Making the Book…Or how I became a New Age Trend-Monger
Imagine being allergic to everything: all foods; every stitch of clothing, thread included; laundry detergent; carpets; even allergic to oneself. What would you do if you couldn’t grocery shop without becoming ill, or venture out to visit a friend without developing a headache, dizziness, extreme joint pain, or risk confusion?
Such indignities happened to me.
But my health problems seemed real, not imaginary. Truth was, the ongoing onslaught of maladies did cause depression. On top of that, I wanted to sleep forever.
And so, betrayed by mainstream medicine, I became a seeker.
Dabbling in the fringe arena of self-help, the far-out realm of the esoteric and of very strange array of alternative health options, I tried ear candling, past life regression, re-birthing and Rolfing–to name a few. Some interventions and practices; chanting, detoxification, dietary improvements, and certain forms of hands-on-healing, proved helpful. Mostly, I wasn’t helped at all. And with some, I actually worsened. I did, however, spent heaps of time and money.
Along the way I met healers; many of them. Some were kind and knowledgeable. Others were downright strange. All took themselves terribly seriously. Many were power tripping. One, a regression specialist, informed me that in a past life I’d failed as a nun and was, therefore, trying to compensate in the present by saving others. In context with a guilt-ridden, “recovering Catholic”, this made slight sense.
My all time favorite was the Breatharian who arrived in Santa Cruz to head up its latest cult craze. Claiming humans need only air, not food or water, to sustain life, his followers gave up food, to merely breathe and gulp air, alongside him. Then one day, the Breatharian was seen surreptitiously downing a Big Mac and fries.
Superb fodder for my novel!
During this interval, I kept thinking if I searched hard enough and was worthy enough, I might stumble upon the perfect teacher who would offer the right healing modality to fix my imperfect, sickly self.
So I kept right on sampling. All healers–most of them men–that I came across, insisted that, to become well, I had to believe in their particular brand of healing in its entirety. In other words, I could not discern for myself which of their truths made sense and which did not.
Mostly, in that process, I learned a great deal about myself: that I was terribly gullible, and scared, and that I wanted to be told what and how to believe, and that I longed to be fixed in order to be made whole. See…I didn’t trust the healing powers of my own body, or my intuition, or my sense of self. I was certain that the key to my wholeness was external.
At some point, I came across Andrew Harvey’s book, Hidden Journey, about the mystic and avatar, Mother Meera, whom he believed to be the incarnation of the Divine Mother. Andrew spoke of undergoing such bliss by merely being in her presence, so that I too, longing for this, decided that I had to meet her.
When that day arrived, filled with an ache, I sat in an auditorium, surrounded by a thousand other needy souls. Sure enough, when Mother Meera, “Ma” appeared, my heart pounded, double-time. For this simple, chubby, smiling woman radiated what seemed to be love.
As I shuffled forth to greet her, Surely, I thought, this was what it means to be in the presence of an enlightened soul! She took my hand, I kissed it and looked deep into her eyes and willed myself to feel something stupendous.
Lack only meant gigantic failure on my part; that I wasn’t worthy to receive her gifts.
Later, Andrew Harvey broke with this homophobic teacher, a woman who’d become world renown as a result of his writings. These days, Andrew exposes the false worship of the guru system and the phony face of the New Age movement. This falling out, and his efforts to reclaim his spirituality from the teacher who abused him, has caused him to forge a direct link with the Divine.
Around the time I met Mother Meera, a modest, kind man, Norman, whom I came to believe was the closest thing to a living saint, cured me of chronic fatigue. No fancy, rigmarole, when he merely placed hands on me, instead of cured, strangely and surprisingly, I immediately became ill. The interval lasted weeks on end, and then, abruptly, fatigue lifting, I was supremely well.
So I learned to do what Norman did.
Seeking further knowledge, I attended a school for healers, deliberately selecting a program whose director seemed modest, accessible, normal, and kind. Although I lack precise details, the director, I’ll call David, became sexually involved with at least one, probably two of the school’s instructors, and possibly a couple classmates.
This wouldn’t have been anybody’s business, but for the fact that on graduation day, my fellow students publicly confronted David. Angrily, he blasted us, denying that anything untoward had happened. Dishearten, not by the possible truth of the rumors, but by the insane attack he unfurled upon all of us, the seeds of an idea began to fester: What is abuse and, more scarily, at what point do the so-called abused actually become complicit?
About that time, I published my first book, The Rebellious Body, and sought to reconnect with my saintly healer friend, Norman. When I learned he in prison for sexual assault, figuring it a huge miscarriage of justice, I sought to rally support for him; even contacted 60 Minutes, asking if they’d do an expose. When I spoke with his attorney, the man scoffed, saying, “Norman is not a nice man,” and enumerated many reasons why Norman was a scoundrel.
Thus, the idea of The Worship of Walker Judson got birthed.
Andrew Harvey’s connection with Mother Meera further helped to impact my sense of what it means to give one’s life over to another and where personal responsibility for the choices one makes begin and end. Not that I’ve been personally abused, but I have witnessed abuse and the terrible destruction it wreaks.
Yet the essential question festered and led to this book:
How is it that leaders’ abuse of power is so common, and that followers are so quick to relinquish control over their lives?