This, of course, was about the same time that the Beatles were in
the news for their visit to India to meet the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
I suppose it was the star power of the Beatles and their
widely-discussed Magical Mystery Tour that made
interest in Eastern religion ultra-cool back in 1969.
During the lecture, I
had observed my particular yogi with great interest. Naturally
I wanted to know if he was the real deal or not. He had long
grey hair and was heavily bearded. His demeanor was quiet,
gentle, and soft-spoken. One thing that impressed me was that
he never asked for money. This did not strike me as a sham.
His message was very simple - through meditation, one can find
enlightenment. Considering what a mess I was at this time of
my life, I was looking for enlightenment any place I could find it.
So this explains why I showed up at the hotel later on.
There was a group of
about twenty people who followed the yogi and his assistant to the
hotel across the street. We all sat in the front room of a
two-room suite. The yogi was in the far room, but we never saw
him. Instead his pretty assistant ushered people one at a time
into the back room. Each initiation seemed to last about ten
minutes or so.
While we waited, the
yogi's pretty assistant held court. She was extremely
well-spoken. Her poise and warmth were without a doubt the
most persuasive part of this unusual evening. I had never seen
anyone so happy in all my life. The assistant was from
the city of New York. I suppose she could be called a 'disciple'.
She wasn't much older than me. Considering how rarely I saw a
woman my age on campus here at my men's school, much less one this
pretty, I was understandably drawn to the young lady. I had
come to this initiation as much to see more of her as to meet the
yogi. Thank goodness, she smiled and laughed as she answered
my questions. What a charming girl. Of course I was
love. Considering my acute loneliness, how could I not be?
Finally it was my turn.
The young lady brought me into a darkened room lit only by a single
candlelight. The yogi sat in the lotus position on a straw
mat. He silently gestured to a mat opposite him. I sat
down and crossed my legs as best I could. We were four feet
apart with only the small candle between us. I was very
surprised that the yogi said nothing. His only words were to
close my eyes. I began to feel light-headed, even dizzy.
I had the distinct impression the man was probing my mind.
Curious, I visualized a question mark in my mind.
At that exact moment,
the yogi laughed. Coincidence? I don't think so.
After five minutes, he
smiled again. He told me to repeat the sacred words 'Om
Kriya Babaji Nama Aum' out loud several times. When I got
it right, he smiled and nodded. He said for me to close my
eyes and meditate for 15 minutes every day, repeating those words
over and over.
Then he rose to escort
me to the door. However, before he opened the door, he touched
me on the shoulder to ask me a question.
"Where are you
He laughed again.
"Ah, I see."
What was that supposed
to mean? But I was too timid to ask.
And with that, the man
smiled again and opened the door. I was bewildered. I
had absolutely no idea what had just taken place. However, the
man had impressed me as sincere. If there was any fakery
involved, I doubted it seriously.
From that point I began
to meditate daily, a practice I continued for the next three years.
Sorry to say, I have nothing to report from the experience.
Not once did anything out of the ordinary take place. If
something happened in recesses of my mind, I was certainly unaware
However, three weeks
after the yogi's visit, something extremely out of the ordinary did
take place. That Sunday morning, one of the members of the
Quaker Meeting invited me to
return that same night to hear a lecture. The talk was
being given by a local
artist named Bob
The Quaker man
described Hieronimus as an expert on the occult and added this was
the most interesting speaker he had ever met. That was good
enough for me, so I returned later on.
surprise, that night I discovered Bob Hieronimus was the man
who had painted that unusual mural in the Hopkins coffee house where
the yogi had spoken.
During his talk, he pulled out pictures of some of his
artwork. I was very surprised when Hieronimus showed a picture
of his mural titled Apocalypse
Levering Hall on campus. Now that was an odd
coincidence as well.
explained that his
mural was full of all sorts of weird occult symbolism.
None of it made a bit of sense to me, but I was definitely
pleased to discover tonight's
lecturer was the same man who painted the mural. Maybe
now I would learn what
that weird painting was supposed to depict.
