experiences were related to abduction experiences. But whatever it was it left me afraid of the dark and fearful of going to sleep. I was 8 or 9 before I got that under control.

The acid induced encounter with the classic abduction scene faded in my memory after the initial terror subsided. I had no context to make that experience anything more than a weird deeply scary acid thing.

Over 20 years later the reactivation of that memory triggered a series of events that culminated in the interferences and sense of threat that warned me off exploring hypnotic regression. It is interesting that shortly after encountering the magazine article on a Saturday morning in Bathurst I headed to my favourite café. I was walking past a bookshop that had just opened and suddenly found myself being steered into the shop. In a fog I picked up a book, paid for it and was in the café before I was aware of what I had bought. It was John Mack’s Abduction. I had finished it before lunchtime the next day.

At that stage I was still thinking in ET terms – because nothing else had come to me. however, I had been having ‘non-ordinary’ experiences all my life – but they were in a separate category – and equally incomprehensible.

Why I find the ED proposition more compelling

Sometime before the acid experience [circa 1970] I was in Melbourne where I fell in with a group led by a compelling woman. It believed it was being contacted by ETs and there were claimed sightings made by members, including an assertion that UFOs routinely hovered above the house in Sydney – to which the group had relocated.

There was, of course, no evidence of UFO activity beyond that claimed by members – or so I thought. I will briefly recount 3 events that fused the UFO theme with other paranormal elements. I have written at length on these elsewhere.

Around 02.00 I was walking back to the house after visiting friends and as I passed the Randwick Racecourse, I saw what appeared to be a UFO on the ground over a 100 metres away. There were ‘people’ walking around. They seemed neither short nor all. The UFO was between 2 buildings and there was a light source – about which I have no recall as to its nature – but that was what attracted my attention. I stopped and watched a few moments but then became aware that if I could see them, they could see me, so I moved on. I said nothing about this the next morning because I was aware that claiming to have such an experience would be impolitic. Though small, the group had an inner core who had the experiences and the outer group who believed. I wasn’t in the inner core, but neither did I believe.

Three of the core members departed north to Tamworth and Armidale where one had family. When they returned, they were furious at me for following them. They said they saw me in the street and when they approached me to admonish me, I walked into a newsagency and disappeared. That should have been a clue, but it wasn’t. I hadn’t left Sydney in the 3-4 days they were away.

One evening we were engaged in a group discussion. I was sitting at a small breakfast bar beside a woman. I remember the conversation being so interesting I ignored the promptings to go outside. These were becoming increasingly insistent, and I was being equally resistant. I wanted to stay. Suddenly I was hauled off my stool and frog marched down the back steps and deposited on the lawn. I sat there, bewildered, for a short time. There was no evident agency that so forcefully removed me. I went back to the conversation and returned to my stool.

The woman sitting beside me asked me what I was doing. I had no idea. My left hand had picked up a marker pen and was scrawling symbols over a newspaper. I was completely unaware. She called the group’s attention to my hand’s conduct and suddenly I was being handed page after page from notebooks as my hand covered each page in hieroglyphs at a furious pace. I was completely detached from what my left hand was doing. Eventually I think my hand just ran out of energy.  I was able to write in this ‘script’ for about 6 months after.

The point of these 3 events is that while the theme was UFO/ET the events, as a whole were not necessarily so. The racecourse UFO does fit the ET theme but not the other 2 events. They belong to a different theme of spirit or sorcery.

It is possible to imagine that ET in nuts and bolts ‘flying saucers’ from our time/space continuum also possesses psychic powers. I am not saying this isn’t the case in any instance, just that I don’t think this applies here.

At the time I didn’t have any alternative frame of reference, so I bought into the language. But it didn’t feel right. I was a sci fi and fantasy devotee. I hoovered books in both genres. At this stage I had done little reading in intellectual disciplines or the paranormal etc. But, to me, what the group was into was less sci fi and more spiritual/fantasy – though I could make no sense of what that implied at the time. It would be a long time before I could.

I wasn’t, and still am not, an easy believer. I grew up having non-ordinary experiences as well as a passion for science. As a child I saw how belief and dogma betrayed a claim to moral integrity. I was to later learn how belief and dogma betrayed a claim to intellectual integrity. 

Truth and reality seem always just out of our grasp. This is more evident in Eastern philosophy whereas our culture grasps for certainty of what is knowable.

I am on my 4rd Jacques Vallee book. He is the best overall advocate for the ED case – derived from a scientific perspective. At best he is a mere footnote in the wider ET/UFO discussion. I get that for most ET/UFO fans Vallee represents a position they know little about, distrust greatly, and find distracting/ irrelevant. 

To appreciate Vallee’s work sufficiently there’s a lot of work to be done. I am fortunate that I am well read in the necessary areas. It isn’t okay to be expected to take an author on trust. I respect Vallee’s work because I feel confident that I am able to evaluate it from a position of familiarity. Its not my position to encourage the reader to believe Vallee. That’s a personal choice. In expressing my opinion, I am conveying information about my choice and why I made it.

What interests me is that until a few months ago I had ignored his books though I had been aware of him for decades. It is time?

Contrast or Contest

There is no way I can dismiss the idea of ET/UFO/UAP in/from our time/space continuum as wrong or irrelevant. I am not disputing we may also be visited by ET from our dimension.

My earlier reading on the UFO/UAP theme made it evident that there are devoted advocates of the proposition that all is ET. Its not a debate I want to get into for the simple reason that there is no point in having an argument with anybody who does not understand your position.

The ED proposition has been largely ignored, although it’s been around since at least 1969 since Vallee published Passport to Magonia [a book I still haven’t read – just bought a kindle copy]. And there have been hints in John Mack’s and Whitley Streiber’s works. In Mack’s Abduction there is a remarkable, but unremarked, account by a woman who complained that she was ushered, during an abduction experience on a UFO, into a standard terrestrial conference room. Her ‘ET’ hosts seemed miffed. She had telepathically said she had wanted to “conference” with them, so they created what they thought was a fitting setting. That level of ability to rearrange settings in this manner is more consistent with accounts of ED than a material craft. This is more like a VR experience where the setting is created by AI.

David Chalmers’ Reality+ is an instructive read at this point. Chalmers is a philosopher who is seriously into the nature of reality – with a great exploration of the idea of VR and the concept of what we call reality is a simulation. But this must be explored in the context of Thomas Campbell’s My Big Toe. Campbell is an OOBE veteran and a physicist. There’s an intriguing connection between Campbell’s theory that immaterial reality may be likened to computer generated realms and Chalmer’s thoughts on simulation/VR.

There are extant theories that merge ET and ED perspectives in ways that hurt our brains. It looks like our time/space dimension isn’t discrete, but just a POV – as seem through the eyes of organic beings in the perspective on reality.

The idea of ET or ED may be no more than an artefact of our mindsets and have nothings to do with the intrinsic nature our being. Huxley observed that our brains are ‘reducing valves’. It is said that incarnating souls have memories of past experiences normally blocked. From my own direct experience, it does seem that our dreams are masks for lucid levels reality.

In short, we have no idea what is going on in the wider environment in which we exist. Our conscious awareness is essentially 2 dimensional in a 3 dimensional reality. There’s a gem of a book called Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott in 1884 which is the ideal model to understand the limitations of our ordinary awareness.

We cannot anticipate what our material science will be like in 1,000 years. Maybe we might become adept in quantum dimensions. Maybe our understanding of psi, magic, spirituality, OOBEs etc will have merged into a coherent understanding of consciousness, psychology, and philosophy utterly unlike anything we can currently imagine.

Maybe, also, we are interacting with agents who are already at that level of sophistication and the ET/ED distinction is more about purpose and method than source.


Ross Coulthart’s In Plain Sight [July 2021] is the best UFO/UAP book I have come across in ages. It’s a great survey of contemporary themes and developments. But Coulthart’s conclusion is that we don’t know who ET is or where the come from.

That match’s Vallee’s conclusion re ED, though he does insist whoever they are have been engaging with humans since as far back as we can discover. Graham Hancock’s Visionary [2022] is a useful perspective, as is Rick Strassman’s DMT: The Spirit Molecule and DMT and the Soul Prophecy. Strassman will discourage casual readers. His work is highly disciplined and can be a bit dry but is immensely rewarding.

Whether you are an ET or ED advocate/devotee there is no certainty beyond dogmatic bravado and fanciful over-confidence about which is actual or dominant. We really are clueless. Now that’s not to say there is nobody who knows, just nobody anywhere close to the public domain – for the moment [and how long that moment will be is anybody’s guess].

Knowing isn’t just about intellectual smarts. There’s a psycho-spiritual level of development that is also necessary. We over-estimate the importance of intellect as a primary means of knowing. It needs balance because the ability to interpret data is equally critical. Psychological maturity and health and self-awareness are equally critical – if not more so. They are not easily won. 

I have been motivated in my inquiry by 2 things. The first is an interest in the proposition that ET from elsewhere in our dimension is visiting us. I have been a huge sci fi fan since my late teens and this has always been a real prospect. The second is a need to make sense of my own direct experiences which have intersected with ET/UFO theme. For a time that was the only explanation available to me, so I went with it, albeit with reluctance. That reluctance was triggered by a gut feeling that it didn’t apply, at least to my experiences. 

I had been formulating personal position more aligned to the ED theory for the past 6 or 7 years. But it has really only been in the past 18 months that my reading and thinking have converged upon ED with strong confidence. But as I have noted, I am not ruling out visitations by ET, and maybe even an intersection between ET and ED.

It is easy to be corralled by what we know and believe. This has been very much my own experience. My ability to see possibilities has been shaped by what I have been exposed to. Coming to Vallee late has triggered a cascade of insights because I had been exploring the ED option in an inarticulate manner. Vallee’s argument created a rational structure that suddenly made lucid sense, and jumble of notions and sentiments were able to become coherent and organised.

I am not ruling out that I could be way off beam, but this is where I am at the moment – still a million miles from certainty.

All this matters in the context of this blog because the ED explanation opens up extraordinary reflection on our ideas of gods and spirits. The presence of the ETs we call ‘Greys’ in DMT experiences [and my acid experience] can be taken to be one of 3 options:

  • An intersection between ET and ED with massive implications for how we understand our history and the evolution of our consciousness.
  • An intrusion of ET into ED with equally huge implications.
  • ED masquerading as ET with ditto implications.

Whatever way we look at it, whoever is intruding into our ‘normal reality’ seems to have been doing so for many thousands of years, isn’t about to stop doing so, and most probably exerts a profound influence upon the evolution of our consciousness.

Denial of this actuality on religious, intellectual, or political grounds serves no good. To say or think otherwise suggests we cannot, and should not, live with what its true. This is a strange and very modern phenomenon that has been generated by Christian and materialistic dogma. The Christians deny what is rejected by their dogma, as do materialists. 

This straitjacket of dogma seems to be what the tic-tacs in the US Navy are alerting us to. The mismatch in technological capacity is just ridiculous. They could take us out with embarrassing ease. But craft also seem to crash. Vallee reports terrifying interactions with ‘aliens’ that result in injury, sickness, and death, but they aren’t reported because….

The problem with being realistic about reality is that it disrupts the many folks who profit from delusions and illusions. On the one hand I think we are so far down the illusion/delusion rabbit hole that a harsh dose of reality would be so catastrophic to our ‘normal’ it would be better if that reality is leaked out [evolution by osmosis]. On the other I wonder if what is happening now is a determined leak against the death grip of dogmatists struggling to find a way of continuing their exploitation. 

I have not been a fan of ‘disclosure’, not because I oppose it as an idea, but because I think the demands lack the needed subtlety of insight. Such ‘disclosure’ will not be pain free on any level – existential, political, or economic. But there’s a difference between a painful initiation and a catastrophic and traumatising revelation. 

We are not evenly disposed or capable, so the one-size-fits-all scenario strikes me as reckless and immature bravado.

We could be at a watershed moment for some and a breaking point for others – and how that goes is down to all of us.

Reflections on UAPs and what they mean for us


I have been following the recent upsurge in popular media engaging with the UFO/UAP theme with great interest because it is part of an increasingly public discussion on a topic long considered taboo. Are we heading toward a watershed moment? 

That’s an important question because we have collectively been under mounting psychic pressure for the past 50 years or so. That’s always a risky thing to say because it’s a kind of arbitrary statement, given human history since the year dot. My personal favourite cut off point is around the middle of the 19th century. But history buffs will disagree and have their own. 

UFOs have been in popular imagination since the 1950s – actually pretty much since the advent of the A bomb. If you haven’t seen the 1951 movie The Day the Earth Stood Still, check it out on Youtube.

My sense of ‘psychic pressure’ is idiosyncratic. It may be just age/experience related, but it has a validity. The pace of technological and social change has been accelerating. Sometimes one triggers the other. We have the impact of social media, AI, and personal tech ramping up psychological pressure. And now UAPs are triggering existential dramas – What are they? Who are they? What do they want?

The firewall of denial and ridicule is being eroded. There is a determination to force a public confrontation with truth via a US government public hearing. Formal ‘disclosure’ has been ardently advocated for ages. I am not a fan. Be careful of what you wish for.

But it is clear there is a growing demand for a pressure release. UAPs may be symbolic of the wider existential crisis because so many critical issues seem to be converging and this one theme has the potential to be the cathartic trigger that opens the floodgates.

Is this a good thing? Of course, it is, so long as we understand that what we are asking for is an undermining of our sense of reality, which has become excessively self-referential. The west is tainted by the weird Christian fantasy of the ‘chosen people’ – a delusion that even atheists and materialists have unable to escape from. We aren’t alone and nobody is chosen by God. There is no one way to spiritual grace – the lazy path of belief and faith. But this infection infests our culture. It is profoundly attractive because it promises high payouts for minimal effort. It is profoundly profitable too.

The result is a toxic bubble of conceit and delusion we are obliged to live, whether we conform or rebel.

I have just finished Ross Coulthart’s In Plain Sight [2021]. It’s a bonkers [in the nicest way] survey of the contemporary scene. It’s a must read. If you are not familiar with Coulthart he was a journalist with 60 Minutes Australia before it lost its soul and went freelance. The UFO/UAP theme has become a passion for him. He does very good work.


I have just finished 2 Jacques Vallee audiobooks . I have been aware of Vallee for decades but have never been moved to read any of his books until last week.  I was motivated to do so after listening to Graham Hancock’s Visionary (an update of his earlier Supernatural). I got into that book after listening to Rick Strassman’s The Spirit Molecule – another book I had been aware of for ages and finally got around to. Why Strassman now? Just a sense it was time. 

Hancock and Vallee pushed a powerful message – a lot of the UFO/UAP material conforms to psychedelic and folklore reports. Vallee asserts that UFO/UAP reports are not extra-terrestrial [ET], but extra-dimensional. That is to say that they do not originate in our space time material dimension but elsewhere, and still Earth connected. 

Both authors have forced me to go back through my many non-ordinary experiences. I agree with their argument. That makes the current UFO/UAP discussion very interesting because the public discourse is only about ET. Fair enough. Talking about extra dimensionality in public is going to hurt a lot of brains and make a lot of folks seriously unhappy. The UFO community also has it culty devotees to a singular POV.

So, I have been working through UFO/UAP videos on YouTube, trying to gauge the current collective mood. I have a sense of a watershed moment impending. By that I mean a public discussion that is irredeemable- denial is now futile. But I have thought that before – wrong or impatient?

But denial of what? It’s no longer just about denial about the reality of UFO/UAPs. I think that’s pretty much water under the bridge to all but the stalwart denialists who seem to be a steadily diminishing portion. We must move on to the who and what and why. 

This is disputed territory. There are claims which can’t be verified. They are asserted to be rationally and empirically based. But we are back the old familiar problem of trust and faith. We are talking about a field already sown with endless lies.

