My condition in the late ’70s and early ’80s was one of severe disillusionment, not knowing what to make
of the above experiences and trying to limp along without a sense of spiritual direction. As alluded to above, I was now a
deputy public defender, having left the large law firm that recruited me out of law school. During that first year in private
practice, I had felt myself torn between my professional and devotional responsibilities and personas. But in the frenzied
environment of the Public Defender’s Office, I found it impossible even to feign any semblance of meditative equanimity.
So after three hectic years there, I sought refuge back at Loyola Law School, teaching legal research and writing to 1st-year
In time I struck
up a friendship with one of the faculty members I had first gotten to know as a student there. On learning of my spiritual
search, he confided that he himself had been working with a psychic healer. For a while, I resisted his offer to introduce
me to her, but my curiosity eventually got the better of me.
In complete contrast to the trappings (incense, pictures of the guru, etc.) that pervaded
Gurudeva Ji’s ashram, Sarah’s home and demeanor were quite down to earth. She was a middle aged woman (like my
Yoga teacher, again Jewish) who lived in a tidy Chicago suburb. Aside from a few crystals placed discreetly about her house,
the scene was entirely ordinary.
But when I lay down on her couch, a strong ray of heat emanated from the hand she placed several inches above my
forehead. I demanded literally to look up her sleeve, to satisfy myself she wasn’t holding a small flashlight or other
In many sessions
with Sarah over the next five years, her psychic gifts were manifest. She predicted certain events and the impact various
people would be having on me. There were also phenomenological demonstrations.
For example, I once mentioned to Sarah that streetlights seemed peculiarly
to be going out as I drove by. At lunch an hour later, the ceiling lamp nearest our table expired. The unruly fixture was
10 or 20 feet behind Sarah, but when I called it to her attention, she didn’t turn around; she merely lowered her head
and closed her eyes … and that light came right back on!
Fascinated as I was by such displays, my agenda
with Sarah wasn’t psychic titillation but spiritual counseling. I continued to assume there was more to life than earning
a living, but whatever that might be, I certainly didn’t feel connected to it. In the meantime, I could neither recreate
nor explain away the intoxicating spiritual sensations I had credited to Gurudeva Ji.
Sarah served as a bridge between
my inspired spiritual past and my current, workaday life. Rightly or wrongly, I didn’t feel I could get what I needed
from traditional psychotherapy, which seemed to lack any frame of reference for my experiences as a devotee. Neither could
my family help me sort things out. They were only glad I had stopped having whatever hallucinations had attracted me to the
guru in the first place.
But Sarah could and did reassure me that the events described above were real, if perhaps overrated.
She made it clear at the outset that she herself had little use for gurus – and no interest in becoming one to me. She
charged a modest hourly fee for each session. Like any good counselor, she mostly listened, giving me occasional feedback.
But where a therapist
might have used my body language or choice of words to gain an understanding of my conflict, Sarah was as likely to comment
on what my aura was doing as I recounted a particular experience. She also intuited information, sometimes with attribution
to what she called “spirit guides.”
Their input could be verbal, symbolic or even psychosomatic. For example, Sarah might have an acute physical reaction
to something I said, the sudden cramping of a muscle, a cough, an itch or some other manifestation we would both then try
to interpret. At a minimum, her physical reaction would alert us that the symptom-triggering word or phrase warranted further
One such phrase, at the start of our work together, was “valuable but not gratifying.” I had used it
to describe some event that had benefited me professionally but that I hadn’t particularly enjoyed. All my adult life,
it seemed, I had felt torn between pursuits that were practical or remunerative, on one side of the ledger, and satisfying
or uplifting, on the other.
This evoked for Sarah two parallel sets of railroad tracks. “It’s like you’re
running powerful but redundant engines, side by side,” she commented, “an awfully inefficient way to get anywhere.
Each train hauls its own cargo, your everyday stuff here, some spiritual regalia there; but both are taking you to the same
place, Elliot. The tracks are parallel, not perpendicular.”
I did feel sidetracked by those years as a devotee of Gurudeva Ji.
Had I been content to remain in the ambitious frame of mind that had served me so well as a law student, I would have stayed
at the prestigious firm that recruited me right out of school. I’d probably be a partner there by now, well on my way
to financial security. On one hand, I was determined not to let my penchant for soul searching further sabotage my career.
Yet I longed to re-experience what I took to be the heightened consciousness of my early days as a devotee.
me what that looks like,” Sarah interjected. This took me by surprise, and in my depressed state, I doubted
I could demonstrate what it was like to be “blissed-out.” Nevertheless, I closed my eyes and began taking the
slow, deep breaths that used to catapult me into meditative oblivion. To my further surprise, I easily attained the sensation.
“You really do go way out of your
body,” Sarah commented. “As for the quality or ‘hue’ you’ve been pining for, it’s called
I repeated. “What are you talking about?”
“Your aura became quite purple as you went into that meditation. There’s nothing wrong with that. Purple’s
a nice, even a ‘high’ color. But suppose you were a painter, standing before your easel with a palette full of
beautiful colors, the entire rainbow. Yet the only one you chose to paint with was your favorite, purple. Don’t
you see how limiting this would be to you as an artist, Elliot?”
“Blue, yellow, red and green will all feel different than purple, but
they’re no less self-expressive. And they’ll add immensely to your finished product if you can just incorporate
words did not get me high. Nor did they resolve or even address certain psychodynamics that had caused me to play the purple
or spiritual off against my other “colors.” But I’ll always cherish the insight she provided that day, which
truly cast my conflict in a new and different light.
In subsequent sessions, we continued to work on my self-limiting notion that life and its activities were either
spiritual or practical. And my all-or-nothing attitude about the validity of my experiences in either realm.
“How can it be,” I persisted,
“that ‘God’ would have taken the trouble to make contact in response to my prayer, only to lead me on such
a wild-goose chase? I would never have gone down that spiritual dead end without those extraordinary meditations, those magical
coincidences … things that had never happened to me before. I don’t want to talk myself out of the reality
of those experiences. Yet given the frustration to which they ultimately led me, how can I not invalidate them?”
Sarah went silent. “I’m
reluctant to repeat this,” she hesitated; “you’re not going to like it.”
“Out with it, Sarah,” I demanded.
"Well, what 'he' just said is . .
. 'Even a flower . . . needs shit to grow.'"