Hieronymus Bosch was
the name of a 16th century painter in the Netherlands known
for his fantastic imagery, especially his macabre and nightmarish
depictions of Hell. His most famous work was The Garden
of Earthly Delights.
speaker shared the same unusual name and they were both known for weird
artwork, I assumed Bob Hieronimus had adopted his unusual name
from the Dutch painter. Apparently not. That said, the
modern Hieronimus was every bit the mystic of his predecessor.
Hieronimus spoke a
little about himself. He said he had virtually no training in
artwork. For the past couple years, he had been designing
posters and album covers for Elektra recording artists such as Jimi
Hendrix, Janis Joplin, as well as for Jim Morrison and the Doors.
The moment Hieronimus casually mentioned he had shared his esoteric
ideas with Jim Morrison, I sat up in my seat. Considering Jim
Morrison with his bizarre lyrics was my idol, I viewed Hieronimus
with added appreciation.
Bob Hieronimus spoke to us on the Eastern concepts of
reincarnation and karma. Then he moved on to Atlantis, the Great
Pyramid, the Great Seal, the secret destiny of America, spacemen, UFOs and astrology.
Welcome to the world of the Occult.
when Hieronimus discussed reincarnation,
that each soul lives many lives.
Christianity proposes a one and done chance at Heaven. Why
do people on earth think they can attain salvation in one life
time? If that's the case, then you and I know a lot of
people who have already blown their only chance.
Tough luck for them,
I know, I know, the
Bible doesn't mention reincarnation. Take a guess how many
times the Bible has been rewritten or reinterpreted?
Everyone knows that
in education, if you fail a course, you are given the chance to
try again. It makes perfect sense that an All-Knowing God
would give us each a chance to try as many times as necessary to
get it right.
As we return to
earth again and again to complete our purification, we face
obstacles which we must overcome. If we do not overcome
these hardships, we do not grow. Through many lifetimes,
we eventually will learn the lessons that will one day make
further incarnations unnecessary."
As Bob Hieronimus spoke
of karma, reincarnation and the possibility of a hidden world beyond our
senses, his lecture reminded me of the crazy things I had once read in
book about Edgar Cayce, the American mystic. Like Hieronimus, Cayce claimed there was
much more to this world
than meets the eye.
Bob Hieronimus was a
charismatic speaker. I was fascinated by everything Hieronimus
talked about. I wasn't the only one. Everyone in the
room was on the edge of their seat. It was obvious that
many of the people in attendance were interested in the occult. When he finished,
I decided I wanted to learn more. Hieronimus had suggested a
local bookstore, so I made a note to visit.
THE HIDDEN WORLD
The morning after that lecture, I found
the occult book store near campus and began to read...
and read... and read.
From the second
half of my Sophomore year till the end of my Junior year, I would
spend a year and a half reflecting on the mysteries of life. I
referred to this period of my life as my Magical Mystery Tour, a name
from the title of a current Beatles album.
I decided to start with
Edgar Cayce. When I turned 18, Dad gave me a book
for Christmas titled The Sleeping Prophet by Jess Stearns. Dad said he had just finished reading the book himself and
now he wanted me to read it too. The book was about Edgar Cayce, a
clairvoyant from Virginia who died in 1945. The book
told of Cayce's amazing ability to use his psychic gifts to cure people of diseases and physical problems which
baffled conventional physicians.
Cayce became a resource
people used when they had exhausted all other medical avenues. Cayce
would go into a trance and prescribe bizarre remedies. To the
astonishment of many, the remedies worked. Naturally people
wanted to know where Cayce had come up with his strange ideas. After all,
there was no logical explanation on how Cayce, an uneducated man, was
able to come up with these unconventional, off-the-wall medical cures.
So one day while he was still in his trance, they asked him to
explain. While he was asleep, Cayce replied that he was able to tap into some
sort of Universal knowledge.