And then there’s speculation and guesswork. Both are necessary, given the paucity of evidence. It’s a case of liking an assertion/argument at your peril.

Nuts and bolts or inter dimensional craft?

This is a great topic that really gets advocates of either camp seriously steamed up. I mean this can get bitter and cruel.

Vallee favours the argument that UFOs are not extraterrestrial and are home grown inter dimensional phenomena. It’s a compelling argument that accords with my own experiences. 

However, there is no reason why both may be true. Neither prospect excludes the other. Both may be happening at the same time. No reason why not. It’s worth exploring this idea.  To do so I want to add a term – Extra Dimensional [entity] – ED. So we have ET and ED. 

Some assumptions – 

ET is not ED but ET may be fully aware of ED and even have a relationship with ED. 

We must assume that ET and ED exist on a spectrum of potentialities – from benign and helpful to malign and predatory. There is no reason to assume we are immune from the spectrum of motives and intents we are aware of in the expression of nature on our planet. 

The great difficulty here is that we have limited awareness of extra dimensional realities. We are primarily aware of our dimension, which we experience as space and time. Both we take to be infinite, so we really have little awareness of the spectrum of potential and its scale in our own local ‘reality’. My personal sense of space and time is limited to an array of empirical and psychological scales that start from very immediate and instant to vaguely large and long. That is to say – anywhere from what is immediate and knowable to what utterly boggles our minds and ruins our ability to imagine at such a scale.

The easy way to think of how these vital dimensions go together is to imagine a cross. The horizontal represents our space time dimension. The perpendicular represents what I am calling here inter dimensional. This includes what is encountered in OOBEs, the spirit world and VR. With the exception of rare individuals, most of us have limited conscious awareness beyond our immediate environment in the perpendicular. If you imagine standing by the ocean, most of us barely get our ankles wet while others [a very few] are swimming surfing or sailing. 

There’s good reason for this. We are here to have a physical experience, so our awareness of what is beyond is naturally limited. Some of us are here to integrate the physical and the metaphysical. Some of us are just about physical experience.

However, there is a vast difference between being highly aware of inter dimensional realities and being aware that such exist. One is experiential and the other speculative. There is, for instance, a huge difference between experiencing an OOBE and accepting the evidence that such are real. obviously, if you are reading this your life experience is likely to be about integrating the physical and the metaphysical.

Our theory of reality isn’t effective if it excludes inter dimensional levels – because they are part of a continuum of our reality the same way space time is. We must remember the image of the cross as something that ‘fleshes out’ our reality. Despite what we claim of our 3D reality it is only 1D in another context.

For my own purposes I describe the axes of the cross as physical on the horizontal and metaphysical on the perpendicular. That’s a personal application that may not suit others.

Both axes of the cross constitute our environment. We function in both and are influenced by both. That’s been how our ancestors have understood things since as far back as we can have any informed idea.  In fact, Hancock’s Visionary is an attempt to interpret the awakening of that extra dimensional sense. 

These days the impact of materialism is a bit like intellectual napalm – depopulating our near inter dimensional environment and rendering ED as fictions or delusions. But, even worse, our ability to think holistically is impaired. Rather than having a 360-degree awareness we have a chaos of narrow beams – and this is what is carrying us into the future in a lurching and fumbling fashion.

What is reality?

In the past few months, I have encountered David Chambers’ Reality+ and Carlo Rovelli’s Reality is Not What It Seems. These are philosophical and scientific treatments of a theme that Thomas Campbell explored in his My Big Toe books. Inter dimensionality fits with experience, philosophy, and science as well as myth and folklore.

ET, by contrast, is mostly sci fi. Might be true and real, but there is way more evidence for ED. I am not ill-disposed toward ET. I just don’t presently have evidence that persuades me it is the dominant source of the phenomena that is being reported and is the focus of attention.

There is an abundance of material that supports an argument that our sense of reality is limited and particular. If we think what we think it is is all there is, we are wildly off the mark. This is ignored in an environment dominated by materialists and, oddly, Christians. Christianity has long dominated western culture and there has been no more determined agency to depopulate the normal and natural spirit community than a faith determined to invalidate all but what it asserts as valid. No wonder materialism found an easy purchase.

This strikes me as important because our culture is dominated by a mentality that is doggedly materialistic and excessively self-referential. Its not just intellectually immature, it is psychologically immature a well. The essential metaphysical gaffe of materialism is that we are primates with a brain-based consciousness – and this is the foundation of our reality. That assertion flies in the face of a long parade of evidence. The same applies to religious dogmas which assert their truths are definitive and exclude alternate ideas.

Its not that we are necessarily wrong in asserting this or that is real. But we are wrong when we assert that only this or that is real. Reality extends beyond our senses and our comprehension – and this is where ET and ED come from.

Where to from now?

I have been surveying current thinking on the UFO/UAP theme. I am keen to see where things progress. I don’t believe we are going to a general ‘disclosure’. If ET and ED are both active that’s going to be a huge problem of complexity to overcome at the level of public discourse – how to explain both, let alone either. At present I am not convinced its only ET or only ED. If it’s only one, I think the evidence points more to ED.

For the moment I am going with the notion of both. ED has been around a long time. Its part of the local environment in the sense that the extra dimensional is always part of our reality. Its close, where as ET come from a long way off.

Let me put it this way. The extra dimensional was an integral part of indigenous Australian culture long before white people turned up in their sailing ships. Suddenly the indigenous Australians had to deal with both. One they were used to dealing with, the other was profoundly disruptive and damaging.

ED has a spiritual and moral dimension to its nature, whereas ET has spiritual and moral ramifications that hit long before the question of nature can be asked. After 200 years the moral implications of the invasion/settlement of Australia aren’t resolved. Even so this isn’t exactly accurate because ET is often mistaken to be ED. The Spaniards who invaded South America were mistaken for divine beings. In fact, this was common – divine beings or ghosts. Yes, ghosts, spirits of the dead. White people to black people looked like the dead.

It is possible, too, that ET and ED might work together – for good or ill.


Some folk claim they know what’s going on. But how would you know? What is certain, to me, is that this is all maddeningly complex. However, some things do seem to me be more or less true – or I assume it is wise to assume they are. These are:

  1. ET and ED may be distinct classes of entity we should not confuse.
  2. ED has been with us since our beginnings. Their presence and nature have been distorted and concealed by religious and materialistic thought.
  3. ED isn’t inherently malevolent – but some may be. It is probably wise not to assume all who claim to be good are. And it may be equally wise to assume ED is dangerous until proven otherwise. Here I don’t mean there is an intent to cause harm – it could just be a consequence of interaction.
  4. ET, if present, could also be dangerous. The impact of Europeans upon indigenous peoples around the globe may not have been intentionally malign, but the consequences have been catastrophic.
  5. In terms of ED maybe we are getting back to business as usual as the power of religious dogma and materialistic thinking wears thin. There does also appear to be a significant beneficent element that’s more tough love than any fantasy of gentle niceness. In fact, ED seems to have been the engine driving the evolution of human consciousness. We need to remember that potentiality. It’s disputed as a theory, but I like it.
  6. ET is a different matter – if present. Maybe humans have set up trade deals. Maybe its all okay. Who can say?

Whatever the reality is, I think we can kiss goodbye our happy delusion that we live in a bubble crafted by religious fantasy and silly materialistic thinking. Reality is multi-dimensional and is well populated.

I think we are getting poked and prodded because its time to wake up from that delusion – which has put us in a perilous situation. 

This is my opinion only. I don’t have secret sources. What I do have is a lifetime of non-ordinary experiences, including ‘abduction’ experiences. I have had experiences that would fit the usual UFO story, but I have never felt comfortable with that explanation. Everything I have experienced fits well inside the ED explanation. But I quizzed an ED source about ET and the message was plain. They are around but avoid them. In fact, it was “Leave them alone and they will leave you alone.” 

I am not claiming I am right here. I have the filters of my own experience which distort the truth and activate biases. What I can do is reflect as honestly as I can on what I have experienced and what I have learned in an effort to make sense of it all. I am confident that it is wickedly complex, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it is far more remarkable than I dare imagine.

I do think that we, as a culture, are heading toward a critical development in our shared sense of reality – which is being severely taxed these days – but ‘we ain’t seen nothing yet.’ If you think QAnon and the Christian right in the US has gone nuts, please do remember that this is over entirely terrestrial sociological concerns. I shudder to think what they’d do with a general ‘disclosure’ of ED/ET.

This is why I am no fan of ‘disclosure’. I entirely get that fans of disclosure feel they are ready. Maybe they are. But their assessment of the rest of the population is, I think, worryingly naïve.

This is a complex business. It is necessary and inevitable, but we do nobody any service if we misunderstand what is happening. My guess is that if, and when, ET shows up in plain indisputable sight, there is going to be a collective, visceral, and instinctual freak out. This is because despite our intellectual bravado we are still inhabitants of organic bodies which will instinctively react to the appearance of a potential threat. Whether we like it or not, our biology may react in ways we can’t control or are not conscious of – and may mistake is arising from the whole of who we are. This already warps and distorts religion.

Some will convert that instinct into a fight or flight response and express that as a social movement or a religion. We are already seeing unconscious identity-based fears creating deep distrust, loathing, and fear in the conservative Christian movement in the US. That’s how they handle fellow humans.

We have a sad history globally. Indigenous populations have suffered profound psychic stress under the influence of invaders/settlers. It has been catastrophic for many. Can we be sure that this will not happen if ET turns up?

I want to suggest that we consider that it has taken us 70 years or so to get to our present state of awareness/response – and still we are flipping out over the existential threat of being outnumbered by non-anglos, finding non-conforming sexual identities threatening – and so the list goes on.

If we can’t handle human diversity what hope do we have adjusting to the reality and presence ET or ED? 

It’s a well-attested truism that we over-estimate our abilities. I have just completed over 20 months research into why Diversity, Inclusion & Equity campaigns and strategies don’t work. Disability Inclusion is a passion for me. Our best efforts thus far are not impressive. Unconscious reflexes and conditioning dominate our responses. The protective exclusion reflex is more potent than a desire to include.

To be blunt. We can’t handle ourselves. What in hell makes us think we can handle ET or ED? 

A Reflection on Non-Ordinary Experiences

New Introduction

I started writing this document on 23.6.2011. I have fiddled with it over the years, but always struggled to get it to a point where I was happy with it. Often, just revisiting the experiences spun me into a distracting reverie – including doubt whether my recollection is real.

Original Introduction

Here I give an account of the many non-ordinary experiences I have had. They are not recounted in order to impress the reader. Indeed, many are not exactly remarkable relative to the many accounts to be found. Individually or cumulatively these experiences have spurred my desire to understand what was happening to me. They have variously inspired, delighted, bewildered, disturbed, and scared me.

My childhood was filled with what now seem to be strange experiences, but I will recount only those that I encountered after my 14th birthday in any detail. I’ll describe four phases. The first went up to age 18 and the second covered an intense and disturbing period from age 18 to 25. The third phase went through to the late 1980s into the early 1990s, to about age 39. The fourth phase lasted from 1991 to around 2008 when I contracted GBS. I suppose I could say I am in a fifth phase now, but nothing particularly remarkable has happened, just lots of small things that are now pretty usual.

The first phase concerns experiences that were almost exclusively associated with the natural world. With two friends I was in the bush looking for rocks or off trying to poach trout from local water reservoirs. I had taken up rock collecting with a passion when I was 11 or 12. Later I went bushwalking whenever I could, which was most weekends. 

The second phase experiences were confined almost exclusively to urban living experiences, with one notable exception. I had relocated from Hobart to Melbourne, then on to Sydney, back to Melbourne, to Adelaide and then back to Tasmania before going back to Melbourne. I was young and footloose and had embraced the Hippy path. This was for me the most intense and dangerous phase. I came close to losing the plot several times. What I was experiencing was so intense I sought admission to a psychiatric facility in Melbourne. I was deeply afraid I was going mad. I wanted help to figure out what the hell was happening to me. Psychiatrists are not very useful for this purpose.

The third phase experiences were directly linked to training in and practice of ritual magic. I had become increasingly involved in the study of ceremonial magic from 1978, and for the next few years I lived and breathed the craft. I was expelled from two groups, formal magical orders, along with my partner. These[LS1]  were heady days, and we were demanding and impatient. We read voraciously and talked endlessly. Strange things started to happen and these[LS2]  were not part of other people’s rules or game plans. Magic is a passionately political business at times. We moved from Sydney to the Far North Coast of New South Wales and set up our own group. After that ceased to operate, we became accidentally involved in Wicca and equally accidentally ended up running a coven for a time.

The fourth phase concerned what was really a transitional phase in my life. My marriage had fallen apart. I quit all association with magic or Wicca. I relocated to western New South Wales, then to Sydney, back out west, back to Sydney and then to England. One thing simply led to another, and I was going along with the flow. Things settled down in 1998 when I found myself drawn back to the Far North Coast of New South Wales and back in contact with my ex-wife. It was a cycle that had taken five years.

I have taken great care over the years to reject popular labels. I will say that my experiences are ‘psychic’ simply in order to briefly characterise them, but it’s not a term I ever use if I have the opportunity to talk at length about them. I simply refer to them as ‘non ordinary[LS3] ’ experiences. Sometimes they are very strange, but not always. The danger of labels that are not as innocuous as ‘non ordinary[LS4] ’ is that they lead to language that is meaningless or incomprehensible by way of explanation. We name things we don’t understand and after a time we have a whole discourse of the named but not understood. Then ‘experts’ arise. They can talk endlessly and learnedly about the named but incomprehensible. For example, naming an experience as ‘psychic’ really says nothing other than denoting its non-ordinariness, but it implies nature and possibly cause.

I had this lesson forcefully delivered to me by a friend. She knew of my interests and one day said she wanted to have some kind of spiritual practice and thought in her life. After I had talked with her for some time, she confessed that she really hadn’t understood anything I had said and this disturbed her deeply because she knew that she should have understood, because it all sounded so sensible and rational. She expressed the fear that I might think her stupid. We talked more and I endeavoured to explain to her what I meant. After a time, I realised that the problem lay not with her but with me. Beneath the layer of language, of jargon, I didn’t actually know what I was talking about. My learning had been lateral, not perpendicular. I had impressive breadth but no depth.

Hitherto I had explanations for my many experiences, but I found they were really just words, just comforting stories that I told myself and others. Within the comfortable and familiar embrace of like-minded souls all was well and good. We had a narrative that served our needs, and that was good. But it was a club, a clique of jargon users. What we knew was internally coherent but blather beyond.

The idea of non-ordinariness is important because it suggests no ideology. Something happens and we can say it is not an ordinary experience. It is extra-ordinary in effect. Sometimes the utility is clear. Other times it is not. Sometimes meaningfulness is apparent. Other times I would shake my head and wonder what the blazes that was supposed to mean. The presumption that something “can be explained” and hence meaning is affixed or fixed betrays something important about us as humans. We think we can control reality by labelling it and assigning it places in our model of thought. So long as we inhabit that thought model and reality obliges by not trampling all over it, we can be comfortable in our happy delusion.

My former partner writes powerfully of what she calls ontological shock. She wrestled with her own radical non-ordinary experiences; way more radical than mine. The mind accustomed to the normal and orthodox story about what is real becomes distressed when events disrupt the habituated zone of experience. As a therapist she has used magical techniques to precipitate cures for intractable conditions, physical and psychical. Some of her clients ‘get’ the non-ordinariness of their recovery and things make sense, as never before. Others comprehend they have recovered but deny any non-ordinary element has happened. Being better fits their worldview, but how they got there does not.

