The other day I was having a conversation on Facebook with an atheist friend of mine on a side note regarding the ongoing "debate between science and religion." I had pointed out (once again) that the problem revolves around the fact that both atheists and Christians need to understand one essential thing: Religion is not science! They are two entirely separate realms of human experience. The role of science is to explain the workings of the physical universe which, by definition, does not pertain to metaphysical entities. The proper role of religion is to enrich the soul, much like art, poetry, music or literature. The Bible is not, nor was it ever intended to be, a science textbook.
My friend said, ""Religion does pertain to facts.
At least, it pretends to. Your particular brand of humanistic new-age
metaphysical practice has little or nothing to do with the vast
majority of organized religions." He then shared with me a video by Richard Dawkins regarding "the New Age" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CyMglakWoo) which for some reason he erroneously thought might be pertinent to my own philosophy. It is not, except in so far as I find it almost as annoying as Mr. Dawkins does, but probably for different reasons. Dawkins is delightful and I enjoyed the video, although IMO he is kind of missing the point because, again, physics and metaphysics are not in conflict; they are two different critters which graze in different pastures.
I don't mean to pick on my atheist friend. This was just the latest of several incidents in which friends have mistakenly assumed that because I am a yogini and work as a "psychic," that I must therefore be into the New Age. So, I would like to clear this up once and for all. I am NOT a New Ager, although I was when I was a teenager, which is funny because I was also an atheist at that time! I sort of believed in "The Force" or some kind of pervasive Cosmic Energy, but not in God per se. I had rejected religion at age 12 as a direct result of having attended fundie private schools where their particular brand of religion was forced down our throats, and even at that tender age I could discern that it was bullsh*t and I threw out the Babe with the bathwater, not realizing that there was any alternative. Only later in college, upon meeting my Hindu friends, did I begin to warm up to the idea of a Personal God. As my yoga practice deepened I became less concerned about doctrines, and dogma was replaced by direct experience of That, Whatever You Want To Call It. I eventually ended up joining the Episcopal Church, which has fabulous ritual and you can believe whatever you want. One of my favorite bishops is an atheist.
In any event, people for some reason continue to accuse me (both as a criticism, and as a compliment, depending on whom you ask!) of being a New Ager which, again, I am NOT. As a matter of fact, I LOVE science and always have. And by the way, Mr. Dawkins says in his video that people are turning to the New Age as a rejection of science. I don't think this is the case. Rather, at least in my experience, the appeal of the New Age is based on a rejection of mainstream religion, which then leaves a spiritual void which people want to fill with something, because it is simply a part of our human nature. I doubt that most people are very concerned about science one way or the other.
So, allow me to answer some Frequently Asked Questions:
1. "You're a yoga teacher and a practitioner since 1976. Isn't yoga New Age?" No, it is not. While it is true that many New Agers practice some variation of "yoga," the actual Vedic tradition is thousands of years old and has very little in common with the New Age world view. We actually discourage the fascination with psychic powers, spirit entities, and that sort of thing as being distractions from serious spiritual practice. I am an Old School yogini and prefer my mysticism the old fashioned way, a lifelong daily discipline focused on Union with the Divine. "But, doesn't that presuppose the existence of Divinity?" In my case it didn't; when I began the practice I was an atheist. It was only after years of practice that I experienced Something which I choose to label as "God." If you are an atheist, you might label it as "the part of your brain that lights up on MRI when you are in deep meditation."
2. "Do you want to come to the New Age Faire/ this metaphysical group I belong to/ [other activities along these same lines]??" No, I do not. The only reason I would grudgingly attend a New Age Faire is if I were being paid to do so, and since they most often involve getting up early in the a.m., it is unlikely to happen. I do not care what color your aura is. I don't care about your past lives, if any. I don't want to help you find your power animal or your spirit guides. I do not want to meet your friend who "reads minds" or "has psychic powers" or claims to be able to levitate. I'm not opposed to it per se, and I don't think you are a bad person for being into it. I simply consider it a waste of time, and I have very little "free time" as it is.
3. "But, you work as a Psychic!" Yes, that is correct. My primary income is from reading Tarot cards over the phone, but only because there is very little money in teaching yoga, and State licensing restrictions prevent me from getting a Real Job in my field (M.A. Psychology) and I have to pay the bills somehow. Since most people do not have insurance which covers counseling, they will often call a psychic when they need somebody to talk to, and I am happy to help.
4. "So are you really psychic?" Define "real." Let's just say I am "psychic enough" to be at the top of the list on the Psychic Hotlines with whom I contract. "But, can you predict the future?" I discourage worrying about the future, and emphasize instead what we can usefully do here in the present, to help create a desirable future. But if my clients insist, using my knowledge of human nature and statistical likelihood, I can pretty accurately make an educated guess as to what will most likely happen next. "Can you predict winning Lottery numbers?" If I could, I wouldn't have to work on a psychic hotline to make a living. duh.
5. "Do the Tarot cards really work?" Define "work." The cards represent what Jung calls "archetypal images from the collective unconscious," which are themes or symbols everyone can relate to at various times in our lives. I use the cards as a sort of "Rorschach" to encourage the clients to talk about what is going on in their life and help them gain perspective and process whatever issues they are dealing with. This actually works extremely well.
6. "Do you talk to the dead or demons?" Not unless it is necessary, such as when they are plaguing someone's home. In the course of my work as a minister I am occasionally asked to expunge them. "But are they real or not?" Again, define "real." If they are keeping you awake at night, banging on your kitchen cupboards, rearranging your furniture or silverware or otherwise scaring the hell out of you, then they are "real enough" and you probably ought to have them removed. All you need to do is command them "in the name of Jesus" to be gone, but this requires faith/ confidence on your part. If you lack the confidence, call me and I'll bring incense and holy water and put it to rest. But I do not purposely seek out such phenomena; they are of little interest to me personally.
7. "Do my deceased loved ones have any messages for me from beyond?" Yes. They are saying, "Straighten your ass out and quit bothering us. WTF kind of useful information do you think we can give you, anyway?! Get a life."
8. "Can you remove curses?" Sure! Your curse is hereby removed. [Nobody can actually put a curse on you, but if it will make you feel better, I will remove it.]
9. "Are supernatural phenomena real? Aren't there shamans in the Amazon/ India who can actually _____________ [levitate, conjure demons, control the weather, materialize objects, cure diseases by waving a magic wand, be in two places at once, find underground water, read your mind, change stoplights green, etc., fill in the blank]?" Well, I've been called a shaman myself. I'm not saying whether they can or not. I will say there is nothing "supernatural." It's ALL "natural." Some of my colleagues on the psychic hotlines are allegedly gifted with clairvoyance (which I am not) and have even worked with the police in finding missing persons. But, even if they can, why do you care? WTF difference does it make?! Will it improve your life in the slightest? Will it give you inner peace? No, it won't. It's just more "stuff," more distraction.
Speaking of "stuff": With regard to the dowsing experiment in the Richard Dawkins video, I do think it was improperly designed. Although I know practically nothing about dowsing, just based on my limited knowledge of geology and such, I would have assumed the dowsers were picking up on subtle hydrostatic energies caused by groundwater interacting with the rock substrate, or trace humidity, or smell, or some other natural thing like animals do, as opposed to actually sensing water per se. I would not expect them to find bottles of water hidden in above-ground containers. A better test would be to have them dowse over areas of known (but not to them!), mapped underground springs.
So there you have it, from a cynical aging yogini. Not a New Ager. Not even close.