I don’t think I’ve ever been much of a conspiracy theorist, but I’ve certainly dabbled in my fair share of wild beliefs – most of them spiritually-based, and most of them, perhaps in contrast to the average CTist, of a positive slant. Paranoia hasn’t been something I’ve experienced, but rather, as astrologer Rob Breszny calls it, pronoia – that is, that all things are conspiring for my benefit. I suppose my early life was fairly ordinary, other than with perhaps a more pronounced disposition than most to think outside the box. I remember as a small child of around ten wondering if “this is all there is” and contemplating what I was, beyond the physical body. I grew up in a small mining community in Yorkshire that seemed to offer nothing more than drunkenness and television. I couldn’t wait to get out. One night, when I was nineteen, I ate five hits of acid and had an experience I described as “the best and worst night of my life, heaven and hell, all rolled into one.” I sometimes suspect that this changed me. Though it may just have been part of an ongoing process. In any case, a year later I began my travelling life, and after finding dissatisfaction in everything I attempted – work, money, women, hedonism, possessions, friendships, material security – I took to hitch-hiking and, in the kindness of strangers, and in time spent in nature, as well as ultimate freedom, I felt that I had finally found something beautiful that resonated with me. I travelled like this for about a year, and after covering most of America, I found myself once more satiated and bored, and unsure what to do next. I decided to go home. Except, the next thing I knew, I was on my way into Mexico, and ended up spending four months having my mind blown in a whole new way. The previous year had felt like scaling a mountain – but what I realised was that I was really only atop a false peak, that there was so much more to see and explore. In a nutshell, I had a series of mystical experiences that showed me I really knew nothing about the nature of the world, and which gifted me an ecstasy and happiness far beyond anything I’d ever experienced. I then spent a year living on trust; undertaking vision quests (alone time in nature, free from all distractions); doing meditation retreats; meeting gurus and healers and teachers; and, of course, other bright shiny young souls such as myself, all excited and on the journey and, presumably, heading somewhere good. This was in 1999. I was aged 23. It was a marvellous time, and though I’ve spent a lot of time mulling it over in the intervening years – and though I know the nature of this forum – I’ve no reason to doubt certain of my experiences, nor certain of the teachers I encountered, outlandish as they probably appear to the sceptical mindset who has yet to taste such things. At the same time, I can clearly see how my openness to new possibilities made me open to all possibilities, including some which were fairly bonkers, and those are the ones I’m reflecting on here. It started, I suppose, with my first teacher, shaman and vision quest guide who had spent at least half a century cultivating his spiritual energy and knowledge. He was a good and kind man, and he definitely had ‘something’, including what I would term ‘powers’ (siddhis) which, for the most part, seemed beneficial. Through him my life changed 180 degrees for the better – as a quick example, I’d been a massive and problem drunk in the ten years before, but after meeting him, after having my second ‘mystical experience’, and after doing my first vision quest, drinking simply ‘left me’. There was no trying, it was gone – and, with it, most of the emotional detritus that I suppose was causing it. Plus, there was plenty more besides. At the same time, good though he was, he used to tell some fairly outlandish stories, and since I could see certain wonderful things he said were true – though I would previously have seen those as outlandish, before my own experience of life was broadened – it made some kind of logical sense to at least entertain the possibility that all of it was true. In recent years I’ve contemplated how this has worked with something like meditation or qi-gong – both of which I practised with him. He would say, for example, that if we practised for long enough, certain effects would take place, and I found they did. (This, I feel, is more than suggestion – just as when a physical trainer tells you to pump iron, it’s not ‘suggestion’ that makes your muscles grow.) Thing is, he also said further practice would lead to even greater effects, which I of course strived for – and which I now see as pie-in-the-sky nonsenses. There was logic in feeling there ought to be truth in this – a youthful naïve logic, perhaps – but now I see it doesn’t logically follow that him knowing and being right about a certain stage of the path means he knew and would be right about later stages. Back then, however… After that first period of awakening, and having had a number of very ecstatic and liberating experiences, I became what is known as a “bliss ninny”. It’s what happens, I think, to a lot of people once they get ‘spiritualised’. They’ve touched on something incredible. Something mind-blowing. Something far beyond anything they’ve ever experienced, and they lose touch with reality. It’s not so much a conscious thing as it is a natural by-product of the change