In 1923, during one his
trances, Edgar Cayce began to speak of the previous incarnation of
his current guest and how that previous life affected the man's medical
condition in the current
life. When he
awoke, Cayce was just as shocked at what he had said as the people who
had been monitoring him. His Protestant Christian upbringing
had never exposed him to the possibility of reincarnation. Cayce
was just as baffled at this new concept as the people who had heard
him speak during the trance.
This was just the start. Over
the years, Cayce would go on to speak in trance of past lives in
nearly 2,000 Life Readings. Since they kept a written record of every word
spoken in every trance,
whatever Cayce said was put in a library for anyone to read.
His amazing stories
spawned an entire series of books on reincarnation, several of which
I read personally. I was
clearly hooked on the story of Cayce's amazing life.
Interesting reading, yes, but were these
unusual life histories
Well, I had no way to
verify these tales.
I was certainly open to the idea of reincarnation, but that didn't
What persuaded me the most was the
sterling reputation of Edgar Cayce. Not only was I strongly
convinced that Cayce had profound psychic abilities, I was impressed
by his character. Cayce was a humble man who spent his
entire life attempting to help people.
Considering his library contained 14,000 documented readings, if
this man was a hoax, he sure had me fooled... and a lot of other people
After finishing the
books about Cayce, I wasn't ready to stop. Now I moved on to other topics. Astrology. ESP.
Carl Jung and Synchronicity. Course in Miracles. The Rosicrucian
Cosmo-Conception... any book I could get my hands on.
What crossed my mind a
thousand times is
that I had no way to prove any of these. I can be just as skeptical
as I can be open-minded. I hate taking other people's word on
things that cannot be verified. Since I was not the kind
of person to accept anything on "Faith", I hoped very much to find a
firm reason to believe in the existence of God. Although I
never found the absolute "proof" I was looking for, one book
made a profound impression on me.
The book's name was
Autobiography of a Yogi.
unusual experience I had my own yogi about a month earlier,
I did not hesitate to purchase this book. I soon
learned the book was written in
1946 by Paramahansa
Yogananda, a yogi who had come from India to California to spread
quickly discovered why this book is regarded as a
spiritual classic. Yogananda described a universe that I found
very intriguing. Not only did the yogi discuss a hidden
world that exists beyond the realm of human sight, the book
stated the twin concepts of karma and reincarnation were fact, not
fiction. The writer then carefully explained how these concepts operated in
Karma is the law of
moral causation, an eastern variation of the Christian idea that 'as ye sow, so
shall ye reap'. Thanks to the law of cause and effect, whatever
one does has consequences, be it in this lifetime or the next
The concept of Karma implies that each life has a Destiny and that
certain things are "fated" to happen whether we like it or
not. The only choice we have in the matter is our attitude and
how we decide to react.
Due to my St. John's
background, I was taught to question everything. My
Quaker background also taught me to question everything. That
included religion. I
found that I was unwilling to accept any Christian tenet
strictly on faith.
I don't mean to offend
anyone, but intellectually, I found certain elements of Christianity
tough to accept.
My biggest problem with Christianity lay in the obvious unfairness
of the system.
Every fiber of my being
is attuned to the concept of fairness and justice. I find
myself incapable of believing in a God who isn't just.
Theoretically, if one lives a good life, one goes to Heaven.
I would be okay with that if anyone was given the same starting
point in life, but we all know that is not the way it is.
Some children are born into good homes
with loving parents while others are born into wretched poverty.
One child is taught to love while another child is taught how to steal.
Why should one child be blessed while another be cursed from birth?
Why would a fair and just God set up a one-life system where one child has a huge advantage
Due to the problems of
my own childhood, I knew I had grown up crooked and twisted while my esteemed classmates grew up in lap of luxury.
Not only did they have a head start on me in life, perhaps their
upbringing included the finest churches and the finest Christian training
to give them
a head start on Heaven as well. Perhaps they were
taught the value of benevolence and good works while other children
like me who were knocked around grew up selfish, untrusting and unforgiving.
Or worse, what about the
children whose lives were so preoccupied with hunger that learning
effective ways to steal food was far more valuable than religious
training? According the Christian system, these thieves were
headed straight to the Hothouse, not to some happy paradise in the
For me to
believe in God, I needed to believe in a God who is both loving and fair to all His children. I wanted to believe in a
God who created a level playing field.
