The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dan's Question

I guess I agree that I'm making rapid progress right now. I think I can attribute that to being in a target-rich environment (Southern California) while keeping the grounding I got by spending a decade in a simpler life (Washington State).
The following were things that didn’t work out for me, and some of the reasons why. They aren’t necessarily comments that they CAN’T work for someone else. Perhaps a mere mis-fit with my own personality or level of development. Maybe I just couldn’t handle the truth.

1) UFOs. Looked into it back in the Sixties. There’s some fascinating questions, but no convincing answers. When Steven Spielberg observed that as reliable recording apparatus (videocams) became more common, incidents decreased, a big red light went off. Feh.
2) Sexual experimentation. Learned a lot, but all of that stuff had a real cost, and probably destroyed my first marriage. Toni deserved better than that. I’m sure that Polyamory and so forth works for some people, but I do maintain that it’s probably an order of magnitude harder than a traditional monogamous marriage. And we all know how hard THAT is!
3) Sri Chinmoy. Wanted followers to be celebate. This is a tragedy, because he is very, very obviously working at the outside edge of human potential creatively and physically. Anyone who isn’t into sex should check him out. First human being whose aura I ever saw. Wow.
4) Power Lifting. The light in the back of my head said “no.”
5) Scientology. Interesting, but didn’t feel deep. Cult sense.
6) Reverend Moon. Set himself up as the new Christ.
7) Traditional Christianity. I love the red letters. Cross reference the different Gospels, pay special attention to what EVERYONE says Christ said. For deeper effect, cross reference this with the words of the Buddha, and Muhammad. Deeper still, cross with animistic religions from Africa and the Americas. Deeper still, cross with what you know of natural forces and the actions/behaviors of animals. Discard the rest. You’ve found the seed.
8) NLP. There are a few vastly useful skills. But no heart, other than Core Transformation. Stop after the first 20%, and move on.
9) Bodybuilding. By this I mean the traditional 8-12 rep, 3-5 sets, muscle isolation. Just didn’t work for me. Works for lots of other people though. I think this one’s just me.
10) Various pieces of exercise equipment: weight stacks, incline bench with punching bag integrated, etc. Oddly shaped punching bags, etc. Interesting toys.
11) Self-Realization Fellowship. Nice people. Our energies just didn’t mesh. My problem, not theirs.
12) Various Save-The-Whales type groups. Yes, I love the environment. No, I don’t fit.
13) Various Shamanic groups. Learned a LOT. But when I applied the “Balance” model, I just didn’t see enough of it among them, no matter how much they talked about it. But man, they had some serious knowledge.
14) Past-Life regression. Jury’s out, but I’m unconvinced. Everybody seems to remember being someone special and important. Too many Cleopatras, not enough peasants.
15) Channeling. Evidence unconvincing. Have someone channel the combination of Uncle Owen’s wall safe. Too much fakery, and obvious selective leading of audience participation. Yuck.
16) Psychokinesis and the like. Evidence unconvincing. I believe its POSSIBLE, but haven’t seen anything even remotely “there.”
17) Aleister Crowley’s folks. Dark, interesting, overly intellectual, trivial. Very impressed with themselves. No objective confirmation of their claims.
18) Distance running. Love it, but beyond about three miles, the cost-benefit ratio seems to be unfavorable. But if you get the “Runner’s High”? Go for it!
19) Megavitamin Therapy. There is definitely something there, but theories vary so much that you’d have to be a microbiologist to keep up. And the researchers in the field don’t look much healthier than anyone else. My preference: a couple of wide-spectrum nutritional sources, and exercise hard to tell your body what you want. It’ll figure out what it needs, and piss out the rest. Be careful of fat-soluble vitamins like A and D. You can overdose.
20) Life Extension stuff. Really interesting. Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw started this off, and I still buy some of their stuff. But their attitude seemed very body-negative: it was just something to carry around their brains and genitals. And let’s just say that I didn’t covet their physical appearance. Brilliant, though. (And did you know they wrote the original story for Clint Eastwood’s final “Dirty Harry” film?)
21) Cryonics. Freezing your brain, to bring you back at a later date. The people into this seemed not to be getting much out of their lives NOW. Why would they want to come back to more of that? Plus, a buddy of mine, Jack Cohen, one of the ten smartest people I know and a world-class biologist (and former president of British Mensa) says that human consciousness is like a whirlpool of chemical and energetic processes. On a physiological level, that makes sense. Can you freeze a whirlpool? I thought not.
22) Biofeedback. Not a dead end, but a short-term tool. Learn to produce the same effects without the machines. Too many users think they’re exploring the origin of wind, when what they’re really doing is watching the grass bend.
23) Psychoactive drugs. A dead end, but a REALLY interesting one. John Lilly’s “Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer” is a must-read for anyone who wants to check this out. LSD is fascinating, but too powerful for “fun.” Psilocybin? My personal favorite, and the only drug I ever learned anything from. Going to stick-fighting practice on ‘shrooms was a trip and a half. And it was REAL. I’d go back later, and the other students would still be talking about how phenomenal I’d been. Hah! But they’re a trap. One buddy talked about how if he ever was going to get into a fight, he’d go home and take ‘shrooms first. What? Talk about unclear on the concept! Anyway, after about two years in the early ‘70s, the mushrooms told me to stop taking them, that they’d taught me all they could. I know how that sounds, but that was my experience. I’ve never taken them again.


