Further Into the Occult

By the early 1980s, the channelers had largely supplanted the gurus at the vanguard of the New-Age. Their books were on the best seller lists, and Tanya, among others, was crisscrossing the country. When she came through Chicago, I thought about attending one of her public demonstrations. I ran the idea by Sarah, whose own channeled input was, “Elliot might find this of interest.”

I should say a word about Sarah’s type of channeling and how it differed from what I was about to experience. Indeed, Tanya’s psychic alter ego, “Mr. Dillon,” would eventually explain it this way:

This is called “dead trance,” where Tanya leaves her body and I come through. Then there’s the trance where the person feels the spirit and gives the message, like a psychic reading, which can be good too.

Sarah fell into the latter category. She herself was fully present while intuiting the message. It thus remained her choice whether to pass any or all of it along. Tanya, however, claimed to be absent from her body and oblivious to what was being said by Dillon. Theirs was like a landlord-tenant relationship: The body still belonged to Tanya, but for the duration of the trance, Dillon’s occupancy was exclusive.

The night we first met Tanya, she began the program by explaining the mechanics of trance as she understood them and the ground rules for how we would proceed. The lights were then dimmed and someone with a guitar began leading us in Bette Midler’s “The Rose.”

Tanya seated herself and closed her eyes. A moment later, her head slumped forward. We sang on, watching for the slightest telling twitch. Suddenly, the head jerked back upright and the eyes popped open. The mouth smiled, more on one side than the other. And in a strong, masculine-sounding voice, the words “FAITH AND FELICITY BE WITH YE!” rang out.

“Mr. Dillon” now spoke for several minutes on some general spiritual theme. I don’t remember his specific topic that night, but we were utterly charmed by his presence. His personality, vocabulary and sense of humor were quite unlike Tanya’s. (Indeed, as Dillon himself would later observe, most people found it easier to relate to him than to Tanya.)

We were enthralled by tales of psychic wizardry at these early trance sessions. A man who had previously asked Dillon about a problem knee now reported having awakened, later that same night, in a peculiar position – up on all fours, but with the bad leg extended behind him. And from then on, the knee had given him no further trouble.

He went on to describe a dream in which he believed Dillon had communicated with him. I was seated near the front of the room that evening, up close to Tanya/Dillon. And as the man related Dillon’s dream-message, I could hear Dillon, under his breath (or Tanya’s), anticipating it, word for word.

By the time of this first encounter with Dillon, our relationship had again deteriorated to the point we were barely speaking. In fact, I hadn’t even mentioned the trance circle to Diane until the last moment and was rather surprised when she asked if she could tag along.

At first, Dillon displayed an uncanny awareness of our personalities and relational gridlock. But then he asked if we would like to be married. Diane politely informed him we’d been married for twelve years. “I’m talking about being married ‘in the spirit,’” Dillon replied. “Would you like to be married by me?”

Diane quickly took him up on the offer, her enthusiasm again catching me off guard. For all the distance between us, there had been no recent talk of separation or divorce. But neither had I contemplated re-upping, much less for multiple lifetimes. I’ll digress here to explain a tenet of Dillon’s teaching that was coming into play, though at the time, we were only vaguely aware of it.

He taught that each soul has an “eternal soulmate,” a preordained spouse; a match literally made in heaven. Such soulmates were said to have a synergistic effect on each other’s spiritual growth such that the relational whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

Dillon thus lumped all marriages into one of two categories: “karmic” or “eternal.” “Karmic” meant the pair were together to address conflicts left over from a prior lifetime. This was important work, but once the karma was resolved, the relationship had no further raison d’etre.

“Eternal soulmates” might well have their own conjugal  karma to clean up. But in their case, the union would then blossom, not fizzle; lifting them, in the process, to their highest individual potentials.

I should mention that Tanya and Sherman always assumed, until proven otherwise, that any couple who came to them were eternal soulmates. What this meant as a practical matter was that they would be held to the high standard of marital accountability (and collective scrutiny) I’ll be describing below. If this proved too difficult for either spouse, i.e., if the rigors of living life in such an intensely communicative fashion ended up driving the couple apart rather than bringing them closer together, that would show that the relationship had merely been “karmic.”

Such couples could go on creating still more karma for each other. Or they could work diligently to resolve their past and present grievances and move on to find with whom they everlastingly belonged.

Diane and I were eventually converted to this vision of marriage, which became the centerpiece of our apprenticeships with Tanya, Dillon and Tanya’s own husband, Sherman. If Gurudeva Ji was supposed to have shown me how to speak to God, they would teach the two of us how to approach Him as a relationship. And how to speak to each other. With guest appearances by Dillon, Tanya and Sherman offered a 3-day relationship training billed as a life-changing event for the couple.

This was quite different from the spiritual counseling I had experienced with Sarah. She didn’t offer conjoint sessions, nor was she focused on relational issues as such. Indeed, when I raised the eternal soulmate concept during my transition from her tutelage to Tanya and Sherman’s, she took immediate exception to it. Sarah went so far as to say that from a psychospiritual point of view, Diane and I were, if anything, a mismatch! In all events, she rejected the idea of a preordained, “Mr. or Ms. Right” for each person and for all time.

My own experience of our 12-year marriage cast ample doubt on any thought Diane and I were meant to be together for all time. So (like any prudent lawyer attending his first trance-circle), I demanded Dillon’s personal assurance that we were indeed eternal soulmates. Only then did I allow him to place his spiritual imprimatur on the relationship.

I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary taking place at our nuptials the next day (except that they were being performed by a dead man, speaking through a woman’s body). We repeated our vows, exchanged new rings, and I kissed the bride.

In addition to such matchmaking services, Dillon offered us individual guidance. With respect to my singing, for instance, he told me the problem was that my “throat chakra” was closed. I asked if he could help me get it open, to which he replied:

Well, one way is to tell the truth all the time and live your life in integrity. That, my son, allows for all the gifts of the spirit, which music is, to open up. But the greatest gift I can give you, Elliot, is my sense of humor! To be able to laugh as you sing is joyful in God, is it not? So what you have to do is come back, tomorrow, with a song to sing for me!

Dillon then asked if we had any instruments available, and someone offered up a bass fiddle they’d dubbed “Barbara.” Now Dillon began to sing:

Big Brown Babs, she does it well!

She’ll make Elliot sing, cuz he’ll go to hell

if he doesn’t sing! Elliot … El-li-ot!

You got a lot, so you better get it!

You think you’re in court, when you

really need to be drinkin’ up the port!

This cracked everyone up but me. “I really do want to sing,” I persisted, as if the trick was just getting through to Dillon how badly I wanted it. “I’ve worked at this so many years, trying all the while to maintain some kind of spiritual perspective.”

“Oh Gaaaaahhhddd …,” Dillon moaned. “Will Elliot be ‘spiritual’ in court? Tune in next week!” Thus did he humor us through our attachments and obsessions.