In 1990 I went along to a New-Age weekly discussion group as I was engaged in an exploration of what might be called "spiritual" matters; not religious, but simply getting a handle on what might be regarded as transcendental experiences such as extrasensory perception (ESP), precognition and such-like matters. At this time I was 54 years old.
In my late teens I had engaged in a successful exploration of hypnosis after a visit to Melbourne by a stage hypnotist called Franquin. I went to his show, and was intrigued by what I saw. I, myself, turned out to be a poor subject, but my attempts were successful, and I had many interesting experiences with my friends, some of whom turned out to be good subjects. That, combined with my immersion in fundamentalist Christianity in my early teens, intrigued me, so upon retirement I resolved to explore matters further.
I wrote this essay to express the feelings I was having at that time; feelings quite common for those engaging in these explorations, and characteristic of the New-Age practices. It represents what are sometimes called an "oceanic" feeling, or "peak experiences", as described by the psychologist Abraham Maslow. Although it sounds like a religious experience, it is somewhat different. These days I call myself an atheist or rationalist, and regard my experiences as formative, but ultimately misleading. Notwithstanding that, this time was very intense for me.
Eight weeks ago, I came here to be with other souls who might be on the same journey as myself. A solitary journey of which I have been conscious only in the last six years ago, but which I now know is eternal. For this "I" is this instant just being Bill Leithhead, in this particular universe, right now. For there is only "now"; memory of pasts, and hopes and fears for futures are all only ever experienced right now. NOW!
The journey is an illusion - a grand, marvellous one, for all that. My brain likes to make patterns out of my senses and my feelings; the illusion of "time" as a continuous ribbon is one of these. At each instant, the God-that-I-am is choosing from an infinity of futures. There is the glimmering of knowledge that perhaps I can be more conscious of this continuous of this particular choosing - that perhaps I may exercise my will to choose the path which could lead to a fuller knowledge of whom I really am; a path which includes more joy and more love, even amidst uncertainty, anxiety and pain.
My path has been solely through my own thoughts, my own feelings, and through the writings of others - all sorts of others. Novelists, psychologists, "religionists", scientists, poets and humourists - all supply pieces for the jigsaw puzzle of my truth; a truth-jigsaw in which the picture is always changing a bit, so that pieces that seemed to fit nicely and neatly in the past, I find have changed again when I look back. For I am the one changing the pieces, the picture - and I myself am also part of the picture! For two months, here, on Tuesday nights, I have been collecting more pieces of my truth-puzzle. no doubt they, too, will change; the picture grows larger and more complete. Will it ever be COMPLETE?
In this room I meet people who seem warm and generous; people who seem quiet and shy; people who seem complex; people who are old hands in this journey, and people who are just starting off. In a sense, you are all me, and I am you. I do not meet people who are guru-driven, people who are fanatics, or people who are crazy. If I had, I would not be here still!
On Tuesday night I share in earnest seeking for my truth, your truth. I share in good solid intellectual worrying away at concepts (like a dog with a bone); at other times my spirit sings and flies with realizations of cosmic scope. And all this soul food seriousness is lightly leavened with a sense of humour - thank God!
I leave with a quiet feeling of lovingness and joyfulness, both received from others here, and from myself towards others.
ABOVE ALL, THERE IS A POWERFUL, POWERFUL SENSE OF RIGHTNESS FOR ME AT THIS TIME.
Given my life-long cultivated habits of objectivity, skepticism, and even cynicism, this all tends to come as a great surprise!