It made no sense to me that God would play favorites, blessing some,
Nietzsche once said
anyone who believes in a Loving God should first
visit an insane asylum or a war hospital. Once someone
witnessed the intensity of
human suffering, they would no doubt begin to question God's
love and sense of fairness.
On the other hand, the twin concepts
of Karma and Reincarnation as described by Yogananda satisfied my sense of justice. In
this system, nothing happens to a person that he does not deserve for some
reason. As Yogananda explained it, the suffering in this lifetime might be the result of
a misdeed in a previous lifetime. Considering Edgar Cayce had
said the same thing, I paid close attention.
Cayce and Yogananda agreed that whatever happens to us in this
lifetime is the
result of our own past actions. I am responsible for my own
happiness and misery. I am the architect of my own fate not
only in this lifetime, but in lifetimes to come. However, due
to deeds done in previous lifetimes, there would be incidents in
this lifetime I would have to endure. Everyone has to pay their
debts. So in this sense, certain "Karmic" things will happen to
me whether I like it or not.
While I wasn't
particularly happy about losing an eye or being disfigured by acne,
I found myself willing to accept these principles. I
most definitely wanted these ideas to be true.
skeptical side reminded me that just because I
hoped these ideas were true
didn't necessarily mean they were true. Although the
stories told by Yogananda
had a convincing ring of sincerity, I was not prepared to accept
the words of a total stranger as conclusive proof. I had previously
reached a similar conclusion with Edgar Cayce. Words in a book
prove nothing. I required something I could see or sense with
my own awareness.
So my next step was to look for evidence of
Yogananda's unseen world.
Easier said than done.
Considering I possessed not an
ounce of psychic ability... no ESP, no premonitions, no visions, no dreams
predicting the future... I had no physical way to pull aside the veils that
were said to
conceal the Unseen world from the Material world.
No one said probing the
mysteries of the Universe would be easy.
As I examined my
life, the only thing out of the ordinary that I could put my finger
on were the various coincidences.
My memory instantly returned to my remarkable visit with Mrs. Ballantyne in the
parking lot during my Senior year. Not only had this woman's
appearance defied all laws of probability, I likened her intervention
in my life to that of a last-minute rescue.
Ballantyne appeared out of nowhere, I was reeling. Out
of control, who can say what crazy thing I might have done
our long talk, I regained complete control. Mrs.
Ballantyne had inspired an optimism that things would work out. Within two weeks after that chance meeting, out
of the blue I
was suddenly handed a full scholarship to college.
Ballantyne's visit a
Miracle? How should I know? All I can say was
that her visit felt like a miracle to me. If I had to pick one
person on earth to pull me out of my tailspin, I would have chosen
Mrs. Ballantyne. And there she was, right before my eyes, more
than willing to give a boy who was a total stranger a half hour of her
Therefore Exhibit One
in the possible existence of an Unseen World would have to be that improbable grocery store meeting.
I wondered if it was possible that some Guardian Angel
had brought Mrs. Ballantyne to my side that afternoon.
Then I recalled
two close brushes with death.
Exhibit Two came
when I was 6. A stock
car crashed through a fence and barely missed killing my father
and I. If it hadn't been for a strange thought that popped
into my mind and caused me to hesitate, my father and I would have
been right in the path of the flying vehicle.
came when I was 18. I
barely missed being crushed to death when my car spun out of control
on the final day of my St. John's career. What was strange in
this situation was the complete lack of traffic.
Ordinarily Westheimer was one of the busiest streets in the city,
especially at lunch hour. However, that day I was trailed by one single vehicle that was just
barely able to stop in time. Where was the traffic? Luck? Of course it was
But then what is "Luck"?
What do we really know about "Luck"? What if there is such a
thing as a guardian angel? The concept of a
guardian angel assigned to protect and guide a particular
person can be traced throughout antiquity.