that has taken place – especially when it takes place in an environment such as the west, and especially the US, where there is little context for this sort of thing; and lots of ego; and a tendency towards hedonism; and no system of wise masters to keep you humble and grounded. Like many young people in that situation, I took it and ran. It was something like being on a really wonderful drug, except a drug that seemed to have no comedown. It did have a comedown, though; it was just a comedown that took a year or two to begin. And during that year or two I was high as a kite, and having a really and truly and genuinely marvellous time – but also being, on occasion, a little bit doolally. So, like I say, I was open to pretty much everything. I’d been closed before – a devout atheist, ignorant of spiritual matters, cynical of hippies and any talk of 'energy' – and now, having seen that there was something in it after all, I figured I ought to at least entertain some of these wild ideas. And I guess at some point entertaining them turned into assimilating them, and before I knew it I was repeating them as though they were gospel. So I had friends tell me of “the hundredth monkey” and things teachers from the past were supposed to have said and done. The Bible was all changed and suppressed, and there were other channelled accounts of Jesus’s life that were actually better and more accurate, transcribed from the ‘Akashic Records’. There were methods we could use to heal ourselves, based probably on Louise L. Hay’s bestselling book, and then, later on, wilder ideas about transforming/restoring our DNA into 24-strands (or something; I’m not sure I remember that one rightly, and never really followed it up). I also remember believing very heavily that some proper cataclysm was around the corner, and I was quite excited by this. It was in the whole build-up to Y2K and I was reading channelled newsletters predicting financial crashes and the tilting of the Earth’s axis and it all tying in with ancient prophecies and blah blah blah. I’d also by this time spent some weeks with 3HO’s Yogi Bhajan in New Mexico and he fed all that stuff too. I mean, it wasn’t just that – they also said a lot of things that seemed to resonate with my own personal experience (you’re opening, you’re growing, you’re seeing it in all the people around you, etc) – so, again, there was a kind of logic in it. And, like I say, in my ungrounded state, it was quite exciting: it wasn’t so much tribulation and awfulness that was promised, but rather a shift to a more harmonious way of life, more in touch with nature and spirituality, less materialistic and conflicting, a shift to a higher vibration, and we – those who had realised the spiritual nature of the world and learned how to move beyond our fears and master our minds – were to be the teachers and the leaders of this new world, so that was pretty appealing too (to the youthful, deluded, blissed-out ego). It was all leading to something, and, though I suppose it was really just a tiny fraction of a tiny population, it didn’t feel so much like that, given that almost everyone I met seemed to be going through these changes, and seeing and feeling the same things, and it really did feel like there was both a momentum and a goal to the whole thing. “You attract what you are” may seem like a New Age platitude, but I still believe there’s some truth in that. And I also think it explains a lot of what was going on back then. Of course, now I see I really wasn’t seeing the whole picture. These channelled predictions I was reading that felt so relevant to the time – well, I had no historical framework to place them in, but now I realise people have always been saying these things, they weren’t particular to 1999, just as they rolled them out again in the build up to 2012, and just as they’re repeating them now. Same stuff that's always been said. And it never, ever happens – except by coincidence. Similarly, all these ‘brand new teachings and books’ that I kept encountering had been around forever, it was just that they were new to me, and new to those I associated with, and so it felt like ‘new information for the planet’, when really – even though some of it was certainly good – it was just that I was in a place to comprehend it. Going back to England helped snap me out of this: and realising that pretty much everyone was still doing the same thing, and ‘global universal enlightenment’ wasn’t ‘just around the corner’. It was all still drinking and shopping and watching TV, and with a tiny group sat in the corner working on their souls or consciousness or whatever it was we were doing, same as it ever was. The other thing that happened is that: a) I met a woman who I first got incredibly (‘spiritually’) high with – she was as delirious as I; we both had Messiah complexes, and figured we were destined for any-day-now greatness; but she only ended up breaking my heart and (inadvertently) helped slam me back to Earth; and b) in 2002, aged 26, I went to university, and there got into the cold dry world of academia, which was the polar opposite of what I had lived, and not that thrilling, and yet very, very useful. I remember being in a class on ancient Greece and listening to the lecturer talk about Plato. And then he says something about Atlantis being an allegory Plato made up and I’m like, “what? Atlantis is this whole real