We have had shared experiences. Sometimes we have agreed on what has happened. Other times we did not. We have experienced the same event from differing positions. Mostly non-ordinary experiences are solitary businesses. Nobody else is there, or if they are they are not part of what is going on. I have been fortunate in having a number of experiences involving others, as unwitting and unwilling co-participants. They are long gone as individuals in my life. Sometimes they’ve wanted nothing more to do with me. So, I can’t call them as witnesses. But I know we shared the experience and the aftermath, and that has had a profound impact on me. Just knowing that somebody else was there and was part of what happened is important. It grounds the experience. In two cases I recount this was even stranger, in that my companions had experiences I did not, and they knew what they had experienced concerned me. In both cases they were distressed, felt intruded upon. 

By comparison my former partner and I often have experiences about the other person. We have had powerful shared, and deeply, non-ordinary experiences. Because we both have a natural rational sceptical bent, we interrogated those experiences ruthlessly. We both[LS5]  care critically whether we are deluded or wrong. There are times when we could not determine whether what happened was nonsense or real. Sometimes one of us would be filled with doubt and the other adamant. The dynamic is useful and instructive. 

Scepticism is vital. But it must be matched with an intelligent and informed critique. The issue is not a reluctance to believe, but an understanding that if the experience is to impart and convey anything useful it must be encountered with the best integrity of moral and intellectual endeavour that can be summoned. Cheating and deception are pointless. The gift of powerful non-ordinary experience must not be squandered upon careless, self-serving, or deceptive interpretation. Fear and hubris can entice us into delusion. People will lie to deny or exaggerate a non-ordinary experience, and so waste it, debase it. They’ll do that to protect their interests or further them.

Non-ordinary experiences sometimes seem to happen in a purposive manner. But unless there is an intelligent agency making these things happen that cannot be. The proposition that there can be a correlation between one random event and another without an organising principle takes some pushing. This has been the driving challenge for me – the nature of that apparent intelligent agency.

Childhood Experiences

My mother prompted my memory by talking about often finding me in the morning with my pyjamas on inside out and back to front. She was puzzled how and why I managed to do that. What I didn’t tell her was that I also frequently found myself the wrong way round in bed – feet on my pillow and head at the foot of my bed. I would wake in a panic, gasping for air and struggling to get out. My mother had some nursing training in her youth, and she made beds that were ferociously tight. Getting into them didn’t quite require being oiled, but it may have helped. My bed was still tightly made in the morning, so getting out when I was inverted wasn’t easy. Hence how I came to be inserted head first was a complete mystery that I kept to myself.

Similar experiences have been described by people who claim they were abducted by ET. I have no memories of night-time adventures, just waking up under improbable circumstances.

When I was around 5-6 going to sleep was hellish. I had sensations of falling down a well, which triggered a panic reaction. I became afraid of being sent to bed. I stole a box of matches and a candle stub and was sprung with a light in my bed. My effort at staying awake and safe got me a hiding for nearly burning the house down.

I grew up afraid of the dark. It was intensely populated to me. There were always presences. One turned out to be a possum’s tail poking out of a hole in the wall [[LS6] We weren’t well-off and couldn’t afford houses without flaws]. That incident ruined my credibility – not that I was believed when I attempted to tell anyone about what I saw. My parents came running when I screamed and this time the possum hadn’t moved.

I have a cluster of fragmented memories of being a bit weird. My mother hauled me off the local GP to express her concern about my behaviour. We were living in a small town [Casterton] in western Victoria. There was only one doctor and I used to visit his home because his son was a school friend. Those visits stopped. I ceased to be welcome.

Phase One Experiences

The Big Cigar

This experience marks the beginning of my post age-14 experiences. It was a good hour or so before sun-up on a Saturday morning. I was waiting on the top of the hill behind my home for two friends with whom I was going fishing for trout in local reservoirs. This was not an activity approved or tolerated by authorities. Secrecy and stealth were important, at least we thought so at that tender age when such ideas gave us a thrill. To the west stood the great bulk of Mount Wellington. As I waited, I suddenly became aware of a massive, glowing, cigar-shaped object in the sky between me and the mountain. I watched for a few moments, filled with awe and fascination. Then I made a mad dash down the hill, scrambled over the back fence, and rushed inside to find the family telescope. I ran back up the hill with now-breathless urgency. But the cigar–shaped thing had gone.

When my friend arrived I quizzed them. They had seen nothng.

In those days I knew nothing of UFOs. I had simply seen something astonishing, something singular.

Look Beneath Your Feet O Man.

Sometime after the big cigar I was with the same two friends on a regular excursion to a quarry where we searched among the recently blasted rock for prized specimens of calcite and pyrite crystals and less spectacular fossil shells. Two of us were becoming more and more serious students of geology. The other just enjoyed the thrill of rock hunting.

As usual we walked toward the mouth of the quarry from which we usually broke into a happy run, hoping to be first to find a prize.  But on this day, I was drawn aside from the run by a powerful compulsion to head toward the left-hand side of the quarry mouth. This was old stuff we’d never really looked at. The fresh exposures during the week always offered something we craved more.  

As I stood gazing at the old, dull rock, somewhat confused by the impulse that had held me back and drawn me off to this boring place, I heard a distinct and powerful male voice saying, “Look beneath your feet O Man!”. I was startled but complied and beneath my right foot I found a strange stone. It was partly covered with clay, but I knew enough to know that the close parallel lines I saw were nothing I knew. I washed the stone in a nearby puddle and revealed the parallel lines on four sides of the squarish cross section, each side a little over an inch long. 

I certainly had something novel in my hand. I showed the rock to my friends who acknowledged the uniqueness. No one had seen anything like it. I took it to the museum in Hobart, to the geologist, who did not know what it was. He asked if he might borrow it and take it to the university. After waiting a month, I was told I’d found a very rare Permian fossil of shell that was an elongated pyramid. The university had specimens, but nothing like mine, which had all 4 sides. I was asked to surrender the specimen to the university but declined.

I never had another experience of a voice like this. I had experiences of being drawn to a place, to a spot where I found an entirely worthy specimen. Other times I had a powerful sense that there was something to find before I might leave.

I had always been good at finding things, often getting a ‘flash’ image or impression of the location of a lost thing.

A Vision of Water

I was on my first overnight walk with a walking club, aged 16. It was Easter. We had spent a day near the western coast of Tasmania trekking through scrub and forest in the pouring rain. We were not on any track and were making our own way up a ridge. As daylight started to fade, we decided to set up camp in the forest. 

There was no immediate water source and after getting tents up some of us set out to find water. Not far away from the campsite I paused and rested against a tree. I had a sudden image of a fallen tree with a pool of water where the roots had come out of the ground.  Without a second’s thought I called out that I had found water and headed off in the direction I thought I’d find the water. 

Maybe thirty meters away, through the forest and beyond my immediate vision, there was indeed a tree that had fallen over and with a pool of water, exactly as visioned.

Sitting Apart

On subsequent walks with the club, I often found myself unable to sit where others rested for a break or for lunch. I often could not sit still and if I tried, I simply had to get up and walked around, restless. 

On a return walk from Mount Anne, we had stopped for lunch by a creek that ran through a tree-filled gully on a button grass plain.  The group settled down to make a fire and boil a billy by the creek, but I was utterly unable to stay with them and had to leave the creek and find a spot up on the button grass plain.

This caused me problems because I could not explain to anybody why I did not want to share a break with them. This was long before I had read on spirit presences in wilderness.

Sleeping Apart

During the same period with the club, I was on a walk to the Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s east coast. It was a region of red granite. We were on a weekend walk and that evening we camped near a cluster of very substantial boulders. The group pitched tents close to the boulders, seeking shelter from westerly winds. I wasn’t able to do that. I moved away maybe 40 meters and set up my tent in a dried-up water pool. There were firm words of condemnation for my antisocial conduct and my stupidity in pitching tent in a place that would get very wet if it rained. It didn’t rain and I slept soundly and comfortably. 

In the morning the rest of the group reported sleeplessness and nightmares. None had slept well, some not at all. 


I went with friends to a party at an isolated house just to the south-west of Hobart. There was a decision to use a Ouija board. I didn’t want to participate and so sat back to watch. Almost immediately the ‘spirits’ demanded I quit the room before they would cooperate, and I was obliged to leave the room, despite my protests. I had heard of Ouija boards before, but this was my first encounter with one.

Sometime after the session had ended, one of the participants started to behave strangely – as if she was entering a trance. Everyone became concerned about her and started to freak out. 

For reasons I still cannot explain, I took over and did something to bring her back to normal. I had absolutely no conscious knowledge of what I did, but it worked, and she was fine, if somewhat shaken by her experience.

Wrapping up Phase One

I selected the most memorable experiences for me. Apart from the last experience, they represented only the highlights of what was a steady flow of mild ‘sensitivity’ experiences. I also developed a reputation for being a bit of an instinctive direction finder. I am reluctant to assert any ‘strange’ direction [LS7] finding powers because my early interest in geology gave me unusual benefits. I had grown up with a passion for atlases and, like a lot of kids, I spent hours poring over maps of strange countries. So, when I took to geology, and I had no access to geological maps other than in the library, I developed an ability to memorise maps and visual contours and geological formations. With this skill I could go into the bush and pretty well know where I was on a map.

This ability was assisted by the development of a habit of stopping and looking round regularly. I often went off rock [LS8] hunting in the bush solo, so this is self-protective. I always picked out some feature I could refer to, so as to maintain my sense of orientation. Oddly, this wasn’t what a lot of my fellow walkers did.

The genuine ‘strange’ things were handy, and I mostly benefited from them, but when I came to powerful compulsions to not comply with group choices that caused me a lot of grief. People I liked thought I was strange, and I had no ability to explain why I did what I did. In fact, all I understood was that I had a compelling motivation to act as I did, and I could not ignore it.

Phase Two 

My phase two experiences began after a rather radical choice to leave Tasmania. I had been working in the Australian Tax Office, earning enough money to satisfy my two passions – bushwalking and photography. One very pleasant Monday morning in summer I was walking to work, perfectly happy, when I was struck by a sudden thought. I’d quit my job and go to Melbourne. I did that.

So, I arrived in Melbourne without a clue about the place or what I would do. I did not know that I was about to enter the most frightening and bewildering stage of my life, and that I’d come out the other end very damaged.

Healing Hands

After a short time, I fell in with a group of people who were a kind of informal mystical group with a strong interests in UFOs. On a trip to a friend of the group member’s property in rural Victoria one member of the group fell ill with strong abdominal pains. We drove back to Melbourne with me in the back seat holding her to give comfort. I placed a hand on her abdomen, and she told, after some time, that she felt the pain leaving her through my hand.  By the time we got to Melbourne she was feeling much better. She was taken to visit a man who had a reputation as a ‘psychic healer’.

He told me that I did apparently possess the same power and that he would help me develop my ability. That didn’t happen. After later experimenting with others, I satisfied myself that it was something I could do. I did use that ability from time to time, but had no strong motivation to develop it.

Burning a Name

We were hanging around a cafe in North Melbourne, with many people coming and going. Two young women were distressed because a male was sexually harassing them and making where they lived dangerous and unpleasant. On an impulse I asked them to write his name on a piece of paper, which I then burned after some focused visualisation. The male came down with a fever that day and remained quite ill for some days. The young women came to me and pleaded with me to undo what I had done. They had told the male why he was ill, and he had become alarmed and remorseful.

I had no idea what to do and did some hocus pocus nonsense and said he would now get better. He did, apparently. This experience shocked me for several reasons. First, I had no experience in doing things like this, so when I did what I did I surmised that I was merely responding to the distress expressed by the young women. Secondly, I was astonished that what I did appeared to work. I’ve only twice since done such things.   

Body Heat 

On a cold winter’s day in Melbourne, a young woman and I were on our way to a party, but she wanted to go by her place to change clothes and get something to eat. Her flat was bitterly cold [Melbourne winters can be cruel] and she had no heating save an ineffectual single bar radiator. On impulse I took my coat off, sat in the middle of her lounge room and ‘radiated’ heat. After about 5 minutes she felt warm enough to leave her jacket off. 

I am notoriously hot. I suffer in summer and love winter. I’ve had difficulty sharing beds with another person because I overheat or overheat them. But I’d never done anything like this before that particular evening, and  have only done it a few times afterwards. 

Automatic Writing

The group I became involved with relocated to Sydney, and I went along, for the lack of any alternative plan. I wasn’t convinced by their mysticism, but I was intrigued enough to want to learn more. In Sydney I started having very bizarre experiences.  One late afternoon we were all sitting in the kitchen in the house of one of the group members, talking. I do not recall the conversation, but it was fascinating. I was sitting on a stool at a breakfast bar beside a woman.  For some minutes I had been fiercely resisting an almost overpowering urge to go outside. I wanted to stay and remain part of the conversation. Quite suddenly I was hoisted off the stool and frogmarched through the back door and down the steps and deposited on the back lawn – all done by a completely invisible agency. I stayed there awhile. Nothing happened. Finally, I gave up and went back inside. I had no idea how long I’d been away, but the conversation was still going on and I resumed my stool. After some time, the woman beside me asked me what I was doing. I was surprised and said I was doing nothing, just sitting there. She then drew my attention to my left hand. It had picked up a pen and was making strange marks over a newspaper. I was completely unaware and totally perplexed.

The group was excited by what was happening now the woman had drawn their attention to my hand. I was made to sit down on a lounge and given sheets of paper, all of which I filled with the marks at a frantic pace. Finally, I was exhausted and let the pen fall. What I had scrawled did appear to be some kind of script, but it was incomprehensible to me. A few in the group claimed to be able to clairvoyantly interpret what I had written but they offered ideas I thought completely ludicrous.

The ability to write in this script remained with me for some time. I would feel a daily urge to write and bought myself a robust notebook to keep the writing together in the hope one day I could make sense of it. I also used the notebook as a kind of journal. As it happened the writing was to cause me some grief.

I left Sydney after deciding that the group was not for me and headed back to Melbourne. From Melbourne I travelled to Adelaide where I made contact with a local chapter of the Theosophical Society. Among other things I wanted to get some informed understanding of the writing. In a conversation with a person who represented himself as an authority within the society I agreed to hand over my notebook for detailed examination by experts in Melbourne. There was speculation that the script might be ancient Korean. I had also written some speculative ideas out, in an effort to make some sense of it all. A year later (I had left Adelaide and was back in Melbourne) I was still waiting for the notebook’s return and demanded it be given back.  Only after becoming convincingly irate, I was informed that the book had been destroyed because it contained “dangerous information”. 

What a load of rubbish! I do not know what the script was. It did appear to have a coherence such that I did think I was actually writing in a genuine script. But I did not then and do not now accept that anybody ‘translated’ it. 

The UFO Incident

Back in Sydney – very late one night, actually closer to 2.00 am I was walking back from visiting friends, and my route took me past Randwick Racecourse. Back then I walked everywhere. As I walked past the racecourse, I noticed what appeared to me to be a UFO on the ground and some people around it. I stopped long enough to take a good look and confirm that this was your standard ‘flying saucer’, and then, feeling rather vulnerable, decided to walk very quickly away.

Apart from feeling vulnerable I don’t think I was overly excited. Maybe I was tired. I was content I wasn’t hallucinating. But I was probably pretty much over any kind of excitement at that stage. I didn’t tell anyone about it when I got back. I was in a house with people who thought that UFOs were hovering over the house, and saying I had actually seen one would have been impolitic. 

Being in Two Places at Once

Several members of the group decided to travel to Tamworth. When they returned, they were irate that I had followed them. I denied going anywhere. I had not left the suburb in their absence. But they were adamant that they had seen me in Tamworth and when they approached me to reproach me for following them, I walked into a newsagency, and then disappeared.

This is not the first time I’ve been ‘accused’ of being where I was not. At least I know that the me that I know wasn’t where I was said to be.

Uninvited Guests

By now it was the middle of 1972. I had left Sydney, feeling thoroughly discouraged by the internal politics of the group and what I thought were increasingly delusional explanations for very strange things that were happening to me. One evening I was sitting outside on the back lawn and glanced up at the moon. I saw a distinct and thick golden light emerge from the left side, traverse the surface of the full moon and disappear around the right side. I have no idea what that was about.  