If someone is
willing to accept the existence of God,
then why stop there? Why not go one
step further and consider an idea as far-fetched as a
Guardian Angel? Why not speculate on the idea that Angels are used to operate
the unseen pulleys and strings of Karma?
Pietro da Cortona, 1656
I have chronicled other
coincidences besides Mrs. Ballantyne's appearance and cheating death.
Exhibit Four came the day
I was caught cheating on a German test.
A young man appeared out of nowhere to catch me opening a textbook.
He had at most a three minute window, but due to perfect timing,
there he was.
I am going to say this again... that young man had no business being
in that room. That room was in the farthest corner of the
school. He had to make a special trip to come look for a
missing book. Had he knocked, I would have closed my book.
Instead because he thought the room was empty, he came barging in the room at the
perfect moment to catch me
red-handed. I was beyond incredulous.
Exhibit Five came the
morning I spotted Emily getting out of the cab with Eric.
I was in that train station for two minutes, but due to perfect
timing, I arrived just in time to see my girlfriend full of excitement over her weekend adventure
with this handsome young man.
How hard would it be for
some Angel to suggest to the boy in my dorm that Rick Archer had a car
and might be willing get him out of a jam? For that matter,
did some Angel whisper to Mrs. Ballantyne as she was driving home
one afternoon that the grocery store on her left would be a convenient place to do
her weekly grocery shopping?
Exhibit Six is the moment in my
life when I was aggravated to my wit's end over my losing streak at
chess to a man I despised. Out of nowhere, a book on chess
appeared at the bottom of a box. That book solved my
problem. The timing was critical.
Exhibit Seven was the time I
got my job at the grocery store by being in the right place at the
right time. The manager was short-handed for a huge strawberry
sale the next morning and noticed me standing in the checkout line
with my mother. He hired me on the spot. That
"lucky break" turned into a job that literally changed the course of
The ancient Greeks had
no problem explaining coincidences. In their world, the Greek
Gods interfered with the lives of men and women all the time.
When I was a young boy reading the Iliad, it made
perfect sense that a poisoned arrow from the bow of Paris could
travel 100 yards and strike the great warrior Achilles in his heel,
the only vulnerable spot. After all, the Greek God Apollo had guided
Exhibit Eight came the
day I was pursuing my
long-cherished dream of playing basketball for my school.
Suddenly the basketball struck me on the acne-covered blind side of my face
caused me untold agony. That moment effectively ended all my
dreams of playing basketball for my school.
Indeed, I would never
play basketball for my school, something I have regretted my entire
life. That peculiar glancing blow changed the entire direction
of my high school career. It cost me my last chance to become
an active member of the student body.
The uncanny accuracy of
that blow bothered me no end. At the time, I felt like this
was a deliberate mishap of some sort. I couldn't help but
wonder if Apollo had it in for me too.
Of course since modern
man is so much more advanced than the Greeks, most people would say
it was a freak accident and dismiss it. And yet in all my
years of playing basketball, I would never again be hit in that same
spot again despite my blind eye.
The timing was critical.
It sent me reeling into an isolation at my school from which I would
never return. At the time, I wondered if this accident was
"meant to be". Was it my Fate to be prevented from the one
activity that might bring me some recognition?
We are amused by the
ancient Greeks and their morbid preoccupation with the Gods of Olympus.
Every myth talks about how
the Gods interfered in the lives of mortals all the time. To the
Greeks, Fate and Destiny were accepted concepts. Clotho,
Lachesis and Atropos were known as "The Fates", three old women who
controlled the thread of life of every mortal from birth to death.
We all know that
Mythology was the Greek method of explaining events over which the
frightened people had no control.
So how does one explain
the origin of the Trojan War, one of the greatest war sagas of all
time? Blame it on the Gods!! According to Homer and his
Iliad, the Trojan War was
launched by a beauty contest between three Goddesses who asked Paris
to pick the prettiest. Aphrodite, the winner, gave Helen of
Troy to Paris as a reward for picking her. Athena and Hera
started a war to teach Paris a lesson.
