As I explain in my ‘What is Truth‘ article, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy in my life trying to figure out how all truth in this world fits together into one cohesive whole. To me, that seems to be the highest idea LDS people learn in our church, taught to us in our highest temple ordinance just before we symbolically pass through the “veil” into the presence of God. I’ve read a good amount of most of the world’s religious works. I’ve had visions of spirits, I’ve heard voices, I’ve battled demons, I’ve dabbled in the hidden mysteries, and I’ve done my best to investigate and integrate into my worldview the best parts of the world’s religions. I was raised in the LDS Church and always considered myself an “orthodox” Mormon, and bought into a subtly condescending attitude toward those with views dissenting from the mainstream. Like much of the world’s religious faithful, I always had a strong “testimony” that our way was not only the best way, but the only true way. But after the death of my father, I gained an insatiable appetite for information relating to religion and the afterworld… and after years of asking—and getting answers, I gained a picture of reality that turned out to be quite different than what I thought growing up. I think my understanding and “testimony” now is in many ways very different from most Mormons, but still similar in many respects.
My testimony now (the LDS term for one’s belief system) is complicated. It’s certainly not black and white and doesn’t correspond to the sound bites of any particular church. (Despite considering myself LDS, and loving the truths in our church). Although this entire site is basically my religious thoughts that I am laying out for my kids or anyone interested, I want to use this article to try and summarize and prioritize my beliefs in a way that might help people better understand me.
Unity As The Highest Ideal
I believe the highest ideal is unity. As I explain in detail in my article What is Truth, Is the LDS Church the Only True Church? article, I believe ultimate truth is an understanding of a thing from every possible perspective, and so statements of testimony like “I know my Church is True” distort the very concept of truth. Because to most people such a statement is paramount to making one’s church into an errorless organization free from the lies, half-truths, misunderstandings, issues and limited perspective which are an inevitable part of anything run by fallible humans. I believe the tenets of all religions contain both truth and error, and are perceived differently by every member. Rather than taking sides in debates concerning truth, epistemology or ontology, I love to see what others believe and figure out how their beliefs fit into the big picture. I haven’t met a lot of people that I can’t see the truth’s in their perspective. I like to talk to people from their perspective as much as possible. I love to try and enlarge the perspectives of others.
My Spiritual (Metaphysical? Supernatural?) Experiences
I think like many people I had experiences of synchronicity, and answers to prayers in my youth, which really gave me a sense that there was a higher power. A sense that the natural world we typically interact with was only a small part of a larger unseeable reality. But the first truly supernatural experience (from my perspective) I had occurred in about the 7th grade. Being raised in an active LDS family, I learned about Joseph Smith’s first vision growing up, but for some reason, it suddenly really resonated with me. I decided if praying worked for him to see god, it would work for me. I set up a day to go out and pray in a secluded place but ended up falling ill that day— to the point I spent a few days in bed. So I set my mind on another day some time later… and once again I got really sick. It was one of many strange examples of synchronicity which was hard to dismiss. To me, there seemed to be something very real to this God-thing. My apophenic mind found significant meaning in the fact that God or some part of myself did not want me to seek this experience. (More on my views of ancient and modern theophany experiences below…)
Strangely, that experience served as an important backdrop as I’ve talked with multiple people over the years (and read the accounts of many others) who have had visions and interactions with what they felt was deity.
A few years after the above experience I started reading the Book of Mormon for seminary. I got through the book of Second Nephi and became engrossed. I couldn’t put it down and read the rest of the book in a day or two. While reading the story of Ammon & Lamoni I had my strongest feeling-based metaphysical experience ever. A warm/burning feeling overtook me that seemed to originate from my heart and radiate through my whole body. It was a classic kundalini experience. It made me collapse in bed and wonder if I was having a heart attack or something — but it was accompanied by incredible feelings of love unlike anything I had ever felt before. This was not simple emotionalism, it was a whole-body biological reaction to what I read. It was not simply like the warm-fuzzies we all feel when we watch a touching movie. It was more biological, with feelings of ecstasy, warmth and enlargement in my brain and heart area. To put it quite frankly, it was much like having a completely unsexual orgasm (not that I would have had any clue what that even was at that age)–where I was spiritually united with some unseen reality. Feelings associated with that initial powerful biological and emotional outpouring lingered for days. I felt anointed and special. I felt connected to God and to that book, and I subsequently used that experience as an initial basis for a testimony of the LDS church and its living prophets. From that point on, I was a fully committed to Mormonism, yet at the same time I felt a connection to divinity that allowed me to define what Mormonism was to be for me—rather than having it fully defined by Mormon leadership. I felt a true unity with “god” and Mormonism and increasingly felt like whatever issues I saw I could get answers to resolve them.