For a time, in Melbourne I was living in a house occupied by students from the University of Melbourne. I was the only non-student. I had become friendly with ML, who had the front upstairs bedroom, and we spent many hours in conversation when she should have been attending to her studies. On a particular evening she retreated to her room early to meet a looming deadline. The next morning, I encountered her in the kitchen. She did not look well rested, and my immediate assumption was that she had stayed up late at her studies. The instant she saw me she launched into verbal attack. “I had been ignoring my friends.” “Why should they have to wake me up at two in the morning to ask me to get you to talk to them?” Words to this effect sprinkled liberally with expletives left me stunned. I had no idea what she was talking about. What few friends I had left in Melbourne I had seen recently and regularly. She was plainly distressed and when she calmed down enough, I asked her to explain her conduct. This is what she told me.

She had studied until close on midnight and had then gone to bed and fallen asleep quickly. About two o’clock she was woken up by three people, two men and a woman, in her room. She was initially alarmed, thinking it might have been a police raid searching for drugs, but they quickly assured her that they were on a different mission. For some time, she thought perhaps about twenty minutes, she sat up in bed while they sat on chairs they had moved and placed closer to the bed. The gist of their conversation, at least the only part she conveyed to me, was that they had been trying to talk to me and I had been ignoring them. Would she kindly speak to me and ask me to be more responsive to them? They then left and she went back to sleep more or less convinced that the incident had been a dream.

When she woke, she was startled to notice that the chairs had been left as she presumed she had dreamed them to be. ML is a tidy person. She had placed the chairs against the wall and had neatly placed clothing on several of them. It was then that she became alarmed. Who were these people? How had they entered her room through a locked door? And why in hell did they not simply talk to me, who was asleep downstairs? She was also annoyed that they had not returned the chairs to their position.

I listened to ML’s story in utter astonishment. What she did not know and could not know was that for the past near eighteen months three invisible presences, two men and a woman, who were trying to engage me in conversation, had bedevilled me. My experience of them was one of intrusive thoughts accompanied by mental images that were not sharply defined, but clear enough to get the impression of three people aged maybe in their late thirties or early forties. I was sufficiently concerned to have sought psychiatric care, fearing I was going mad. I had told ML none of this, but now I had to confess, to offer some kind of explanation for her bizarre encounter. Our relationship rapidly deteriorated thereafter. She felt violated by the extreme and frightening nature of the event and did not want to be exposed to any repeat. I left the house soon after.

ML’s bewildered and outraged report conveyed her sense of violation; not that being asked to pass on a message was offensive, but that the manner and nature of the intrusive participants in the experience constituted a shattering of her sense of the normal. She could have dismissed the encounter as a very strange dream, but she was confronted with the evidence of disarranged chairs. Not only was her ontological domain invaded, but also her personal space of material order had been offended against. Tidiness was a valued personal discipline and the ontological invaders had also been poor guests.

I compounded ML’s distress by telling her something that forcibly altered the options she had open to her. Denial that it was real was suddenly not an option. But she could contain the damage by rejection. If she stopped interacting with me, she could minimise the risk of repetition and recover some sense of order, some return to safety. I never met ML again after I left the house, so I have no idea if or how she subsequently thought about what had happened. 

A few years later I had a conversation with an ‘inner plane’ teacher. The following I have copied from the last words in my thesis: “On 11 March 1979 I had asked about the voices that had precipitated my drama. These were the three entities ML had encountered in her bedroom. This is what I recorded (in my journal) in response to my question:

A: These (are) discarnate entities with whom you have profound psychological links. 

Me: Ah, could you explain.

A: No.”

A Desperate Act

These voices had already created grief for me. I had tried denial and rejection of the voices to no avail. And rather than being left in the unfortunate limbo between the prospect of madness and the discomfort of unwanted intrusion into consciousness the source of the voices had upped the ante by staging a dramatic demonstration that they were not delusions or misperceptions. So, what were they? Where did they come from? And why were they intruding into my consciousness? This ‘why’ question had its own urgency to it, but I could not construct an answer at the time. I desperately wanted to know “Why is this happening to me?” But I also knew I needed to answer the ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions before the ‘why’ would make sense. 

By now I was emotionally exhausted. I had strange things still happening to me. I felt vulnerable and fragile. In desperation I sought admission to a psychiatric facility. I needed refuge and respite and I also naively hoped for help in figuring out what was going on. But I got given a pair of pyjamas and led off to a locked facility full of bewildered and confused people. I was not in good company I thought. But then I met a depressed Jewish gentleman with whom I had long conversations about spirituality and faith, and a ‘housewife’ who was in there because she had a vision. As she described her vision I was filled with astonishment. It was a strange assemblage of Australiana that had been described to me by another person many months before. I told her what I had been told. I later saw the same image in a cartoon. 

The saving grace for me came in the form of an art therapist with whom I had developed a good rapport. She asked me what I was in for. I told her and she said to me that what I was experiencing were ‘psychic’ episodes. I needed to hear that. In my time in the facility, I met a number of people who were plainly not mad. They were distressed and exhausted like me. There was a strange under-culture of defiance and resistance that deeply disrespected the staff and the philosophy of care. I left after a few weeks feeling sufficiently restored in one respect and fully aware that I had to make sense of what was happening to me on my own.

Adelaide Strangeness   

I travelled to Adelaide and lived in Norwood for about six months.  Strange things continued to happen. I was drawing one day with one of the women in the house and suddenly the image I had drawn began to glow. The woman reacted strongly to the glowing image and fled the room in alarm. Things like that were not supposed to happen.

The house seemed to be haunted. We all regularly heard footsteps down the hallway and the back door would shut with a loud noise. At first, we suspected an errant child was sneaking in, so we set up a system to catch him. The moment a sound was heard a call would go up and everybody would spring out from their rooms into the hall. I was downstairs and I had to rush out and around to the back. Despite numerous sounds and alarms, we found nobody. Downstairs I would hear footsteps outside my window and sometimes there  shadows as if somebody had passed the ground level window, but without a sound.

Late one evening, I was sitting on my bed about to go to sleep when I felt surrounded by a dense and malign atmosphere that seemed to close in on me. I feared harm if it succeeded, and I held it at bay by force of will. Then, I knew none of the various means of self-defence or mantras to keep the mind safely focussed. I spent the night, until first light, repeating the only thing I knew, the Lord’s Prayer. Even so there were times when my mind went blank, and I could do no more than repeat “Our Father…” over and over until recall returned. Sometimes I struggled to say “Our” and other times I could not even remember the first word. Eventually the sense of malignant presence dissipated as the sun came up. I was emotionally drained and tired, and I was able to sleep only once full daylight had been restored.

The first time I made contact with the Theosophical Society I went along to an advertised talk by an international expert on psychic phenomena. This was what I wanted to know about. I was sitting in the middle of a row of fairly cramped seats. Toward the end of the presentation, I was getting desperate to get to the toilet and to have a cup of tea, but I felt hemmed in and unable to get out because the seats were so cramped. A woman, who turned out to be the host of the guest speaker, was asking what I thought were pointless questions and I could see the speaker had no enthusiasm for the endless unhelpful questions. I was getting irritated and wished fervently she’d shut up. She did, finally, and I was able at last to make a merciful dash for the toilet. When I then made my way to get a much-desired cup of tea I was suddenly pulled aside by three somewhat angry people who demanded to know what in the hell I thought I was doing. Getting a cup of tea? I was bewildered. They then proceeded to tell me something astonishing.

They had been sitting behind me and had become aware that I was causing potentially serious psychic harm to the irritating questioning woman, and they had worked hard to intervene to stop me. I confessed my misdeed and, seeing that here were people who might actually know something, I told them my story. They were surprised and alarmed by what I told them and gave me some very helpful advice.  Sadly, to me, they were also involved in UFO things, something for which I had no real sympathy, mainly because everyone I’d come across with a passion for UFO struck me as being somewhat delusional. Even when two of them said their companion had disappeared, I was not motivated to believe them, just get away from them. 

It was at this time I met the head of the Adelaide Theosophical Society and handed over my journal to have the automatic writing deciphered.

The WM Incident

After about six months in Adelaide, I was feeling emotionally and intellectually exhausted again. I had been writing to a school friend and bush walking companion who was nursing at the Royal Derwent Hospital, a psychiatric facility, in New Norfolk, Tasmania. WM was an avowed sceptic and atheist and was, then, scathingly intolerant of any discussion on any matter that was not rational. I now craved his company, hoping that escaping all reference to the non-ordinary would be a balm. We agreed to spend a few weeks camping and walking. I had told him nothing of what I had been experiencing.

Our plan was to head up the east coast of Tasmania to camp, walk and fish, and on the first day we drove to the Freycinet Peninsula, to a bay [Sleepy Bay] not far from Coles Bay, but on the ocean side. This was a rugged place with high granite hills to the immediate south and right on the relentless ocean, whose energy surged against the precipitous granite inclines.  We camped on a flat sandy area with a few trees and a shallow creek that flowed into the ocean not far from our tent. The easiest place to get water was a short distance inland where the creek flowed around a large granite boulder and over a stone lip, beneath which was a small pool deep enough to accommodate a billy. 

Close on dusk I went to get water for the evening meal. As I neared the pool, I could feel an intense sense of presence but tried to dismiss it as mere indulgence in the eeriness of the place that was emphasised by the deepening shadows of dusk. I had been to the pool several times before with no adverse response. Nevertheless, I had to force myself not to run on return. By the time we had eaten it was dark and it was WM’s turn to fetch water to wash up and make tea. When he came back, he seemed to be rattled and agitated, but he said nothing.  

As we sat around the campfire drinking tea and chatting, both of us became aware that something was moving around us. For me it was a sense of movement just beyond the range of the campfire’s light. It seemed like a fast-moving shadow of indeterminate size and shape, almost lost in the growing dark, yet somehow perceptible. There was no noise. We agreed it must be a dog and several times, on signal, we sprang up with our flashlights in an effort to catch sight of it, but to no avail. It was distracting and we decided to turn in, because the conversation was becoming strained by our unwelcome and uneasy pre-occupation with whatever it was. 

Inside the tent we both saw movement around the tent and between the tent and fire, silent. It was a dark form and definitely far larger than a dog, but still with no discernible form, even so close. Unexpectedly, and with one accord we lost our nerve, hastily bundled up the tent and its contents and scrambled up the embankment to the car. We fled to the camping ground at Coles Bay leaving a good deal of our gear behind. In the morning early we returned to collect what had been left behind and then decided to head further north. During it all WM said nothing, though he was plainly disturbed by what had happened. I remained true to my undertaking and made no effort to engage him in discussion. I knew WM well enough. If he wanted to talk about it, he would. 

What had we experienced? Was it, as we had first thought, a dog, maybe hungry but too untrusting to come close to our camp? Later, in the tent, what had we seen move between the tent and the fire, casting the shapeless shadow?  WM and I were both experienced bushwalkers and we had walked together several times in the southwest wilderness. We were not easily spooked by strange things in the night. That night, though, what we saw might have subsequently surrendered its mystery to rational explanation, but we both did something uncharacteristic. We fled in the middle of the night in undignified haste and disarray into the safety of a camping ground. We did so with almost wordless accord. The believer and the sceptic both apprehended, at some shared visceral level, a sense of threat beyond willing tolerance.

There is a disturbing, and more telling, sequel to this adventure. We left Coles Bay the next day, eager to be away from the place that had so disrupted our plans for a relaxing time. We had not travelled far north when the car alarmingly and suddenly swerved off the road and came, mercifully, to a halt on a flat under some trees. We had hit nothing save some small deadwood. WM confessed that he had blacked out momentarily and this greatly distressed him. He then said he had intrusive thoughts that something or someone was out to ‘get me’ and he wanted no part of it. He drove in silence back to Hobart and ejected me from the car with the warning to stay away from him. I was left standing bewildered by the roadside. 

I had no sense of threat, no sense of anything ‘out to get me’. I knew WM well enough to know that he took great pride in his rationality. He was also a courageous companion in whose company I had always felt safe, knowing he would not ‘bottle out’ when things got tough. That was always how it had been before. What had happened? I did not know whether WM suffered from any physical ailment that might cause him to black out without warning, but I supposed that might be possible. Would he have told me? I did not know. How could I account for his bizarre claim to have perceived that something was ‘out to get me’? Coming from my deeply sceptical friend this was unsettling. Did he, in saying it, fear he was going mad? Did he believe it? Was it symptomatic of the same thing that caused the black out? I left Tasmania and returned to Melbourne. 

WM’s sober sceptical demeanour was severely challenged by what he had experienced. He chose not to engage with what had happened. I met him in Queensland some 15 years later. It was a brief meeting. When I told him of my interest in the occult, he asserted his disinterest. He was clearly uncomfortable with me, and we parted, with mutual disappointment. WM’s unwillingness to engage with or explore what had happened reflected the degree to which the subject matter generated reaction among those who saw themselves [LS9] ‘rational’. He had been there. It was a shared experience. He had put up a barrier, dissolving a friendship and firmly drawing a line between what may or may not inhabit his ontological construction. After 15 years I was less reactive against such rejection, but the confirmation of the death of what had been a close friendship nevertheless underlined the degree to which my experiences had been, and continued to be, estranging.

Reflecting on Phase Two

This was a period of relentlessy non-ordinary experience that were extreme. I found myself among people too ready with ‘explanations’, including group politics that drove me away because I was accused of intent I did not have.

I felt my sanity was under assault and sought desperate refuge in psychiatric care. I came to understand that getting a handle on what was happening was going to be pretty much my own responsibility. This was a very dangerous time. 

Phase Three 

With WM’s rejection I left Tasmania in despair. I had had enough and pleaded with the powers that be to leave me alone. Actually, I raged in a despairing fury. That seemed to work. Most of the major stuff stopped happening. I was left with a helpful set of intuitions that trickled along. But the damage had been done. I was obsessed with what had happened to me and for the next four years lived pretty close to the edge of sanity. I realised how much at risk I had been only when I reread the journals that I had carried around unread for years.

Saving Intuitions

I was hitching up to Sydney with a girlfriend [later my first wife] and I had a strong vision of the car we were in running off the road and down an embankment. But I also sensed it would not happen while we were in the car. We were let out and the car turned left off the Hume Highway, onto a gravel road, turned right and skidded out of control and over the bank.

Later in Sydney I often rode on the back of a motorcycle ridden by a friend. We were at our café in Kings Cross, and he asked if I wanted to go for a ride. Normally I’d have said yes but I felt a twinge in my right knee, a sudden sense of fear, and declined. The guy who took my place clipped his knee on a car which came too close to the bike – or the bike had come too close to the car.     

Intimations of Death

A couple of years later I was living in Strahan in a disastrous marriage. We had adopted a blue heeler and named him Merlin. We had left him in Strahan and were driving down to Hobart. On the way there was a sudden gust of wind and leaves blew over the car. I said, “Merlin’s just been killed.” He had been. He’d been shot chasing chickens at the time I had the impression. My then wife became angry, and the rest of the trip to Hobart was a very frosty business.

She was adamantly materialistic and was disturbed by the phenomena I seemed to generate – a lot of small stuff mostly. I don’t have good recall, and nothing I recorded in my journals involved her, beyond the Merlin incident. She later told me that she was afraid of that side of me when we met briefly around 13 years later.

However we did often argue about interpretations of events. That I do recall. I saw ‘magical’ meaning where she saw only the mundane – and then something would happen to make my interpretation more likely – in my eyes at least.