On one level, we laugh at the improbable events of the Trojan
War and the ensuing Odyssey as the entertaining product of Homer's
fertile imagination. But what if the Greeks
were on to something? Maybe they were right about Fate.
actual control do we have over our
lives? We all know our lives could change in the blink of an
eyelash. A drunk driver here, a bolt of lightning there.
It has been over 2,000
years since the Trojan War, yet when strange things happen, we
cannot help but wonder if this accident had our name on it.
The English language is replete with phrases that reflect the same
helplessness the Greeks must have felt.
"His time was up."
"God's will." "It was meant to be." "A fateful event."
"There are no accidents." "It was in the stars."
I contend that deep
down, most of us suspect we are at the mercy of powers greater than
Could it be that we all have a Destiny? What if there is
reincarnation? What is so bad about reincarnation? What if each incarnation is meant to be a
new series of opportunities to learn lessons, acquire
new abilities, develop our consciousness and learn to help others?
Please be aware I do not
present these ideas as "Fact". These ideas are merely my fanciful imagination at work, not something I have
knowledge on. I am not a psychic, I am not a prophet, I am not
"enlightened" in any way. I am merely a flesh and blood guy
like everyone else. What I will say is that I have given the
subject of Destiny a lot of thought.
Based on a lifetime of
observation, I have come to believe that every now and then, certain
events happen for a reason.
A boy walks in my room
at the exact moment to catch me cheating. I arrive at a train
station in the nick of time to see my girlfriend betray me. An
idle thought stops my progress just in time to let a car fly past my
So far I have listed
eight unusual coincidences in my memoir... and there are more to
How many coincidences does it take before
someone has the right to be curious? At what point do we
stop chalking extreme coincidence up to random accident and begin to
look for a better explanation?
I have spent my life speculating that one
possible explanation for what we call "luck" and "coincidence" might
be unseen entities. These entities could very well coordinate certain events in our lives
without any knowledge that we are being manipulated. Our only
clue that someone is toying with us again is that the odds of the
event happening defy all laws of probability.
The existence of unusual
coincidences raises a lot of questions.
If God exists... and
there are a lot of people who believe that He does... then is it
really that much of a stretch to believe there might be a system of laws in place
to coordinate important life events?
Was it possible a
Guardian Angel was responsible for arranging some or all of my coincidences?
What exactly is "luck"?
What exactly is a "miracle"?
Do you ever ask yourself
where "ideas" come from? We speak of "inspiration", but who
exactly 'inspires' us?
Is it possible there are
entities beyond our sight who have the power to put ideas into our
minds using the power of telepathy?
Is it possible our
thought processes can be influenced in some way without our
Did someone put
the thought in Frank's mind at the exact time to go find his
missing book in the isolated German classroom?
suggest to my dorm companion that I was available to give him a ride to
the train station to discover Emily's lie?
suggest to Mrs. Ballantyne a certain route home one afternoon
and then suggest my grocery store as a convenient place to shop?
Did someone call my
attention to a mysterious box on the floor moments after I
openly wished for a way to improve at chess?
Did someone whisper to me at age
6 that an arcade game was the most
interesting game in the world to
delay me long enough to
prevent my death?
Did someone lead
Mr. Ocker to the check-out line where I was standing at the
exact moment he remembered how short-handed he would be the next
day with the strawberries?
I have no definitive answer to
these questions. I do not claim to have spoken to God.
I have never seen an angel nor any visions. All I know is that
the coincidences in my life have aroused my
curiosity. My own
experiences lead me to wonder if certain "chance events" are
not "chance" at all, but rather somehow arranged
behind the scene according to a master plan.
Many people believe in
Fate. I am one of them. But please don't expect me to
prove it. I am powerless to do that. Coincidences do not
prove anything. But they definitely have the power to make us
A MEDITATION ON
“A Coincidence is a small
miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous.”
-- Irene Hannon
“Coincidence is the word we use
when we can't see the levers and pulleys.”
-- Emma Bull
“Coincidences are God's way of
-- Doris Lessing