(I’ve since learned that such biological/spiritual manifestations of spiritual experiences are not exclusive to any particular religion, and have been experienced and described for thousands of years by many different religious traditions. It is also referred to as the sacred anointing, baptism by fire or serpent fire of Jewish traditions & Kabbalah; and the coiled serpent, chakra/endocrine theory of Eastern traditions. see The Biology of Kundalini)
Two months before my LDS mission, my father was killed in a freak accident, and the seclusion and isolation of my mission became a powerful catylist for me in desiring to really know what lay beyond death. This was the beginning of my dark night of the soul. When my dad died, part of me died. After this, religion no longer remained a cultural and social given in my life. I became a true student of religion, because I wanted to know what lie beyond the grave. And although I really didn’t have many particularly unusual spiritual experiences on my mission (apart from regularly occurring ordinary emotional religious confirmations), soon after my mission I began to have a number of experiences with what scientist have haphazardly termed sleep paralysis (which involve dream-like “thought forms“, or spiritual visionary/dream experiences) as well seeing earth-bound spirits. In my first experience of this sort, I woke up in the twilight hours before dawn to what I thought was my mother (a female individual) sitting on my bedside with her hand on my leg. As I opened my eyes and became conscious of her presence suddenly realizing that this was not anyone I knew, the individual instantly flew on top of me as if trying to enter my body (at least that was my perception). Not that this apparition was really even particularly frightening, but that I was horrified by not being able to move—and at the reality and unfamiliarity of the experience. After a few horrifying moments of me futilely trying to scream and defend myself (but not being able to move or make audible noises), the being left and my biological eyes opened (more on that in a second). This type of experience occurred a number of times from the ages of about 21 – 28, and as time went by I got better not freaking out and appropriately dealing with, or interacting with the experiences until it ended.
As I go through my subsequent experiences in this next section, I think it’s important to note that all but one or two of my experiences with seeing “spirits” have occurred with my biological eyes closed. It’s a difficult phenomena to explain and it’s easy to see why those who haven’t experienced it would suspect all such experiences are just a type of dream (which is certainly one way to look at them). In most of my experiences I am mentally “woken up” to see some apparition from my bed—only to be bewildered by the fact that afterwards I end up opening my physical eyes to find I was actually still physically “asleep”. And yet I’m not asleep and these seem to me, far different than lucid dreams— I am totally aware of both my thoughts and surroundings and before opening my eyes, I can somehow see things like the alarm clock and room lighting—which don’t change at all when I open my eyes. In these experiences I am always sure I’m wide awake with eyes open, only to surprisingly find myself later opening my physical eyes to an identical scene & feeling. (There is absolutely no sensation of waking up, only of opening my biological eyes). From my perspective I am somehow “seeing” things through the “eyes” of my spirit (for loss of a better word). I know that sounds hokey and I don’t expect those who have not experienced this phenomena to understand. In multiple instances I have looked out the window to see the dawning light on the horizon, and then when my biological eyes open afterwards—there is absolutely no difference to what I perceived of the scene before and after my physical eyes open.
One instance in particular really solidified my belief that my experiences with seeing spirits are more complicated than dreaming or super-lucid hallucinations. Sometime around age 27 I had an instance where I was awoken by the spirit of a young teenager in my room (my impression was that this individual had died as a teen). He woke me up purposefully by walking up to me and waving his hand repeatedly in my face. I remained semi-conscious and just watched him as he walked through the wall toward the living room where my wife was sleeping that night. I sensed his intent to try and annoy my wife as well, and so as I opened my eyes to get out of bed and start heading toward the living room, my wife popped in the room a bit shaken and asked if I had just snuck up to her and woken her up by loudly whispering “hey!” into her ear. She got up immediately and looked both beneath and around the sofa, fully expecting me to be hiding just out of her view. When she realized it wasn’t me, she was startled and came into the bedroom to see where I was. I have had many experiences with seeing and talking to spirits both before and after this one, but this experience with my wife sticks out as the first which was objectively confirmed by another individual. It is also interesting to note that my wife also had an experience of “hearing spirits” when she was young. It was a strange and frightening experience for her, and had never been repeated until this night. There is, of coarse, no scientific evidence of clairaudience or clairvoyance, (and deserves skepticism) but the phenomena has been documented for thousands of years, occurring to countless individuals; and my experiences certainly began to make me a believer.