Fateful Meeting

Substantially nothing memorable happened for the next 18 months on the strangeness front, but life was nevertheless fraught and disruptive. When I reviewed my journals in 2009 I was surpised to discover how much on the edge I was. My marriage understandably collapsed and I left Tasmania for Sydney. For a time, I settled down to a contented self-indulgent routine of reading voraciously on astrology and tarot. In 1977 my life wasn’t too bad, but it was going nowhere, and I knew there had to be a major change. I dimly thought of travelling to Western Australia.

On the 10th of February 1977 there was a federal election. I was living in Glebe at the time and a housemate, RG, said he had news of a good election eve party in Balmain. Did I want to go? I did, so very much more than was usual. My experience of parties is that they never deliver what they promise, so I tended to go with modest hope. This time was going to be very different. I just knew it. RG and I and two others caught a cab from Glebe to Balmain. As we arrived in Balmain RG announced he had forgotten the address, written on a piece of paper, and left in his bedroom. He cheerily proposed going to the pub, where he was sure we’d pick up word of a party. We were mad keen pool players, and this normally would have been a perfectly decent proposal. But not this night. I was gripped with an extraordinary panic. I had to be at that party if it meant knocking on every door in the suburb. I prevailed upon my companions to return to Balmain so RG could get the address. 

We arrived at the party and were ushered to an upstairs room with about a dozen people, none of whom we knew. We four sat together and after a time I was getting bored and restless and decided I’d leave, and go to the pub. The others now decided they’d stay. But when I started to descend the stairs, I felt as if I had encountered an invisible barrier that would not let me pass. I strove against it for a short time and then quit, deciding there must be a reason to stay. 

Now I need to explain that I was then a deeply shy person who would not comfortably approach total strangers at parties, so what happened next was shocking to me as I did it, but I seemed to have no control over my behaviour. I looked around the room and decided I did not want to re-join my companions. One woman looked interesting, so I walked over, sat down, and started talking to her. She was talking to a male beside her and ignored me. I then inserted myself between the two of them and turned my back on him. As I write this I am still astonished by my conduct. The woman and I talked for a time. Apparently, I mentioned psychic things and she was interested that topic, so she didn’t get rid of me. Later we went downstairs. She wanted to get a glass of water. I went to look out a window. I recall calling her to the window to see something. I thought I did so in a normal voice, but she later said I spoke to her in a commanding and booming voice. That’s just not me. Thus, I met my second wife, PJ.

Out of the Body

I was living for a time in a flat behind PJ’s house that had a large mulberry tree right out the door. One night I woke up and felt very thirsty, so I got out of bed and headed into the kitchen. On the way I stopped by a window to admire the effect of the moon shining through the mulberry trees. I wished I could take a photo, but my only camera at the time was a Kodak Instamatic, and it would not do. In the kitchen I sleepily reached for a glass sitting upturned on the draining board, but I was having a hard time picking it up. It seemed to me that my hand was going straight through it. So, figuring I was just half asleep, and not wanting to wake myself up I decided to just drink from the tap. But my hand went straight through the tap! Then it dawned on me. I must be out of my body. At that instant I found myself jerking bolt upright in bed. 

I immediately jumped out of bed and dashed to the widow. Yes! The moon was where it should have been. I checked in the kitchen. The glass was where it should have been. 

This experience was only a few weeks after reading Robert Monroe’s Journeys Out of the Body. PJ had put me onto the book. She had had a series of deeply worrying out of body experience which made sense when she read the book. She wanted me to understand what she had been through.

This was my first and last conscious out of body experience.

The Shared Dream

Sometime after becoming a firm couple, PJ woke me one night to tell me of an astonishing experience. She had been out of her body and floating up near the ceiling. She was alarmed and I spoke to her calmly, telling her to return gently to the bed. I listened in amazement. I now had possibly a more extraordinary thing to recount to her. She had woken me from an intense dream. I was standing on a plain somewhere and there was a multi-storey building made entirely of scaffolding. On top of the building was a crane. I was standing on the ground guiding the crane to lower a body in a fragile condition, and in a stretcher, onto one of two semi-trailer trucks parked very closely side by side. I recalled quite clearly pausing to remark to myself upon the very unusual soft suspension for trucks before continuing to guide the crane operator. When the body was down the scene switched. Now PJ lay on the ground, with her daughter close by. Another presence, whom I knew to be a spiritual teacher, was there as well. He told me to go away just as I was woken up.

The parallel between PJ’s OOBE and my dream was immediately apparent but what clinched the connection was the realisation that the strange trucks in the dream were the two single beds with soft rubber mattresses pushed together, making up our bed.

Ritual Fallout and Powerful Encounters

We joined several magical orders and learned the ways of ritual magic. Some rituals we performed at home and for others we travelled to a set up temple in the case of one group and to other people’s homes in the case of the other group.

One very important part of any kind of ritual work is ensuring that at the end of a working everything is properly closed down. There are particular closing ceremonial actions to bring about an effective ending, but they are not always undertaken in a competent manner. Among beginners it is necessary to check and redo a closing at times. Magical groups are also a hotbed for powerful politics and sometimes there is enough disturbance such that even an experienced practitioner can mess up a closing.

We often came home from a working during certain fraught times with strange presences following us. Until we developed enough knowledge and experience, we didn’t know what was going on. The fallout included jangled and fraught emotions, sleeplessness, and disturbed and disturbing presences.

Both groups had access to what are known as inner plane teachers – non-physical entities who guide the work of the group members. These are not things about which any public comment should be made. My experience was compelling in both cases. I was and am deeply sceptical of channelled communication. Most of it is junk. But in these instances I was convinced of the authenticity of the experience.

I had two other encounters with discarnate entities that left me in no doubt soever that I was in the presence of a very real entity. In both cases there were significant sensations.

I am limited in what I can say about rituals and the presences associated with the groups. The whole of my involvement with the groups and ceremonial workings left me thoroughly convinced that there is real effect and there are real non-physical agencies involved. The risk to personal wellbeing is also significant. Competently done ceremonial magic is uplifting and transformational. But done unwisely it can lead to deep disturbances and actual harm to practitioners and those close to them.

I will say that one of these encounters was with an inner plane teacher over several years. The teacher came through another person, and I asked the questions. I also kept records, including transcripts of taped sessions.

Reflection on Phase Three

Looking back, the Phase Three experiences began in crisis as the aftermath of Phase Two played out. Experiences were less intense but my psychological health was on a knife edge. I had to work hard at staying on an even keel.

The introduction to ritual magic was powerful and disappointing. The people I mixed with lacked intellectual curiosity and rigour. Encountering inner plane teachers was challenging. Their presence and influence was compelling. But there was something missing in how I understood them in the context of the groups they were involved with.

Phase 4  

In the early 1990s my second marriage disintegrated. I left all involvement with ceremonial magic – at that stage it was Wicca. My departure was not just due to the fact that our marriage breakdown made shared involvement in the group impractical, but because I had also been coming steadily to the conclusion that I needed to get an education. I had been reading almost exclusively in esoteric matters for 15 years and I was discovering that I was very ignorant about the world in general. So, for four years I managed to resist the temptation to read anything esoteric, despite the fact that weird things were continuing to happen.

What triggered this was getting a job with the Commonwealth Employment Service [CES] in 1986. We had moved to the Far North Coast of NSW 4 years earlier and I had been unemployed the whole time. I was a client of the CES and it didn’t take me long as an employee to discover how hopeless the service was. I vowed never to subject anybody to the same level of ineptitude and set out to get myself an education on local and regional economics, industry trends, employment demands, skill requirements and the psychological impact of unemployment.

By the end of my time with the CES I was writing regional labour demand analyses and I was a co-founder of a community org set up to engage in regional enterprise development.

A New Job

I had been working in the CES in Casino for close on 2 years. It wasn’t a good experience and I was keeping an eye out for an alternative role. I was offered the chance of applying for a short-term role by an associate who was working with the NSW Department of Community Services. This opportunity arose in late January of 1990. But the role was withdrawn, and I was shattered. I had prepared hard for the interview.

That weekend I took myself off to see a clairvoyant on the Gold Coast in southern  Queensland. She told me that I had been too combative at work. This was true. I was a union delegate and was giving regional management a hard time. She said I should become more peaceful and stay away from contention, and if I did, I would have a new job by the end of Easter.

So, on the Monday I quit my union role. Then towards the end of the week I accepted a role of running a client satisfaction survey by phone. That put me in a back room for almost a month on the phone. I went very quiet. On the morning of the Thursday before Good Friday I got a call from my associate who said the role had become available for 6 months. Did I want it? At that very moment the acting Regional Manager walked into the office. I asked him if I could have 6 months leave without pay immediately. He said yes, probably with relief. On the Tuesday next I started my new role with a $9,000 a year increase in salary. Back then that was better than a 25% increase.

I converted the role to permanent at the end of the 6 months, and never went back to the CES. The fateful session with the clairvoyant maybe wouldn’t have happened without the original opportunity being withdrawn.

Almost Sprung

I was going through a time of pretty intense intuition that was keeping me safe on the roads, not only avoiding a couple of accidents that would have certainly killed me, but alerting me to police, so I wasn’t caught speeding. At the time I was working in a job where nearly all the people who had regional roles had lost most of their point on their licences from speeding offences.

There was one spectacular act of good fortune that prevented me from being certainly sprung over the speed limit. I was driving west to Moree and caught a glimpse of blue flashing lights in my rear vision mirror. I cursed and slowed down, expecting the police car to come up behind me and pull me over. But there wasn’t one there. However, ahead of me, and round a bend and out of sight, was a police car with an officer pointing a radar gun at me as I came round the corner, now well under the speed limit.

Dodging Death

I was driving from Grafton to Armidale and as I came to the crest of a hill my body was suddenly filled with energy and I went into a hyper-alert state. As I hit the crest, I saw a heavy truck lumbering up the hill on the other side. But on my side of the road was a fool in a car attempting to overtake. Somehow, I managed to flick left onto a mercifully relatively clear verge, miss the car, and get back on the road. My body and mind were a riot of sensations and emotions. I recall struggling between a desire to pull over and freak out and keeping on going. I chose to continue because I knew if I stopped, I’d be mess. I drove for around an hour and a half before I dared stop. I had a coffee and several cigarettes and offered profound prayers of gratitude.

Poker Machine Compulsion

One pay day, not long after my marriage had collapsed, I had found a flat, and I’d bought a brand-new CD player. One payday I paid a $20 deposit on a selection of CDs that cost me $120 in total. The store was right beside my office building. I expected to pay the balance over the next three or four pays. That afternoon I developed a powerful compulsion to go downstairs to a bar. Now I do not drink during the day generally and never during working hours, so that was not an idea I was about to go along with. However, my mind became invaded by the idea to the point where I could not think about my work. Finally, I packed up some papers and headed down to the bar, bought a small lemon squash and settled down to work. Not a problem. After half an hour I decided to have another lemon squash. 

The bar had two new poker machines. These were actual poker machines that played poker. You put 20 cents in the slot, got a hand, selected cards to keep, discarded and got replacement cards. I’d never played one before, but I had 20 cents change and dropped a coin in. First up I got a royal flush. That paid $100. Very nice. I went immediately to the shop next door to the office building and paid off my CDs.

I thought nothing of the incident but thanked my lucky stars. I idly dropped a coin into the machine now and then in the intervening months but never got another royal flush. I never had a repeat of that compulsion. That is until about 18 months later after I had relocated to Dubbo in western New South Wales. One Friday evening I had gone to the video store and got a good selection of movies. I’d bought some wine and a roast chicken. I was planning an indulgent night in all alone. I was about to settle down in front of the telly when I was overwhelmed by a compulsion to go out to a pub. My feet started tapping and I felt bouncy and utterly unable to focus on the movie. At 6pm in Dubbo on a Friday night it’s not a good time to go to a pub, because nobody is there. There was no social logic in going to the pub. I had wine and I wanted my own company. I didn’t crave a beer. Had I such a craving I would have bought beer instead of wine. Once again resistance was futile, so I decided to get rid of the impulse by giving in to it. I drove into the town centre and went into the first pub. It was near empty as I knew it would be. I bought a small light beer, drank it, and decided to leave. On the way out there was a poker machine to my left and I had 40 cents change. On my second go I get a royal flush and win $100. On the way home I remember this has happened before, only this time I am not grateful. I didn’t need the money.

There is no repeat in Dubbo. Some months later I am in Sydney for a couple of nights, and I get the impulse. Now I get it. No mucking around, just straight to the nearest pub, buy a beer and stick a coin in the poker machine, get a royal flush, win $100. Not a problem. About 6 months later I have relocated to Sydney temporarily and I am working in Oxford Street on the fringe of the city proper. One Friday afternoon about 4 pm the urge comes upon me. I sign off for the day and head off to the pub. I’ll have after work drinks with colleagues who will be coming down shortly. I buy a beer, put 20 cents in the poker machine, get a royal flush, win $100.  About another 6 months later I have my last experience of the urge. It is Saturday. I am in Bondi Junction en route to visit friends. I walk past a pub, and I get the urge. I go in, I don’t bother to buy a beer, I pay 10 cents into machine, get a royal flush, win $100, and leave. Only after I have gone do I recall it was a 10 cent machine, not a 20 cent one. Maybe it should have been $50? Too late.

A few points of explanation are needed here. Yes, I have played the machines in between times, but only every idly with loose change, never with any sense of an urge or compulsion. There were only those five times the urge to play was overwhelming. The first two urges I fought, because I did not want to go to the pub – and didn’t know what was going on. The last three I just went with the flow.

What was it all about? I haven’t the foggiest idea even now. In the 15 years after the last experience I have never had anything remotely similar, and I’ve not been able to make sense of it either. 

The Book Compulsion

After I had finished up in Sydney I headed to Bathurst. I had persuaded my management that working out of the Bathurst office made more sense than being based in Dubbo. One day I went to a psychic fair that was being advertised on large banners. I have never had the motive to do so before. There I discover there  was a woman giving a talk about alien abduction, and I wanted to hear what she had to say.

Just a fortnight before I had one of my book-buying compulsions. These overtake me now and then, and under the influence I will go into a bookshop and go straight to a book. A short time before I had been reading a new age magazine in which a woman described what she asserted was an ‘abduction experience’. She was taken into a craft and laid out on a metal slab and vile things were done to her. I read the article with a shock of recollection. Many years ago, back in about 1971/2 I taken some rather nice Orange Barrel LSD, fresh off the plane from England. It was very clean and very nice. When I was coming down, I was resting happily on a lounge enjoying the images in my head. 

I particularly enjoyed a long slow tour of a museum that displayed extraordinary artefacts in long rows. Intruding into this pleasant scene came the powerful impression of being in an industrial style room. I was lying on a slab, surrounded by large headed creatures. It was not a good place to be, so I pulled myself out and sat up, feeling a little alarmed. After a few moments I lay down again and closed my eyes, hoping to recover the pleasant museum scene. But I found myself back on the slab. This time I completely freaked out. It was time to get up and go for a walk. 

I’d forgotten that incident in the intervening years and now reading this article brought recollection flooding back. I was not surprised, then, when I found myself being drawn into a bookshop. I picked up a copy of John Mack’s Abduction and walked out in a kind of daze. It actually took me sitting down in a café to be fully conscious of what I had bought.

I read it in a hurry. It was the first book of its kind [woo] I had read in a few years, and the first book related to either UFOs or asserted abductions. I had some fundamental problems with the spacemen as abductors theory. I didn’t believe it. My own ‘experience’ was a particular problem for me. The memory triggered was vivid and intense. Could it be real and not just an acid induced hallucination? What would have triggered that image? So, I was interested in the woman at the psychic fair had to say. I decided, after the talk, that I wanted to do some hypnotic regression with her. 

That turned out to be a very bad decision. We made an appointment, and I would drive to Sydney early one Saturday morning to arrive in time for a hypnotic regression session session around 10:00 am. A lot of very strange things immediately started happening, culminating with my hitherto thoroughly reliable car developing a short-term fault that kept it immobile until well after the time available to travel to my appointment. Then it went back to normal. In fact it was the only time that car failed to start for me.

