Like so many other young people in their late teens and early 20s, I began to question my religion and belief in God. I had read books like “The World’s Great Religions” and Thomas Merton’s “Seven Storey Mountain” to overcome my atheistic leanings, but nothing helped restore me.
Looking outside the church for answers, I discovered the Rosicrucian Order, a mystical organization that promised enlightenment. I remember only that I had to burn candles and stare into the flame to expand my consciousness. All I got, though, was tired eyes and a little more sleep.
Next, my quest led me to hypnotism. After reading a number of books and learning how to hypnotize others as well as myself, I found in Irene, my girlfriend at the time, an ideal subject. Working my way back to her previous lives, I regressed her to 2 years of age and asked her to think of a pleasant memory. When she said she was standing in her crib, I asked her for the color of the walls. She said she didn’t know. When I asked her to look around and tell me, she said she couldn’t because she didn’t know her colors yet. Unfortunately, we broke up before I could delve further.
Sometime in the 1960s, celebrities appeared on television extolling the virtues of transcendental meditation, a rapidly growing mystical organization led by the charismatic Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. My interest piqued, I attended a local meeting and listened to the catalog of benefits waiting to be showered on believers. I asked if this was hypnosis and was assured it was not. Ever-searching and undoubtedly gullible, I paid my fee to join the movement and, feeling foolish, brought a handkerchief and an apple to my initiation a week later, as instructed.
Sitting beside a teacher before an ornate, makeshift altar, he meditated, then, as if emerging from a trance, began uttering a repetitious phrase that sounded something like “abanaba abanaba.” Slowly twirling his hand before my face indicated that I was to repeat the phrase with him. This, I assumed, was to be my mantra, my verbal transport to a higher state of consciousness. I knew then that this was simply self-hypnosis cloaked in ceremonial arcana.
Although my quest for certainty was unsuccessful, it was an interesting journey as well as an enlightening one. I learned that searching for definitive proof of an eternal God as first cause was futile, since equally cogent contradictory arguments could be made. Ultimately, I concluded that religious orthodoxy offers the surest path to personal virtue and social harmony, and that total faith in a God unseen is the only means of coping with the ontological mystery of being and the paradoxes of life and death that lie beyond reason and human comprehension. There is nothing else.
In recent decades, atheistic activism has sought to expunge religious thought from public consciousness. Rank materialism and immorality have further served to lure many from their church and religion. However, because the innate hunger for spiritual sustenance can rarely be resisted, these people often gravitate to organizations like L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology or, worse, cults like Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple. At best, these seekers are disillusioned; at worst, their lives shattered.
As G.K. Chesterton observed, “When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.”