More Interaction with Beings
Since the shared experience with my wife, I’ve had many experiences where I am “woken up” (although my eyes are still closed), to some ethereal being standing near my bed, teaching me. (I can’t move my head and look at them because I’m not physically awake–only mentally awake). This has usually occurred after I’ve read something to make me sincerely ask heaven for answers to questions. The beings, (or sometimes just a voice) then give me lengthy, profound explanations which give me unbelievably clear visual and conceptual understandings of different topics. But then after I open my eyes and try to write down what was telepathically communicated to me, the vision and understanding fade and I fail to find the words to explain it. It’s a wild experience and in some periods of my life it’s happened with surprising regularity. Often the explanations will include scriptures or concepts which I don’t remember ever reading or learning, but when I wake up and look them up, they end up being legit. I’ve repeatedly considered the prevailing scientific explanation that these experiences could just be a product of an insanely lucid imagination or a hallucinogenic mind, but as I’ve analyzed these experiences (and those of others) I believe it is more likely the other way around. (I don’t think current psychoanalysis of hallucinations can account for ‘group visions’, the experience where my wife was woken up too, or psychic premonitions that I’ve experienced (and occur regularly to millions of other people around the earth). As I’ve looked for answers, I think it’s more likely that both spiritual and hallucinatory experiences in general are connected to DMT’s ability to allow the brain to enter subjective states of consciousness wherein humanity is more connected to each other and to an intelligent infinite creation. (see Rick Strassman’s work at New Mexico school of Medicine, on the Pineal gland’s production of DMT, as well as the link between hallucinogenic drugs and higher states of consciousness. — Note, I’ve never taken illicit or hallucinogenic drugs/medications of any kind by the way, nor have I ever had a metaphysical experience I can remember of while taking any type of cold, flu or pain medication).
While my wife was pregnant, I had one experience where I believe I saw an apparition of the spirit of my unborn child in the same manner as the other spiritual manifestations I’ve seen; however in this experience when I opened my eyes, I could still faintly “see” (or better put, perceive with an extra-ocular sense) the outline of this infant-sized spirit which floated in front of me blinking her big beautiful eyes. Because of these experiences I believe in an afterlife (or at least a spirit-world or global mental realm of sorts, wherein we can subtly interact with the consciousness of the dead, unborn or extra-dimensional beings). I also believe in supernatural events, and certain extrasensory abilities of the human mind; despite the differences in perspective and obvious fraud and forgery existing in the world’s descriptions of these phenomena. At the same time I fully accept the possible validity of purely psychological explanations for paranormal activity; as long as they accept the idea of some kind of subtle shared global, or infinite consciousness.
I think it’s also noteworthy to mention that I’ve never had any experience with seeing my deceased father in dreams or my night visions. I was woken once at my grandma’s house by a Spirit who I had the distinct impression was related to me, but I’ve never had anything like that happen with my dad, other than possibly feeling his presence or guidance during normal daytime activities. I would think, that if these experiences had to do with some kind of hallucinatory wishful thinking, that they would most certainly end up revolving around the one person who I always wished to talk with most beyond the grave? But nothing. Even despite having a small experience with another loved-one shortly after their death, where they told me something of what it was like there, I have never been woken at night by my father.
Premonition and Foreknowledge
I have also had experiences with premonition and foreknowledge. On my mission I was reading an LDS historical book talking about the Nauvoo Temple, and I had a very distinct impression come to my mind that said “they are going to rebuild that”. It was so distinct and strong that I kept thinking about it for days. Just a few months later, the church announced their plans to rebuild the temple, and I was left to wonder about the psychological mechanism which gave me that knowledge beforehand. I’ve had similar experiences help me avoid major accidents. Similarly, my dad felt “strongly impressed” to get his affairs in order and write a personal letter to each of his children the month before his unexpected death. These letters proved very meaningful, and seemed far from coincidental to me—and seem to be but one of many examples I’ve seen of death premonition.