Nancy said...


Thanks for another fascinating blog post! You wrote that Sri Chinmoy's aura was the first you've seen. Would you please expound on that experience?

Tower said...

Wow. That was great! Thanks for that Steve. It was funny, but also a great insight into little permutations along your path. Very interesting.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I don't seem to run into people who say they had famous past lives, so I asked about it in my livejournal, and got a number of replies from people who also didn't didn't find claims of famous past lives to be typical.

Still, I've found that people who believe in past lives don't seem to be good at seeing their current actions as consequential.

Steve, would you be willing to talk about ways of working with yourself that you've found to be unsatisfactory or at least not as good as what you're doing now?

Josh Jasper said...

I have a near instinctive distrust of people in the "enlightenment business" as you and Dan put it. There are a lot of scams out there, ad a lot of people playing around as if they were doing something that was provable and replicable or everyone, or even a large number of people. What I find most discouraging is the salesmanship behind how they get people to get the message out.

You're on to something in how you talk about being the best Steve Barnes there is. What's bet for you might not be best for someone perusing a career in physics or politics, but you now it's working for you. It might not sell well, but that's not the goal.

Veronica said...

Great post Steve. It reminds me of two things: first, the need for ongoing self reflection and second, that what works for others, sometimes has almost no bearing on what works for me.

I can totally relate on the UFO thing, oh how I want to believe, but alas, the evidence doesn't support it at this point.

Steven Barnes said...


can you tell me more clearly what you'd like to hear about? I thought I WAS talking about things that didn't work!

Tammy said...

Past Lives - had my astrology chart done a few years ago and the last half of the "results" session (which was 90 minutes total) was re: past lives. No one real important - one was rich but a playboy, stable master, child who was given to the church, a disgruntled priest, a village story teller and the like.

re: Polyamory -- it does work for some. And who said ANYTHING in life is easy? Sure it's hard, but does that mean we shouldn't try? (that is, if it is right with you... just because it's hard doesn't make it automatically wrong).

Stephanie said...

The few people I know who seem to have a genuine belief in past lives say they have memories from childhood - being 3 or 4 and having dreams and memories of adult life they couldn't know about. Those people almost never claim they were anyone famous, and in my experience, don't talk about it as if it were a mystical experience. It's very casual and more an piece of the puzzle of the whole person than an obsession.

I also know a bunch of the "enlightenment seekers" from a variety of backgrounds - funny to me how most of the people who claim to be the most enlightened and spiritual seem to have the most screwed up personal lives. As you put it, none of them seem to have balance or even be interested in finding it.

However, I would say that also applies to the vast majority of the fundamentalist Christians I know as well, particularly those who are heavily invested in the notion of sexual abstinence.
I think there's a huge difference between an honest spiritual quest and the need to use religion/spirituality/mysticism/what have you as a crutch to support and reinforce your own insecurities or prejudices.