I lived and worked in a community of great spiritual diversity until I relocated to Livermore in June 2004. Spanning the northern border of LA county, it was also the last opportunity for upper- and middle-class residents to escape the decay of the city.
The religious environment is intensely competitive. I was told twice, while in at a café just outside the LA border, that Christianity stopped broadcasting at the Ventura County line. Calvary raised a huge church and high-school right on the border. Driving through the community evenings and weekends, a frequent sight were groups of Hassidim walking their side.
In the Spring of 2001, my counselor recommended that I seek out a religious community. She counseled me to avoid any "bible thumpers", and I had the intuition that she was hoping I would seek out a synagogue. My parents thought that was a far stretch from my history of atheism, and recommended that I seek out the local Unitarian Universalist congregation.
The UU tradition is a fascinating social experiment. Everyone is welcome. Most of the members were intelligent escapees from the dogmatism of other traditions. Some escape to practices that are exotic by Western standards: Buddhism, paganism and scientific pantheism. Others, finding themselves with lifestyle realities (gay children or abusive fathers) inconsistent with religious dogma, find a welcome denied them elsewhere, but otherwise bring their traditions with them. Almost to a fault, power in the UU movement is vested with women, as strong female personalities are frequently driven from religions dominated by male hierarchies.
UU spiritual principles are actually terms of engagement. They are little proof, however, against determined subversion or sabotage.
I joined the fellowship shortly before the 9/11 crisis. At the end of September, the minister delivered a sermon on the importance of tolerance in UU practice. She also organized a visit by prominent members to a local Islamic temple. Needless to say, others among us resented this attempted outreach. As Jewel did, I held out for tolerance and mutual respect.
In Spring of 2002, the sexual abuse scandal hit the Catholic Church with its full force. As Easter neared, I began having a series of dreams regarding a visit to the LA Cathedral. The text of a speech was negotiated between the Catholic fathers and I. As the process progressed, Jewel was brought into the engagement, sitting beside me in the front rows. In the first experience that revealed to me the dimensional scope of reality, I woke on Easter Saturday to a feeling of an enormously powerful being, someplace outside of our dimensionality, moving through time and space towards me. The sense of power was overwhelming, and I realized that I would probably lose a great portion of my personality to it. Jewel sensed this as well, and pulled me away. Later, she explained that she did not want that: she wanted me, the man I was, the man she wanted to be the father of her children.
This was one among a number of engagements that sought to guide us into an established dogma and creed. The Catholic Church, for all of its faults, was the only tradition to approach us in a spirit of negotiation. Its principle competitor saw us as a fly in the ointment that threatened to undermine their plans to consummate their own Messianic ambitions. Their goal was principally to keep us apart.
Meanwhile, I began to play with my powers of focus at the UU fellowship. For years, I had enjoyed a self-hypnotic state that involved listening intently to the people around me. This evolved into a technique that I call "Happy Chatter." Sitting quietly to the side, I would string the moments of speech end on end, making each speaker aware of the last. The voices would enter a rhythm, like the rhythm of the sea, rising and falling in cadence.
This culminated in a deep and powerful bond with the Fellowship choir. I thought I was just listening carefully, but apparently I was driving people into a gestalt. Not all of them were comfortable with the process. I have been made aware since then that I have absolutely no clue how powerful I am. That may be: consciousness is an awareness of difference, and, with the exception of Jewel, I had not yet encountered someone that worked on that scale. Ultimately, I developed the strange feeling that the women of the Fellowship considered me as a sort of dangerous pet. Because of my personal and financial difficulties, I could not assume a working role in the Fellowship hierarchy. This made it difficult for the minister to cultivate opportunities for me to serve, and the overspill in services may have seemed a threat to her authority.
My difficulties culminated in my lay ministry experiences. The leader of my community group, after revealing his affinity for the Quballah, told me one night that he didn't really consider himself to be a UU. The divorce group I co-led with one of my peers dissolved into male-female polarity. I found myself unable to manage the emotional drain of attempting to minister to people on the other side of my personal trauma.
In Autumn of 2002, I finally broke through. The choir director holds a musical service each year in September. The last number that year, I felt the choir call me into its midst, and I ordered them into a gestalt. Their voices merged in a unity of phase, and at the conclusion of the number the congregation leapt to its feet in applause. The guest pianist staggered from the stage in shock, and fell into his seat.
One other event figured large in the months that followed. A young lady called me down to the bookstore one afternoon. I arrived at the café, and encountered a group a paramedics standing around a slim blonde girl. They were asking her friend whether she had eaten anything that day, but not assisting her in any way. A sense of resignation hung in the air. I sat down, closed my eyes, and sought through dimensions after her. Upon scenting her trace, I opened my eyes. The captain was staring at me, then turned back around. I called gently to her, and her knee began to twitch in a walking motion.
I walked out and sat on a bench by the door, still calling her. I found a knot in her mind and straightened it. With a sudden rush, her spirit filled her. Five minutes later, the paramedics wheeled her out the door on a gurney. She craned her neck over her shoulder and stared me full in the face.
I was out in the open.