I once had an experience where after deeply meditating, I strangely kept picturing a specific image in my mind. With this picture in my mind, my wife unexpectedly asked me what I was thinking… I lied and said “nothing”. Then she proceeded to tell me that she was picturing the same wild image (a golden spider) in her mind. I never did tell her that I had the same image in my mind, but it was yet another of many strange experiences where my wife and I synchronously had the same thoughts during times that i was deeply mediating. I’ve had other similar experiences where I’ve been able to influence my own children’s dreams by my own deep meditation–having them recount to me in the morning the very thoughts I sent out in my meditation.
I have had a multitude of other experiences with what LDS people would usually call “the Spirit” (but something I would associate with a global shared unconsciousness and/or a fragmented ability to perceive events across dimensions, space and time). I felt strong spiritual impressions about what the gender of each of my four children would be (which could certainly be coincidence). I had incredibly strong (and correct) impressions that my 1 month old child was going to turn out 100% fine when she lay in the NICU with spinal meningitis, despite doctors giving us only disparaging statistics of the chances of deafness and other lasting complications. I felt while giving her a blessing that I could bless her to be healed with confidence. I have had strong impressions about the location of a lost child (which were later verified) and heard accounts of others more impressive. After pondering over questions, I have had strong impressions come to mind my concerning internet searches which led me to material which seemed exactly what I was looking for, and connected deeply with. After months of prayer and feeling strong impressions that a new revelation had been given, I was led by a single sentence given to my mind to find The Book of Ben Kathryn (see background info here). Although I understand the power of confirmation bias and human tendency for apophenia, these experiences have led me to believe what ancient religions, books and even modern movies (such as Interstellar) have suggested for ages—that humans occasionally have the ability to peek through small transient holes across space and time, by the use of poorly understood exercises of thought, meditation & spirituality.
My Faith & Beliefs
Because of my experiences I give more weight to channeled or revelatory texts than the average skeptic. But at the same time, my experiences cause me to be more skeptical and less dogmatic about channeled/revealed works than the average religious zealot. The fact that near death and visionary experiences tend to reflect cultural and religious conditioning (Christians see Jesus, Hindu’s sometimes see their Gods, and some cultures see nothing), tells me that there’s something fairly complicated going on in visionary experiences. However, there are millions of examples of scientifically unexplained phenomena which tells me that these spiritual experiences are not just made up imaginations. Like billions on earth, I sense there is something profound to religious works like The Bible, Koran, The Book of Mormon, or more convincingly, the Law of One or Oahspe, where the revelator/channel repeatedly uses words or speaks of concepts far above the writer’s native abilities. Or texts like the Doctrine & Covenants or Book of Ben Kathryn with thousands of biblical allusions woven together in a manner which seems far more sophisticated than any single author’s native abilities. But at the same time I am highly skeptical of the cultural distortions and dogmatic assertions (concerning absolutist truths) made by any of these works or their religious founders. (And LDS leaders in particular.) I have spent more time than anyone I know combing through the cosmological sections of channeled texts looking for a cohesive picture of reality, which takes into account all the available evidence from both science and “God’s” many metaphysical witnesses.
In my childhood I let my religious leaders largely define my religious and spiritual experiences for me. As I mentioned, I’ve been a pretty down-the-line, orthodox Mormon. Because of my experience with the Book of Mormon and other experiences with “The Spirit” I believed it meant that the LDS church was precisely what its current leaders made it out to be. As I’ve gotten older and received my own revelation, delved into LDS church history, spent thousands of hours studying LDS scripture and combed through myriads of near-death experiences, revelatory works and other people’s supernatural experiences I’ve come to explanations which more fully harmonize my own experiences with the experiences of spiritual mystics and religious founders. Explanations which harmonize the contradictions. (I’ve found that every major religious tradition tends to develop a branch of mysticism full of visionary individuals or mystics/prophets who overwhelmingly seem to espouse a form of universalism. While at the same time most mainstream religions eventually come to reject or demonize visionary experience, and become led by individuals with very little visionary or clairvoyant ability.)