place we just haven’t found yet; it’s been confirmed by Edgar Cayce and others; we can even communicate with them still” (not out loud, of course) and I looked into checking it out. This, I think, was the turning point. I’d already seen how ungrounded and doolally I’d been – finally realised it, even though many others had been trying to tell me – and so I suppose I was ripe for it. I didn’t fight it, I realised I’d been wrong. And now having seen how wrong I’d been about Atlantis and all that channelled stuff, I was determined to find out what else I’d been wrong about. Frankly, it was embarrassing – because it wasn’t just that I’d believed wrong and weird stuff, but that I’d repeated it to others, confident that I was passing on good and useful information. I was determined not to do that anymore. It was the process of quite a few years, looking at all my thoughts and beliefs and picking them apart and seeing where the threads led. Many of them went back to Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophists – threads I'd been taught were thousands of years old – and some were more recent misinterpretations of science, such as ‘the hundredth monkey’ or ‘the observer effect’ in quantum physics. All these pieces of misinformation that had been glibly and nonchalantly handed over to me that I’d gobbled up – I was on a mission to extract them all from my system. Having the internet helped, of course – I sometimes mused that one of the best things about the internet was how much easier it was made it to find out the truth of all the falsehoods it also made it easier to spread – and getting into and adoring arch-sceptic and charlatan-buster Derren Brown also helped too. More than anything, though, I suppose it was my own determination to not believe anything that wasn’t true. To not be embarrassed by what I was saying. To not want to do that disservice to others. I like to think I developed a healthy scepticism – I suppose we all do – but, truth is, I probably went too far the other way and threw the baby out with the bathwater. This would have been around 2009, after a good seven years of ‘concrete living’, and I was pretty much not believing anything. Then I went on travels again and bumped into some healers and spiritual-types and, despite my best intentions, had to admit there was still something in it. As some metabunkers will know, I’m still a believer in certain things most of them would consider woo-woo, but it feels healthy and grounded now, and – though they may disagree – based in reality and verification. Ninety-nine percent of it, however, I’ve discarded; and love discarding where I can; and to the chagrin of my spiritual friends, have firmly earned myself a reputation as a pain-in-the-ass debunker. You think conspiracy theorists hate debunkers? Try New Agers – ‘cos they have to sit there still pretending to like and love you, unable to express their anger, until it volcanoes out over everyone. All in all, I feel very blessed to have made this journey. I’m not sure why I’m one of the lucky ones to have made it out (or through) without too much trouble. I guess it was just a temporary dip into delusion for me, without any real underlying mental issues to fuel it – neither drugs nor booze (the clean-living continued) – and I suppose my sceptical nature and a desire for truth, whatever it looks like, is the main driver in all this. It also seems, on reflection, that for many people their beliefs get wrapped up in their self-identities, to such an extent that an attack on one's beliefs can feel like an attack on their very being. It's little wonder then that people cling to them, no matter how irrational or non-serving they be. I suppose fortunately for me I don’t confuse myself with my beliefs, and whatever momentary sadness or attachment I might detect when I stumble upon another false one really only lasts a matter of seconds. Non-attachment to anything not real appeals to my nature. And having experienced the freedom of so much letting go, I know that more of it can only be good for me. I guess it comes from a sense of security. Which is a nice thing to have. Anyway, I’d better stop there, because this is supposed to be the brief version. I thought I might have said something about the time I stayed up all night reading a David Icke book and felt like I’d entered a different reality – got a taste of what that must be like for his believers – even though it wore off within a few hours. I can sense that part of my brain that sees some claim for the first time – whether it be a 9/11 thing or that first well-produced hypnotically-voiced flat earth video, back when I was ignorant on the subject – where it goes, “holy Jesus, I can’t immediately explain that, what if it’s true? It just might be true” – and though it only flashes into life for a millisecond, I feel it gives an insight into the CT mindset. I guess the difference is that they take itt and run with it, whereas I – now, at least; not twenty years ago – think, “okay, let me look into that, there’s probably a rational explanation” – and there always is. So there’s still an openness to the fantastic, but these days there's also an immediate scepticism which always leads to further research, and research that won’t stop until a reasonable explanation has been reached. I think that’s a good place to be. Quite Buddhist, really. And we all know how groovy Buddha was.