I attempted to reschedule the appointment, but communication just went completely haywire. I had a strong sense of threat, like being warned off this idea. I gathered that this was not a line of inquiry that was in my best interests and dropped any plans for a regression. 

Getting Told Where to Go 

My well-laid plans to have my job relocated from Dubbo to Bathurst came to naught after a change of government saw the end of my job. I moved on, back to Sydney after 6 months in Bathurst.

In early 1996 I was staying with friends JM and WM, in Rushcutters Bay. On a Saturday WM and I walked over to Balmain. We walked into the city and took a ferry. We met up with JM at a café and afterwards he and WM headed off on a pre-arranged activity. I decided to walk back down Darling Street to the ferry. I was walking on the left side and spied an esoteric bookshop on the other side and decided to ignore it. I was very short on money and had no need of any more books. But my feet had other ideas and I found myself walking across the road and into the shop as if I was but a mere passenger in my own body. Inside the shop I walked around and found nothing of compelling interest, so I decided to leave. But I was unable to make myself exit the shop. Deciding there must be something I must find I spent some time looking and finally settled on a pentagram pendant.

As I was paying for it, I chatted with the saleswoman who was the sole other person present. In the course of the conversation, I revealed it was my birthday on Monday and she said I should have a chat with the astrologer whose birthday was tomorrow [Sunday]. He had emerged, unnoticed, from behind a curtain. We got chatting. I had studied some astrology and he suggested that he do a progressed reading for me. I agreed and paid the additional money. Afterwards he pulled out some tarot cards and offered to give me a free reading. I accepted. Among other things he told me I would live in England for some time, in Dover.

At that time, I had no thoughts of going to England to live anywhere but I had been casually thinking that my long service leave was due in Feb, and I’d like to go to the UK and Ireland. The next day JM and WM asked me to move out as JM had family coming over from the UK. This was on Sunday. On Monday I was offered a voluntary redundancy. This was very unexpected, and I was sufficiently fed up with what I was doing and accepted. Less than a month later I was flying to England, and within a week of arriving, I had a flat in Dover. My plan was to settle permanently in the UK.

The Teapot

Before I left Australia I hankered after a Japanese teapot. A friend had one that I admired intensely and before I left, I had scoured many antique and collectable shops to no avail. I found a few, but none that I like enough to pay the high prices being asked. In England I took a double-decker bus from Dover to Hastings as a day trip. I was pretty broke so one rule I had set myself was to stay out of shops. I had developed a passion for cod and chips and indulged it, sitting on the Hastings ‘beach’. Then I had a beer in a pub with ceiling so low I stooped.

I was walking along a street that was lined with alluring traders, and I stoically, resolutely, kept eyes front. But then I came by a shop I literally could not go past. The compulsion to go in was overwhelming. Inside I looked around and found nothing that was so compelling I would have been drawn in. Like my experience before I left Sydney, I tried to leave empty handed, but without success. So, I stayed and scoured the shop in desperation to find what it was that had lured me in. Finally, after what seemed ages, I found at the very back of the shop at the very back of a cupboard in a corner three Japanese tea kettles. Two did nothing for me, but the third, made of iron, I fell in love with. The price was £120, which was better than a quarter of what I saw for not as good pieces for sale in Sydney. It was a price I was happy to pay, and so offered a deposit, which was accepted.

Visiting the Witch Queen of Kent

I had a hankering to get back into occult practice and so made contact with a woman who operated a coven. She invited me to meet her mother, the Witch Queen of Kent. I was happy to do so, and we set a time and place. I was to be picked up at a station just before Canterbury late on a Saturday morning.

On Friday night I played darts at my local [next door] pub. That evening we were playing down the street and around the corner at another pub. Cash was tight, so I took enough money for a couple of pints only. I needed to preserve funds for the train fare. As it was, I was sure I had enough money to get there but coming back was problematic. I was at the bar to order my second beer when I saw a man doing the rounds with football cards. These were cards with names of football teams. You picked a team and paid a pound. When all 20 teams had been picked a scratch panel was revealed with the winning team’s name. The winner got £10, and a charity got the other £10. I had money only for a beer. I had not planned to play the football card, but I suddenly got a remarkably clear vision of Leicester City in blue on a yellow background. The image was electric and shimmering. So, I asked whether the card had Leicester City on it. It had. Had it been picked yet? It had not. I paid my pound and picked the team.     

I won, collected my winnings, and had an extra beer to celebrate. I had more than the fare for a return trip, which was memorable in a strange way. I was picked up by a faded golden Rolls Royce by the Queen and her consort. They confessed the cost of petrol and their modest means meant they could afford only short journeys. I was honoured. In the end we failed to agree on important things, so my thought of reviving practice went nowhere. 

Going Home

After I had been in Dover just on a year I was filled with discontent. I had been walking to work past a shop displaying a computer that I had been hankering after. I had been deflected from buying and had instead bought a word processing typewriter. I was writing a lot and the limitations of the device were getting to me. 

One day the computer had been severely marked down and I decided I was definitely going to buy it. I headed down to the bank to withdraw the necessary funds, but I was utterly unable to make the transaction. This was very frustrating. I wondered why. I went home thinking that clearly the money was needed for some other purpose. I was thinking about buying a car maybe or relocating. I sensed it was time to move on but had no idea where to. I listed a range of options that appealed me, but none resonated strongly. I decided I needed to just brainstorm and list every place I could think of. Going back to Australia hadn’t entered my head at all, but when I wrote down Australia I was suddenly overcome with a powerful sense of happiness and relief. I would go home!

But I needed to go to Ireland first. I was born in Belfast and wanted to visit there. I stayed with one of my mother’s cousins in Newtownards, and one evening I went out for a walk up a road that left the town and headed toward Belfast – Tullyganardy Road. There, beside the road, surrounded by farmland, I sat on a pile of rocks and reflected on being there, near my birthplace. I sent my imagination into the earth below me. This was something I often did. It was a visualisation technique to help me get a sense of the place I was in. This time I had a surprising vision of a cavern deep down in which three dragons slept. One roused and told me to, “Go home. There is nothing for you here.” It was an unexpected thing and it helped resolve the deep ambivalence I had felt since I had arrived in Ireland a week before. I didn’t like the place at all. I had arrived thinking I was Irish, something I happily confessed to in Australia. Now I knew I wasn’t. I was Australian to my core. I may have been born in this place but nothing of my body was now Irish and nothing of my psyche was either. This was a profound discovery, for which I was intensely grateful.

The adventure to the UK had cost me a lot of money, but the benefits I accrued were invaluable. As well as finding my identity I learned about community and history in ways that fundamentally changed my thinking.

The return to Australia was littered with small instances of impedimenta being removed and the return, from the moment I prepared to give up my flat in Dover, was smooth and easy. In fact I described my return home at the time as like being attached to a rubber band which pulled me back.

Becoming a Writer

Before I left it is worth mentioning a bit of a weird experience. I bought the word processing typewriter after an utterly unexpected experience on a return ferry from Calais. I made regular non-lander ferry trips out of Dover to Calais to buy duty free cigarettes and booze. One day I was having a pint in a lounge and reading when I was struck by a sudden overwhelming thought. I would become a writer!

I went home and went to bed and bawled uncontrollably for the next 24 hours. I have no idea why. The next day I bought the typewriter.

The Return Journey Continued

Shortly after arriving back in Australia, I flew to Hobart and then I was able to make sense of a dream I [LS10] had many months before. In the dream my mother told me she was dying. My mother was soon to learn she had terminal bowel cancer. On the day I arrived she was in hospital suffering from an unknown bowel obstruction. She died the day before my birthday, then some 9 months hence. 

I knew I had to stay in Tasmania. I had seen little of my mother in the past 20 years. I made a quick trip back to Melbourne to pick up some luggage. On return I sat outside at my parent’s place and had a glass of wine and a smoke. I was down to my last $100. I needed to find work fast, and one job excited me. The moment I posted my application, I lost all motive to look for other jobs. The same thing happened in England, when I got a comfy part-time job.

I worked with the Tasman Council as a Community Recovery Coordinator following the dreadful shootings at Port Arthur the previous year. It was a fraught job and, eventually, how it should be done could not be agreed upon. Nevertheless, for the nearly 7 months I was in it, it was profoundly challenging and rewarding. It was a privilege to have been given that opportunity.

I loved living in Tasmania and wanted to stay. After my mother’s death I resumed job-seeking in earnest.  I had been for a couple of interviews and both I blew by making a statement that came out of my mouth before my brain had a chance to work. I seemed to be sabotaging myself and despaired. One evening I called my friend OJ in Coffs Harbour and the first thing she said was, “When are you moving up here?” She had a spare bedroom. I told her I’d be up in a week. At that time, I couldn’t afford the airfare. But two things happened the next day. I sold a large gong I had been carrying with me for ages and as I was walking through Hobart’s CBD, I saw an ad in a travel agent’s window. From the procedes of the gong sale I could get a return ticket to Sydney for significantly less than a normal one-way fare. I had sold the gong for less than I wanted, but it covered the airfare. There was a real estate agents’ conference in Hobart and the Jumbo that flew them down had cheap seats for the return trip.

Suddenly I could afford to head north. I was in Coffs a few months and having a good time when OJ’s daughter and granddaughter needed a place to stay. The room I was in was the obvious solution. PJ [my second wife] and I had split up back in 1992. She had remained in Lismore, and I went up to visit. She had split up with her partner and had bought a house capable of accommodating her and her mother, but her mother decided not to move in. She was studying part-time at the University of New England. She offered me free accommodation in return for helping out around the house. The offer came a week or so before the drama with OJ’s daughter. I initially said I’d be prepared to come to stay for a week or so to help, but not as a live-in deal. That changed and I moved in late in 1997.

We remained friends sharing a house with separate lives and friends. Toward the latter part of 2001 we explored the idea of living together and I said I needed to move on, away from Lismore. PJ wanted to be closer to her daughter who decided she wanted to have a child.

Though I loved the community and the place in general I loathed the climate.  We both agreed that Katoomba would be a good place to go and in late September of 2001 I began to do daily meditations on getting to Katoomba. Within several weeks I applied for a job with a NSW government department that offered regional positions, subject to negotiations. I envisioned that this might mean Newcastle or Wollongong. It was related to work I’d done before. I drove to Sydney in the rain in my VW Beetle, a perilous journey in wet weather. 

The interview went well, and at the end I was asked whether I’d be happy to work in the city. I said I would not; that I’d applied only because of the prospect of working in a regional position. When asked where I’d like to work, and before my mind could react, I blurted out, “Katoomba would be nice.” That was it. I was out the door and soon after astonished at my gaffe. Katoomba? I wanted to go back and retract that foolish outburst, but I felt quite fated and returned to Lismore.

When I was offered a position in Katoomba, I was astonished. I had to set up an office for myself and two staff. 

Reflection on Phase Four

Phase Four was partially about being places I didn’t know I needed to be and partially about the power of influence – of inducing me to do things I didn’t think I needed to do.

I can look back now and see how being in those places profoundly altered my life in powerful and good ways, and that those relocations came about by induced choices I would not have made without the influence.

The poker machine experiences were a demonstration of power to influence. On one level I might assert that such was a violation of my will. But what do I know? On what level was my will violated? On the petty level of ego and personal conceit?

Phase Five

I hadn’t planned to include this in this essay. Over Easter 2002 I bought the house I am in now. For a bloke whose birthdays finally exceeded his addresses at age 46 living in one place for so long is a big thing.

I got here via the assistance of invisible powers. Of that there is no doubt. What happened since has been a blend of subtle interventions and a lot of working out my natural talents and weaknesses.

There’s not a lot I can describe that doesn’t involve complex context settings that render any story too elaborate to have value. But there’s a couple of things.

In the search to buy a house we were attracted to several. One had several levels and many stairs which, while being very attractive, filled me with a sense of dread I could not explain. There was one property I felt deeply toward, and bought. In 2008 I contracted GBS which had me off work for 18 months. I ended up with mobility and grip disabilities that would have made the other property catastrophically unsuited.

Back around 1985 I helped out a guy with his café. PJ reminded me that he had contracted GBS and she felt compelled to pay attention when he described his experience. Evidently I did not.

On the day [8 April] I collapsed on the lounge room floor as paralysis overtook me I do clearly recall her asking the paramedics who had been called whether they thought I had GBS. They said they had no idea, understandably.

Between 2001 and 2023 we are talking a substantial period. I have lived in the one place the whole period, reflecting stability not hitherto experienced. I have remained with the one employer. The large intrusions into my life have become subtle. The radical dramas have abated. 

But I have been blessed by remarkable good fortune I will not detail here. In part, contracting GBS transformed my life in difficult and costly ways that have also created unique opportunities.

I have become progressively less stupid.


I’ve not included everything. What I wanted to do was to give an idea of the range of experiences I have had over the course of my life. There’s not a lot of the super-spectacular here. That’s because I’ve not had the kind of experiences that fit the category of being astonishing. The fact is that mild experiences, if drawn to our conscious awareness, are enough to engage our imagination and curiosity. A mild telepathic experience can be shrugged off as a coincidence, if it’s just one event that comes to awareness. But if there are several the chance of coincidence diminishes.

Many people have non-ordinary experiences and do not know it.  A few weekends ago we were out for a drive and I was contemplating the unpopular drive up to Mount Victoria from Hartley. It’s a steep winding road frequented by trucks. I had a sense of pain that denotes to me that there was an accident, but we went for a substantial drive up to Oberon via Bathurst and I forgot about it. So, when we were going home we drove up the dreaded road. There was a traffic snarl. A guy on a scooter had come off. Police and ambulance were there as well as several tow trucks. Many times I have dismissed intuitions and later rued the decision. Several days ago I was walking past a shop with which I had an order for a coat. Usually, they call me when an order comes in so I dismissed the sense that the coat had arrived. I got the call when I got home. It was there when I was walking past. So, nothing catastrophic, just mild inconvenience. But the point is clear. If we respond to intuitions routinely, if we are accustomed to accepting them, we will benefit in both minor and major ways.

My father’s second wife was a committed Christian who had no truck with gambling or games of chance. But one day she was out with friends in Towoomba in Queensland and when they purchased lottery tickets she declined to do so. She persisted in refusing to buy one until their unusually persistent insistences wore her down. She won $88,000. She and my father were able to move to the coast and buy a home ideally suited to them with no mortgage. Such a reward would not have otherwise come their way, given their modest means.

Readers will have endless stories themselves of direct and related experiences of non-ordinary experiences that may or may not have changed people’s lives for good or ill. Often those stories included neglected or ignored warnings or assistances.

I can offer no explanation for the range of things that happened to me over many years. Nothing has been so consistent such that I might allow myself to be called ‘psychic’. There were many times when I have displayed remarkably canny perceptions, but rarely on demand. The other things that sometimes plagued me with unwanted strangeness may be explained by the possession of a peculiar and ill-disciplined sensitivity.

What I am not prepared to countenance are allegations of insanity, hallucinations or other forms of misperception. I don’t buy the mainstream mental illness story. I think it is crude and dangerously flawed. I am plainly not mad. I know hallucinations. I have taken LSD and ‘magic’ mushrooms and I’ve smoked strong hashish. I’ve taken opium once. There is a nonsensical myth that having taken drugs renders one prone to hallucinations, but this is complete nonsense. Those who have drug experiences know the difference. Unfortunately, those who come up with the theories are not experienced drug takers. In any case I’ve not actually had many experiences that could be discounted as hallucinations.   

A very substantial number of strange or non-ordinary experiences have involved other people, and not just as co-participants. Sometimes the other party has been the active party and I the passive. 