My level of faith in LDS leaders is a product of my spiritual experiences. When I first began being woken up by beings and voices who answered my questions, the individuals who answered questions and information they gave was very Mormonesqe (conforming strictly to LDS language, scripture and culture). But as my questions began to push the envelope of what LDS doctrine was able to explain, my nighttime teachers and visions (or whatever you want to call them) became decidedly less Mormon and more Unitarian (With complete love and empathy for the Mormon perspective, but placing it within a larger more profound context). It was like Mormon spirits (my ancestors? led me as far as there knowledge could take me; but eventually they had to refer me to higher beings which predated Mormonism & its culture. I really felt like I was led by higher, older, more intelligent beings to more pluralistic information that helped to reconcile the contradictions I encountered in Mormonism. However, I suppose from a non mystical perspective this could also be explained in reverse—that my subjective nighttime experiences were a reflection of what I was consciously learning in my life. Either way, it seemed to me that at night our brain somehow connects to a higher source which allows and helps to organize, harmonize and make sense of all the raw data that is dumped into our senses during the day. To me, the experiences were very real.
I can certainly empathize with atheists and agnostics and see value in their purely humanistic explanations of these phenomena (although their explanations seem quite partial to me— and tend to ignore millions of unexplainable spiritual phenomena— take this impressive proof of reincarnation for instance). I can empathize with the explanations of all organized religions (which also seem partial). But my experiences have suggested to me that there is so much more to this universe than the narrow views held by mainstream religion or science. Like most of the world’s most intelligent scientists, I believe in a non-anthropomorphic Most-High singularity (religions call it/him God), but I could explain him in a million religious or scientific terms and still not fully capture the immensity of what I perceive He/She/It is. My beliefs increasingly tend to accord more with D&C 88:41,6–13, than traditional/cultural LDS views on God, which I believe confuse psychically-connected Higher Dimensional human beings for the unknowable and omniscient Most High God (A singular intelligence which connects and pervades all creation). Frankly, I suspect most of those who have influenced mankind’s views of the divine have felt the same way as me concerning divinity—that their descriptions are partial, limited perspectives of something so much larger than what the human mind and human words can express (D&C 76:116).
I believe in the perception of spirits and visions because I have experienced them. I believe in a tiered or multi-level system of universal consciousness that mystics, prophets, or revelators are able to access to gain information above that which they’ve cognitively learned. Whether this realm is a subjective internal shared human memory psychically accessed through poorly understood psychological mechanisms or whether it is truly an objective higher dimensional realm inhabited by the dead matters little to me. (I tend to think it is actually a combination of the two.) I believe in angels and extra-planetary rulers (or ruling extra-dimensional beings) even though I really have no personal objective proof that they exist. Higher dimensions and higher dimensional beings seem logically necessary to me. I find it easy to believe that many of the accounts of angels & gods in the Old Testament & religious scripture (such as Elijah’s flying “chariot of fire” and Moses’s encounter with the “God of Israel” standing on “a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli”) were likely encounters with higher-dimensional beings, possibly even utilizing technologically advanced spacecraft. I believe (as many text describe) that these beings are bound by laws on non-intervention—which gives equal chance for multiple ideologically opposing groups to influence those who are able to pierce through the veils—so that the people these beings interact with almost always culturally distort the given messages. (Similar to the Zoo Hypothesis) I do not believe any one religion or philosophy has exclusive access to the highest beings who watch our planet — but instead they are spiritually led by their dead ancestors. (see The only true church). And I believe those religions who substantially claim exclusive access to God, are either misunderstanding their own revelations, or are allowing themselves to be influenced by manipulative or ignorant spiritual beings. I believe that a large part of most religion and religious experience, is a projection of existing beliefs and biases on the part of the “seer” or adherent. I think this is what 1 Cor 13:9–12/1 John 3:2 is trying to say in a veiled sort of way.
I believe the “Most high God” is synonymous with light, love and creation (D&C 88:41); and is a passive universal unity which does not directly interfere with the self-determination of humanity or individuals (despite it’s indwelling within us). I believe that religious prophets and mystics usually interact with extra-dimensional beings (or god’s mediators) subjectively through their minds and imaginations, wherein information is exposed to heavy distortion and cultural bias (Both the LDS ‘Father & Son’ from Joseph’s visions being examples of these different classes of mediator gods seen in a subjective vision and biased by the prophet’s cultural expectations). I believe that religion and science are divinely guided (in a very laissez-faire manner) by wise spiritual and inter-dimensional beings and have the ability to better my life and make me a better person. I believe that like religion and science, my understanding is constantly changing and expanding and my faith is that man’s destiny is headed back toward the complete unity of intelligence from which we originated.