Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Drunk From A Book

got me interested in reading spiritual books

It had to be the set of tarot cards I asked to get for Christmas.
I was 14 years old.

If you have a set of tarot cards, then you need to learn to use them. So, I went to the library and got some books on the topic. Nothing much came of the tarot -- but I was introduced to a whole new shelf in the library. Next to the tarot card books were volumes on all kinds of strange things: prophecy, astrology, dreams, meditation, etc. So I read all that was there.

Having exhausted my local library's section, I only found myself hungry for more.

Striking It Rich

Luckily, I lived in Virginia Beach, the home of the Edgar Cayce Foundation. There was a big building down near the ocean beach that included a library full of books on all things psychic, religious and spiritual. On my first visit I felt like I had struck it rich.

On Saturday's, I'd ask my Dad to drive me down to the Edgar Cayce place. He would drop me off and come back for me a few hours later.

In my T-shirt, knee-worn jeans and tennis shoes without socks, I'd sneak upstairs into the library. Thankfully, most people paid me no mind as I wandered in and out of the shelves.

In time, I'd come in and pile the books I was returning onto the front desk. Then if old Mrs. Gillespe was there, I'd get a little smile. She was ancient looking, full of wrinkles. The knuckles of her hands were huge, swollen with arthritis. But so nice to me.

"Well, what will it be this time, young man?"

"Oh, I'm tired of reading about Buddhism. Now I'm curious about Vedanta. And I want to read about hypnotism and astral projection, too."

Like a prospector searching for gold, I'd flip through one book after another, on the trail of the mother lode. I had to watch the clock carefully so my Dad didn't have to wait for me downstairs in the parking lot. The time just seemed to fly.

I remember seeing those Eckankar books on the bottom shelf over hear the window. It was the Ancient Science of Soul Travel in those days. But I had tried astral projection (an entire two times) and since that didn't work, I went on past the Eckankar books.

The Key to Secret Worlds

Looking back, I can see a major turning point happened a week before Christmas of 1975. I was in a shopping mall with my Mom and two younger sisters.

Because I had strict instructions not to buy anything, I was just loitering in the mall. Impatiently, I paced back and forth waiting for my mother's shopping to be finished.

From my pacing spot, I could see into the opening for Walden's Books. A book cover even caught my eye. Oddly, it seemed to glow. It said, ECKANKAR - The Key to Secret Worlds. Right there in the middle of the mall, I just had to have that book!

Only later did I wonder how I could have possibly seen that book so far away on the back wall of the store.

The clerk said, "With tax, that's $2.03."

But I only had two dollars in my wallet.

"You'll need three more cents," she said.

I had to have that book. Since necessity is the mother of invention, I suddenly got more creative than ever. I tried a few excuses and deals, yet I just ended up begging and pleading until the clerk let me have the book in exchange for my two dollars. Yep, I was a 15 year old baby.

I tried to hide the book in the back of my pants underneath my coat. Yet, mothers seem to have radar vision, and I was found out. I can't remember the punishment I received for breaking her rule --- fortunately, the book wasn't taken away from me.

That book blew me away. It seemed to condense, explain and put into perspective all the other books I had ever read on spiritual topics.

But more than that, I had the distinct feeling that I had found it. Whatever it was I was trying to get to, I had finally gotten there. It felt very, very good.

I read that book from the mall over and over again -- each time trying to grasp the key to the secret worlds. I couldn't quite figure it out. Then, I remembered those other Eckankar books at the Edgar Cayce Foundation. Maybe they could help.

Better Than Beer

One of those books happened to be the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, the Eckankar bible. Even though I read all the books on Eckankar from the library at least twice -- the Shariyat was the one I read over and over and over again.

This may surprise you.

The Shariyat is not an easy read. It's like . . . uh, like a bible. I prefer stories and down to earth kinds of things. That metaphorical, abstract, philosophical kind of stuff wasn't my cup of tea. In fact, it was way over my head.

So why did I read it over and over again?

It made me drunk.

I've never really ever been drunk, for real. However, after school when the guys would invite me out into the woods to drink some beer that an older brother had bought for them, I always declined. I only hoped their beer made them feel half as good as that Shariyat book did for me. I had to rush home to read that book some more. It's all I thought about all day.

If I read those words on the page, after a few paragraphs I started to feel real relaxed. A few more paragraphs and I'd get a little woozy and nice and warm all over. I would sit on my bed leaning up against the headboard, and let this blissful feeling melt me away. Everything in life made sense, without even trying. Oh, it was wonderful.

Today, I call it a feeling of love. At that age, I'd never experienced anything like it.

I had no idea what I was reading. I understood practically nothing of the words. But I didn't care in the least. If I just kept reading, that wonderful feeling would continue until I got so relaxed that I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer.

I'd wake up again after about 15 minutes, pick up the book and go at it again. I did that until suppertime most days. It was hard to get my homework done with that book tempting me.

A Secret, Internal Rhythm

It took me years to have any success at what I hoped from my narrow understanding of Soul Travel. If anything, I just wanted to Soul Travel away and never come back -- but it doesn't work that way.

However, whatever it was about that Shariyat book -- I wanted it. Greedily, I wanted lots more of it.

So I joined Eckankar.

Then I got the ECK discourses in the mail each month. They had a similar effect on me. I remember one of them made me cry.

I had read that the ECK discourses are written with a secret, internal rhythm that gradually unfolds your consciousness in a very precise and orderly manner. I could only suppose that's what I was feeling.

That's what Eckankar has always been to me. Not knowledge or beliefs. Not even dreams or Soul Travel. I don't even care if I understand any of it.

Eckankar, to me, is that stuff that came out of the Shariyat and the ECK Discourses.

Thankfully, I can drink of it still.

How have spiritual writings helped your spiritual awakening?
What are your most powerful spiritual books?

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