From quite early on I understood I had a higher propensity for non-ordinary experiences than other people I came across. When I was a teenager I had done no reading on the subject, so I had no words to explain my conduct. As I matured and read wider and deeper, I understood that the things I was experiencing were not unique, and that non-ordinary experiences were quite common, if not necessarily as widely spread as mine were. Knowing there were stories did not help completely. I wanted to actually understand what was going on. 

I wanted to know why all this was not part of our Western way of knowing. Why all this stuff that filled our folklore and family stories, that could be found in books, on podcasts, in movies, was not respected or honoured as part of our culture’s knowledge. It was not only that, but that the same stories also permeated human history, found everywhere and every time.

This excision from our collective respected narrative was bizarre. Why had it happened? What did it mean? My problem was really quite simple. This stuff was now thoroughly part of my reality, part of my story about who I am. The idea that it could not, would not be honoured in our shared way of knowing is quite simply unacceptable.

I’ve come to understand that this is not an intellectual, religious, or cultural issue. It’s a political one. 


It’s now 21 May 2023. I am starting to understand why it has been such a struggle to finish this project. In saying that the issue is political I meant, in 2011, the sense in which it is an influence upon how we understand the world. Since late 2018 I have been immersed in an inquiry about belief – what it is, why it is. The politics of belief are powerful and remarkable. 

We experience the material world as a kind of lateral axis of experience, largely unaware that there is also a vertical axis that has its own complexity and depth. Mostly we inhabit only that immediate locality where our thoughts, desires, fears, and fantasies live. 

I have been thinking in terms of physical [lateral] and metaphysical [vertical] dimensions to our experience. It’s an imperfect model, but it illustrates an important principle. The two intersect, but we are mostly unconscious of anything beyond our immediate sense and on the dominant plane of our awareness.

We are primarily attuned to the material world because we are aware of being in an organic body, and that awareness is the focus of our attention. Rightly so. We must be competent in the material world if our organic being is to survive and thrive.

But all human cultures have acknowledged the metaphysical and have accepted that awareness of it is necessary because it impinges upon them. That has become a contested space in European cultures because of the evolution of Christianity which sought to denigrate metaphysical awareness not approved of. Materialism went a step further as our sensitivity to the metaphysical was dulled by dogma and repression. It denied the metaphysical entirely.

We have become metaphysically deaf and blind because our sensitivities have not been fostered. That has led to containment of our imaginations within a ‘consensus reality’. But that ‘consensus’ isn’t arrived at by freely given consent. Rather it is accepted and agreed upon because the alternative is not known. It is not known because it is not validated. The fact it exists is not disputed – beyond hardcore materialism. But there’s a difference between knowing something exists and allowing it to be part of one’s own experience as an honoured and valued dimension of awareness and being.

Mostly we have a kind of membrane between our awareness of the material world and the metaphysical. This is necessary and desirable. Control is essential. That membrane is leaky to varying degrees. Mostly we are unaware of what leakes through. We have no conscious sense. We can, therefore, reject input from the metaphysical as invalid. 

I was born with a very leaky membrane. In a different culture I may have become acknowledged as ‘gifted’ and educated and trained. In this culture I could be seen only as mad [science] or bad [religion]. There were fringe groups with whom I could have found a comfortable niche, but they lacked the sense of inquiry I craved.

I cannot say the extent to which we are collectively influenced from the metaphysical dimension. I think it’s to some degree for many of us. That’s not to say we are conscious of such influence. On the extreme ‘rational’ end of the spectrum we cannot account for what happens in our lives without allowing the role of ‘chance’. On the extreme ‘religious’ end there is a desire for an intimate personal relationship with the divine. Neither extreme is reasonable. You can’t say everything you don’t understand is chance. You can’t sensibly claim to be an intimate of God. There are a lot folk who do, and I think they are bonkers or victims of deceptions.

Here’s my sense. We can be aware of more than we are if we allow that we can and develop habits of awareness that make that possible. We are influenced by the metaphysical axis of our reality. It is part of our reality – an essential and fundamental part. But it’s not to be obsessed over and fetishized. 

There are some cultures which practice what we disparagingly call ‘ancestor worship’. In fact, it’s often about placating the spirits of the dead to ensure they don’t interfere and cause trouble. Not all do. It depends on what you know of their character.

A year after my mother died, I was in Lismore. It was the day before my birthday, and I was doing my usual thing of reflecting on life in general. I had forgotten it was the anniversary of my mother’s passing. I was settling down for a writing session with my Mac Classic on the verandah. I had wine and I was planning to write well into night, which I did. I wrote a short story called The Boy and the Angry God.

I wrote that story because, as I was settling down, I had a sense of my mother arriving. She settled at the top of the steps to the verandah and leaned back to rest on the brickwork. She said, “I’ve got a birthday present for you.” She proceeded to tell me how my father, a man of great religious enthusiasm, despaired of having me obedient to his demands on his own authority. He threatened me with “God will be angry with you” if I declined to comply – which was often. I didn’t like my father, and I didn’t like his god. But still, I was haunted by the threat. I have had a deep sense of ‘wrongness’ about me all my life. I had no conscious sense of where it came from.

My mother didn’t linger. She gave me the gift and left. I wrote the short story. In the morning I woke, a little wrung out. That haunting feeling had left me. It has never returned. 

I didn’t set out to write a short story that evening. I wanted to make reflective notes on what had been an intense year. But my mother’s gift was transformative. It changed my life. I was freed of a haunting doubt about my spiritual integrity.

The metaphysical dimension is important to us. It can hurt us, but it can also heal us, stimulate us, and enrich us. It is like any other dimension to our sense of the real. It is a source truth – provided we engage with modesty.

I am listening to an audiobook at the moment. The author asserts a rejection of the idea that we should ‘worship’ gods. He’s right in the sense that worship means to praise in a sychophantic manner. But that’s not what the idea meant originally. It meant an acknowledgement of worthiness. He implies that we might look upon gods as equals and not bow to them. There is a homo-centric conceit to this idea. He imagines that we humans have had no contact with other than human agents who are not of this world or dimension.

Around 1979 PJ and I were exiting her house on the way to a movie. Before we got to the front door we were engulfed in a powerful sense of radiation. It was overwhelming. It felt like being in full sun on a stinking hot summer day. This was autumn in Sydney and around 6.30pm and in doors.

PJ entered a trance like state and wrote things down in a poorly formed hand [I still have those scrawls]. She was an English teacher at the time and wrote clearly. I won’t detail what was written. From my perspective the source of the radiation was was the expression of the presence of an agency that was not human. I spent maybe 15 minutes struggling to remain focussed and alert. In fact I struggled to remain conscious. I could sense the mentality of agency in a limited way only. It was so far beyond human I could make no sense of its nature.

The author of the audiobook spoke of intelligence as if we humans were a benchmark. I get that. But we are not. Humility before other beings in our scope of reality isn’t a matter of theatrical grovelling some religious imagine is meaningful because they are into dramatic effect and seek to represent priests as surrogates for, or representatives of, divine power.. Humility before power is generally wise – even if you don’t understand it. Imagining you know what’s what, or know better is naïve folly.

Nothing of what I experience suggested any hint of a demand for reverence or subservience. Respect yes. Sometimes non-compliance wasn’t an option or an issue. That I was dealing with something of great power, intelligence and compassionate was a late realisation. I am a slow learner apparently. 

Finally, I have no definitive explanations my experience. They were about teaching me, that much I can say. And I am grateful for the education.

A question of belief


It seems that so much is dependent upon what we believe. This seems like such an obvious thing to say. And yet it’s an utter rabbit hole – down which there is an astonishing level of complexity. 

Years ago, I used to watch Monkey, a Buddhism inspired series based on the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. Each show started off with the gentle assertion “With our thoughts we create the world.” We can adapt that to say, “With our beliefs we create the world.”

I have been following US politics (Trump essentially) for a few years now. This is less to do with politics than it has to do with belief. Watching the election denying MAGA drama evolve is to be witness to an astonishing instance of how belief can bring a culture to the brink of crisis. I won’t explore that here. I want to observe only that the nexus between psychological well-being, degrees of rational knowledge and political and religious belief is powerful. Political and religious beliefs go hand in hand – each expressing degrees of material or spiritual power or confidence. Out of this mix also comes a moral dimension. 

I am listening to Reality is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli. It’s an elegant little book that introduces the reader to quantum science in a gentle manner. Rovelli demonstrates how scepticism has enabled science to progress in profound ways over the past few centuries. 


We misuse the word sceptical. At its heart is an intellectual modesty – a sense of uncertainty that says “I know that what I know is not certain. “ I was cleaning up my phone’s notes today and came across a remark from Amy Edmondson to the effect that humility blends curiosity and empathy. It is interesting how many professional sceptics lack humility.

There is a body of self-proclaimed skeptics who are not doubters, but deniers. They tend to be materialists who ‘doubt’ (read deny) anything beyond the material. I see real scepticism as modest and gentle. It’s a state of sensible uncertainty. It’s what we find in our finest mystics and scientists. 

The denying sceptics are sure they are right about other people being wrong. In that they are like true believers who share that spirit of certainty. 

Belief and its accompanying faith are expressions of certainty – “I am right and I am confident I am.” For me this was no more clearly demonstrated in the Christians who declared God had spoken to them to assure them that Trump would be restored to the White House. To date that hasn’t happened, necessitating consideration of two propositions – God was wrong and I was wrong about what God said

When my mother was near death with bowel cancer the church community my parents were associated with was confident God had told it my mother would be cured. She wasn’t, she died. But that church community and my stepfather did not find cause to doubt. Instead, they reaffirmed their sense of certainty. 

Now and then I watch atheists on YouTube who have quit their church because they moved from certainty to doubt and then often into denial. It may be a necessary transition that is reactive and healing for a time. Some become real sceptics. 

My brother, who left the family faith community before our mother’s death became such a sceptic – informed, intelligent, modest, and gentle. 

Scepticism and Quantum science

There’s a good place for certainty in our mundane world. It reliably expresses itself in ways that are predictable and stable. When I get home (I am writing this on my iPhone at my favourite local part on a glorious autumnal morning) my house will be substantially as I left it. I am confident it will not have changed into a boat. 

The boundary between certainty and doubt – confidence and modesty/humility is what we must identify and navigate. 

I can be confident that the creature I am looking at is a dog. I can be less confident that it will behave beyond its inherent doggishness – contingent factors like its life experience will modify behaviour. I may be reasonably confident that all chairs will behave the same way. I’d likely be wrong [some break when sat upon], but it’s a reasonable error. But I can’t reasonably assume all dogs will behave the same way – beyond what makes them a dog. 

We take that sense of uncertainty into an array of activities- driving, swimming at the beach, meeting and relating with other people. Our interaction at our certainty/doubt boundary can impact our safety, well-being, or prosperity. 

Certainty and God

These ideas don’t go together in a healthy way. We may allow that certainty that God exists is reasonable depending on what we mean by the term, but certainty about God’s nature is simply not possible. Some centuries ago, deep thinkers in Judaism, Christianity and Islam concurred on the observation that God is beyond imagination or comprehension. In Rovelli’s terms the creator of a reality that contains a 100 billion galaxies, each with a 100 billion stars cannot be comprehensible to us.

The God of contemporary Christian fundamentalists is, in essence, a fiction – precisely because it is claimed to be knowable. It cannot be other than imaginary. Believers cannot know whether what they believe to be their God is the real thing. It’s an irrational belief rendered unfalsifiable by faith and certainty.

The gods and goddesses of the Greeks were considered capricious agents who bestowed favours and adversity upon humans in random or chaotic ways. These divines might be knowable, but they were also definable as members of a hierarchy. As tools for thinking about our existential condition they provided a more ‘realistic’ picture than a supreme God whose impact upon believers is random, capricious, and unable to be empirically assessed. Worse, he is often wrong or ineffectual. 

Here I am not asserting there is no spiritual intervention in human life – just not at the scale fundamentalists assert. Claiming the supreme creator of all is a personal friend may be comforting but the persistent failure to produce experiential evidence must eventually become dispiriting. This precipitates a certainty/doubt boundary crisis that can trigger a retreat into fantasy.

I have no reason to doubt that gods exist. But that position is based upon an assumption that they do not usually intervene in human affairs at any level that makes such an intervention evident. Prayers to them may or may not be futile, since they are under no obligation to do what is asked of them. Indeed the history of petitioning aid from the divine suggests that is not a rewarding strategy.

Roman Catholics understand this, which is why they seek help from saints and the Virgin Mother. Their humanity may make them more amenable to a human plea – if it is their power. And even so such pleas are often in vain.

The Christian God is as capricious as the Greek gods in that he ignores his followers and benefits unbelievers. Nothing is a more compelling illustration of this than the criteria for sainthood – 2 instances of prayers fulfilled (miracles) with no accounting of those gone unanswered. There could have been 10,000 prayers uttered in futility. Now ‘miraculous’ events do happen. They are bestowed on believers and unbelievers, and upon the upright and the sinner. But there’s a difference between individuals being helped by their own local friendly spirits and the seemingly random and capricious machinations of the supreme creator.

Misattribution of cause is common among monotheists. By collapsing the complex ecology of the metaphysical into a mere handful of [frequently fictional] agents the actual agents are ignored, dismissed, or denied. The certainty of monotheism rules out inquiry, experimentation, and a reliance on empiricism in favour of dogma and faith.

I rule out chance here because I am yet to be convinced that non-ordinary or ‘miraculous’ events randomly occur. It could be so – it’s just not part of my theoretical model.

Chance is at the foundation of quantum reality – but is it deep complexity rather than really random? We cannot know. It looks like chance rather than deep complexity. That’s all we can say. 

Evidence of “God’s hand” as a metaphor is an ample selective fantasy – but non-existent in a literal sense. 

Again, I am not asserting no intervention from the spiritual dimensions – only such is not from God in any direct sense. Evidence of intervention (i.e. not chance) abounds as reportage. We cannot say it is not ordained at an infinitely higher order of intentionality than a local authority. But equally, we cannot say it is with any foundation. We are left with uncertainty.

This leads to the interesting issue of misattribution of cause. If one is fixed on a single metaphysical cause of all non-ordinary events the author must be God.  But a more subtle interpretation may allow a more humble cause – just a local relationship with more immediate spirits.

This is what happens when you take dogmatic napalm to a delicate metaphysical ecology. Our consciousness becomes numb to the abundant life of spirit – hammered as it is between the stupefying impact of monotheism [only one] and atheistic materialism [none]. 

Certainty and the need for denial

Capricious gods don’t lend themselves to certainty. They aren’t empirically testable, therefore. From a human perspective they become a discourse model – a means of thinking about the human experience. That doesn’t make the gods not real – just not provable. This can trigger a larger discussion to be had elsewhere. 

The trouble with certainty and a failure of a god to perform as desired or claimed is that there are only two responses to persistent failure – abandon the god [as many who have become atheists have done] or perform a mind block that doubles down on belief and the assertion of certainty [as happens with ‘true believers’ when their god does deliver]. 

This denial of empiricism is what my brother call thought stopping – usually a well-worn but irrational assertion that affirms the god’s reality despite no evidence. It works like a mantra to stop thinking. It’s also a common device in cults. 

It is accompanied by isolation from challenging ideas. It is not confined to believers as atheists and materialists do the same thing – avoiding and denigrating people who disagree with their stance. Sometimes this is just sensible if the other party is incapable of engaging in reasoned discussion. 

But making enemies of people who disagree with you becomes necessary only when you feel the need to be protected from influences that might challenge your certainty. 

Denial and isolation are the products of certainty. One might also say that this applies to hubris and conceit. 

This is the problem of certain belief – it rules out all other than the predetermined answer. It takes the fluidity of pre-rational awareness and turns it into concrete – fixed and prone to error. It shuts down inquiry and creates a separate fantasy world of imagined and assumed truth. 

Even in the history of science our propensity for certain belief cannot be escaped. Khun’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions affirms this. Despite the bluster of materialistic scientists, scientific progress is not unflawed. It errs with the conceits of certainty from time to time, but, because it is founded on doubt and empiricism, it eventually evolves.

Religions evolve also, but even more slowly because certainty and faith are not conducive to change – or reality. 

Our animistic ancestors were driven by inquiry and empiricism. The dynamics of reality were such that rigidity and fantasy were guarantees of lives ending quickly.

Rovelli says reality is, in essence, a cloud of data points that resolve in certain circumstances into what we experience. This is the illusion of Buddhism – nothing is intrinsically what we experience even though what we experience is very real to us. It is behind the saying “With our minds we create the world.”

The Christian God is a hybrid tribal god and member of a polytheistic pantheon. Like all concepts of the divine it is a means of articulating shared as well as individual existential experience in a relational sense. But this is of value only when it is a humble and fearless engagement.

I think we struggle to interpret ancient texts on gods because we have only our mentality as a means of engaging with and interpreting what we read. The gods of old were part of what we might call a pre-rational way of knowing, born of animistic roots. Our approach to thinking has become more abstract and less relational. It had allowed significant evolution while also leaving huge gaps – as is evidenced by the perilous situation our superior thinking had gotten us into. 

Christianity has not allowed itself to evolve its knowledge to embrace contemporary rational scientific understandings. This is paradoxical in one sense – the Christian core is values-based and insight driven. As such it should be highly adaptive to evolving knowledge. The other element – the Old Testament tribal god side is a cultural narrative that really does not apply to the contemporary world. It offered certainty to a people in an uncertain world. We need certainty – but of what kind? God’s are not a good source.

So, if the cultural narrative is of paramount concern – identity, community, history – certainty becomes crucial for authority and community structure. 

As a result, fundamentalist religion resists change, resists contemporary knowledge and forces a distinction between the community of the faithful and others – whether other religious or non-believers. 

The moral principles of foundational Christian thought have seeped into our culture as moral values but without creed or dogma. They are not God caused, and at best, all religion can do is communicate them according to its form.


Despite appearances I am not unsympathetic to religions. Many adhere to a faith tradition while being open to inquiry. Early modern European scientists were religious, sometimes deeply so. Atheism and materialism were thoroughly understandable responses to religious dogma – but so was a more reflective and mystical approach. In fact, the fundamental distinction is not reason versus faith but doubt versus certainty – regardless of the area of focus. Newton’s interest in the mystical and metaphysical did not impede his scientific inquiry. That reality was denied by ‘science’ until relatively recently – dismissed as an embarrassing eccentricity. It reminds us that being rational does not mean you are flexible. Devotees of science can be dogmatic and locked in certainty too.

Human reality spans the physical and the metaphysical. We are not animals having spiritual experiences but spirits having ‘animal’ experiences. We function in both domains. Our spiritual consciousness experiences physical reality via our physical bodies. Our being in this world is via organic sensory and instinctive experiences. It is a world in which some certainties exist and exert essential influence upon our wellbeing. 

Contra the materialist assertion that consciousness is generated by the brain [a understandable misunderstanding] it is at least heavily moderated by both brain and heart. This argument is generally pretty pointless without empirical evidence of human consciousness independent of the body. Such evidence is abundant, but not available to dogmatic denial and rigid certainty that the metaphysical is a fiction.

Here we see a similarity between devotees of science and religion who adopt an assertion of confident dogmatism.

Belief in advance of empirical and experiential confirmation is universally necessary. Faith in what we are taught is necessary, for without it we can learn nothing. Even those who are sceptics from birth must still accept knowledge on authority until they can test its merits.

Imagine there is a spectrum with pure scepticism [doubt] at one pole and pure certainty [belief] at the other. We all dwell somewhere within the range of the two extremes. No point on the spectrum is inherently virtuous – but many will be contextually so.

I recently finished Peter Frankopan’s The Earth Transformed. It’s an extraordinary survey of human interaction with our planet’s primary expression of natural energies – weather – whether part of natural cycles, the consequence of volcanic activity or celestial activity. And, of course, the impact of human activity. All these factors interact.

Frankopan is an historian, so human activity is his primary focus. Human judgement blends belief and knowledge – and it is astonishing how often belief trumps knowledge. Our destiny depends on how we engage with our environment – physical and metaphysical – the material and the spiritual. 

Our ancestors developed an intelligent and sensitive means to engage with the human relationship with the reality that holds it. Before the evolution of abstract thought their awareness was framed by a relational sense of reality, expressed in what we now call animistic terms – something we have denigrated and misunderstood in the cloud of hubris generated by intellectual pride.

With our minds we create the world. With our beliefs we create the conditions for good or wise choices, the conditions that foster generosity of spirit or that magnify the mean grasp of selfishness. These beliefs can turn a god into an ineffectual blowhard whispering into the ears of the deluded and the predatory. They can distort the sublime message of a transformational teacher into a confused divisive fantasy. Rather than uniting they divide, rather than foster inclusion they foster alienation. Rather than the gentle modesty of doubt they stimulate self-defensive pride of certainty.

We all live on that spectrum that has a certainty/uncertainty boundary. We err on the side of certainty as a rule. That’s fine. It’s a feature not a bug. Mostly it serves us well, but when that certainty is violated, we are faced with the choice of changing or resisting. And we so often resist when we should change. 

But some things are ill-suited to certainty. The gods especially so. They represent the very large forces in our lives. They are not a source of certainty at a personal level. It is perilous to imagine they are. 

We have lost any useful perspective that can help us engage with ideas of the divine in the context of contemporary knowledge. Leading edge scientific insight renders the crasser ideas of materialism impotent and useless for any purpose beyond egotism. Far from delivering certainty we are confronted with a dizzying array of novel insights that can seem more like metaphysics than science.

Our ancestors employed psycho-physical disciplines to explore existential questions – the meaning of life and all that jazz. These days bona fide mystics and scientists are chasing the same mystery using different language and methods. But we must remember that they have never been opponents, and are frequently allies.

The model of belief that blights our culture is a reactive change-resistant one crafted by two parties for their own purposes – and they are inimical to ours. The science v religion drama is concocted by theists and atheists as part of a bad faith performance we must not be tempted to treat as meaningful.

Over the past 1500 odd years certainty has been valourised at the level of popular awareness. Doubt has been characterised as weakness. There is little doubt that religion is no longer required [if it ever was] for moral values to be developed and esteemed. Indeed, in the USA, conservatives with strong religious convictions seem more disposed toward immoral conduct and predation upon the vulnerable than those they oppose. The celebration of Donald Trump as a new messiah makes that painfully evident.

If we see our reality as simple, certainty can be attractive. But if we understand it as complex, doubt is an essential tool for engaging with it. Certainty creates illusions. Doubt dissolves them.

It was the Belgian priest, Georges Lemaître, who developed the Big Bang Theory, proving Einstein wrong. Einstein was certain in his opposition Lemaître’s theory. And yet a religious man, who would offend the materialist scientist, and Professor for Public Understanding of Science [1995 – 2008], Richard Dawkins, demonstrated that he held doubt in gentle hands. Dawkins has expressed the view that you can’t do good science if you are religious. 

For different reasons Einstein and Dawkins, two singular names in science, chose certainty over doubt, despite their much-vaunted intellects. They remind us that its not about how smart we are, but whether we have the humility to be uncertain, to doubt, and to be open the soft voice of the divine.

A reflection on Ancient Apocalypse


In May 1997 I moved into a house on the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania. I had gotten a job as the Community Recovery Officer, a role created in response to the Port Arthur shootings the year before. The house was isolated in bushland.

One night, soon after I moved in, I went to bed and was unable to sleep. I lay in bed in a dark room with eyes closed for over 4 hours. Around 2.00am I heard a car approaching. It was my brother arriving very late from Hobart. I got up to go downstairs to turn the outside light on. What happened next stunned me.

I looked out the window and saw a night sky awash with light, but there was no moon. The intensity of starlight was so intense my eyes reacted. Instead of darkness filling the background it was light of varying intensity – from a soft glow to strong patches. The most compelling memory was however the sense of proximity of the presence of stars and light. It was so close I felt almost oppressed, and distinctly uncomfortable. Despite my awe I had to get downstairs, and I felt relieved to go.

I grew up in the country and was walking in wilderness since I was 15. Laying back and looking at the night sky, campfire nearby, was a common experience. but we always had light – the fires or torches. This was the first time my eyes had been fully deconditioned.

The struggle with perspective

Since then, I have seen images of the night sky that have been impressive, but they have not replicated my experience.

All this matters, I believe, because we look back on our ancestors with our eyes. Graham Hancock noted, in Ancient Apocalypse, that our ancestors were pre-occupied with the sky. In the context of a post-apocalypse hyper vigilance, that makes sense. But I wonder what weight that anxiety should be given, relative to other motives.

My experience forced me to think of the night sky not as a deeply distant place, but an immanent place – close but just out of reach. It was also a place that had regular and erratic movement. So, like any part of the human environment it should be observed to be understood, risks assessed, and opportunities weighed.

It made sense, then, that climbing a mountain might get you closer – higher was nearer. 

I recently bought Richard Carrier’s Jesus from Outer Space. Carrier has a doctorate in ancient history. I came across his work in David Fitzgerald’s Jesus Mything in Action where there was a discussion about the idea that earlier than 2,000 years ago folk thought heaven was a material place, and gods were actual ‘people’ with bodies and appetites. Hence the resurrection of Jesus in the flesh made more sense to folks than the idea of a spiritual body.

Our minds are schooled by light years and light pollution makes the heaven seem sparsely populated. Remoteness, vastly distanced, is our measure.

We can assume our ancestors were stupid and ignorant or allow that their sense of what was was fairly and reasonable formed. We can think they were thinking literally in the way we mean that word, or we can allow that myth and metaphor served a purpose.

Because of how we think now, we cannot understand how our ancestors thought – and a good measure of modesty is in order if we want to be fair.

Our animist foundations

My main interest is in animism – a once apparently global way of knowing. My awareness of animism is conditioned by modern thought, so it is unlike how a native animist understands things – more so if they are free from any modern thought as well.

Human child development includes an ‘animistic’ stage out of which we develop into proper rational and abstract thought. But what if such ‘development’ was not always as harsh as now? I see relational modes of awareness (myth, metaphor, symbol) as different from the kind of abstract rational mode we have come to champion, not entirely a precursor or primitive mode. It could be that advancing abstract rational thought is an evolutionary development that should embrace its foundational modes – not denigrate and reject them. It something we are not doing well, if at all. Maybe the healthy evolution is toward a holistic way of knowing?

I came to animism after my night sky experience, so I have been trying to develop a sense of relational engagement with the night sky – the sky generally in fact. ‘Night and day’ has a yin/yang sense to it. The Egyptian goddess Nuit makes more sense this way.

The Celtic symbol, the Awen, expresses the solar positions on the horizon at the solstices and the equinoxes. The night sky, being more complex, is symbolised in astrology. The relationship between the complexity of night and simplicity of day seems to be incorporated into monumental structures around the world.

Earth and sky have their mutual complexities. The complexities of Earth are stimulated from the complexities of sky. There is a moral dimension in ancient thought that suggests there is also a reciprocity – a balance to be kept.

What was that way of knowing?

We are disposed to see the monumental works of our ancient past as products of a now past present without grasping the precursor conditions – which demand a far more complex and sophisticated culture. The idea of a ‘lost civilization’ makes so much sense. But we then must ask how this civilization thought. Was it a holistic culture which developed thought and technologies that evolved in high complex forms very different from our own?

If our science and technology retained a grounding in myth, metaphor, and symbolism (a presumption of relatedness) from the outset they may not have developed the toxic processes that now beset us.

We are locked into assuming that high intelligence is exclusively expressed by abstract rational thought alone. That means that generating toxic consequences is an inherent feature of intelligence – and that doesn’t seem to be a sensible thing to think.

One thing that struck me more than anything else about the Ancient Apocalypse series was the sense of urgency to construct these monumental structures (they are all dated around the same time) – to restore a capacity to connect with the sky? The effort that went into them was extraordinary. The perceived need was powerful – maybe to scan for more danger and to plug back into a sustaining way of knowing.

Operating complex systems of knowing that involve building and maintaining massive structures takes people and time. It seems to me that the agents to drove the making of these structures were restoring, not inventing, and so also restored agriculture – a necessity when many people stay in the same place for a long time.

I think the lost civilization hypothesis is sound. It fits the facts and offers sense to things that seem otherwise odd. It certainly changes the narrative line of history that our culture tells itself – and aligns more with myth – as it should.


Graham spoke of what the users of Gobekli Tepe intended when they buried the site – to preserve it for future generations? Did they sense a need to do so, and why? To memorialise what had happened or as a signal to take care, lest it happen again?

This is from 14 February 1979. I recorded a session with a discarnate agent who spoke through a close friend. Here is part of the transcript. The voice was not always clear. The difficulty is that man this time is not evenly evolved but is made up of many groups from past civilizations all incapable of cohesive action. The cataclysms will be in the earth system (time not clear) If the spiritual level of mankind does not raise itself dramatically within (time not clear) all things which are at present useful and beautiful will be taken away.

As with all such things, do be careful in how you assess them. I include this because of two ideas that link to the theme of Ancient Apocalypse.

The first is that humanity is not evenly evolved – something that seems to have been the case a long time ago as well. In our language ‘advanced’ and ‘primitive’ people share the same landscape. But who is who? That may depend on what we measure.

The second is that our future depends upon our “spiritual level”. That theme was present in the flood myth accounts.

The theme of harmony between Heaven and Earth is persistent. My sense is that restoring harmony was a task the post-apocalyptic flood heroes took on for themselves -to go out and build new centres of connection with Heaven and get things back to some kind of order.

Whether you believe this was a meaningful act or not it does seem true that our civilization is built upon that foundation. We are heirs of a restoration effort, but we may also be heirs to a collective existential trauma. Those who have been raised influenced by the Jewish tradition have two traumatic acts at the foundation of our spiritual thought – an expulsion from paradise by a God whose later genocidal intent was to drown our ancestors. 

What has been passed down to us is the need to be redeemed from an inherited sin. Our culture carries the residue of an ancient trauma that injures our relational capacity to this day.

In an animistic consciousness reciprocity between humanity and Heaven is a reality. This idea is present in our religion traditions, though expressed in ways that often make the idea rationally offensive. It is a deeper and far more subtle way of thinking, but you can’t explore it and keep your materialistic inclinations. It is a deep relational, not a wholly rational, way of knowing. 


As climate change continues to force us to accept that our world is changing in ways that are increasingly detrimental to our collective interests it may be a good time for a collective re-assessment of the post-apocalyptic structures in terms of their intent and the motives behind their construction.

The idea that we are the highest manifestation of humanity is alluring, save that it may be unbalanced. After centuries of championing reason and science we have come up the idea of the ‘mad scientist’ who wants to take over or destroy the world. That is our worst nightmare of Enlightenment thinking.

But we know now that expressing ‘advanced attributes’ of humanity includes emotional and spiritual attributes as well as cognitive prowess. By spiritual I mean that capacity for holistic and integrative awareness, not religious or metaphysical thought or belief – though it could be also expressed in those ways. It can be expressed in scientific terms with a little help from our mythic, metaphoric, and symbolic mind elements – if we allow them.

Animism at its foundation, is a relational way of knowing. Studies on trauma show that this way of knowing is deeply injured through traumatic events. The idea of moral reciprocity requires a balance that demands a mature sense of realism, not a romantic religious sentiment or a disconnected objectivity – both injured states.

Around the world indigenous people have been traumatised when they are invaded, subjugated, and abused by modern thought. In western civilisation, our capacity for relational ways of knowing – amongst our own, between others and with the non-human – is impaired, sometimes gravely so.

Where to from here?

Note: Ancient Apocalypse is an 8-part series only on Netflix. It is one of Netflix’s highest rated shows ever.