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A
NewHeaven
NewEarth
Special Report (SR)

"Heaven's Gate & Related Issues"
Sunday, April 27, 1997

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CONTENTS:

HEAVEN'S GATE: A WAKE-UP CALL
By David Sunfellow

A FEW ABSOLUTES
By David Sunfellow

LETTERS: MAINSTREAM & ALTERNATIVE PRESS REACTIONS: GREYS, THE PURPOSE OF LIFE & EXTRATERRESTRIAL CREATORS
By David Sunfellow

THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE
By David Sunfellow

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HEAVEN'S GATE:
A WAKE-UP CALL

By now, nearly everyone has heard about the mass suicide of an obscure group of people called "Heaven's Gate." We've all seen pictures of 39 neatly-clothed bodies draped in purple cloths, heard the intimate details of Marshall Herff Applewhite's life (one of the group's founders), listened to experts describe and analyze the group's unorthodox beliefs, watched video-clips of now-deceased members cheerfully describing their plans to "shed their containers," and heard stories of sexual problems, castration, UFO's, end-time comets, the end of the world, messianic missions, and the rigorous, cult-like disciplines the members of the group willingly subjected themselves to.

While the society at large has been able to look upon the Heaven's Gate group as some kind of bizarre aberration in the collective journey of humanity, you and I don't have this luxury. Like the Heaven's Gate group, we heard Chuck Shramek declare that there was a "Saturn-Like Object" four times the size of planet Earth in the vicinity of the Hale-Bopp Comet long before the mainstream media reported it. We also heard Courtney Brown declare that he and his remote viewers had determined this Saturn-Like Object was, in fact, an alien spacecraft, while Ed Dames, another remote viewer, predicted that debris from the Hale-Bopp Comet would contain a pathogen engineered by an alien intelligence that would decimate 80 percent of the human population on planet Earth. Tales of doomsday comets, end-time plagues, planetary-wide earth changes, highly-evolved extraterrestrials, walk-ins, UFO motherships, and galactic federations are, in other words, no strangers to us. We are all too familiar with the hodgepodge of information that the Heaven's Gate group organized into a philosophy that said a spaceship riding on the coattails of the Hale-Bopp Comet would deliver them to a higher plane of existence.

Judging by the letters we received, the news reports we've tracked, and the growing number of groups that have world views very similar to those championed by Heaven's Gate, the Heaven's Gate incident did very little to clear up the confusion, wild speculation, and flippant, ever-mutating philosophies that presently run rampant in much of the New Age community (and, indeed, the world at large). If anything, it made things worse by stirring the pot and adding a few more bizarre ingredients to the mix.

But Heaven's Gate did make one thing perfectly clear: beliefs are not harmless. Whether based in truth, or fantasy, they can cause people to do very dramatic things in the real world. In my view, the Heaven's Gate mass suicide was "a wake-up call" for serious seekers everywhere. And the essential message is this: "We better be sure the things we believe are valid, because if they aren't, we could end up contributing to and/or being swept away in the next Heaven's Gate episode."

The purpose of this NHNE Special Report is to help clear up some of the confusion created by Heaven's Gate and other groups that share similar philosophies. It consists of comments from many of you, quotes from mainstream and alternative news sources, and a couple overview comments from me. While this Special Report may not clear up all the issues raised by Heaven's Gate, it will, I hope, reinforce the idea that haphazard thinking can lead to dangerous, possibly even life-threatening situations. It is also my hope that this Special Report will remind us all that if we sincerely seek the truth, we will find it -- and the truth we find will be infinitely more satisfying than the childish misconceptions that are presently having a field day on planet Earth.

With Love & Best Wishes,
David Sunfellow

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A FEW ABSOLUTES
By David Sunfellow

There has, perhaps, never been a time in human history when people were more confused -- or more vulnerable to bogus, half-baked, and, in some cases, dangerous ideas. And no wonder. Never before in the history of humanity have we had so much information, so many world views, and so many astonishing discoveries to sort through as we do today.

Are there any philosophical perspectives that we can safely anchor ourselves to, or is everything up for grabs? Do we, like everyone else, have to be blown around every time a new idea hits the collective fan? Having spent all of my adult life sorting through the growing number of bizarre world views sprouting up all over the planet, I thought it might be helpful to share a few of the most important spiritual truths I have discovered:

1. Whether we are aware of it or not, there is a divine plan that is quietly unfolding throughout the universe. The fundamental nature of this plan is love and it intends to transform us into beings that are perfect in every way. Nothing we can presently conceive of can adequately describe the glorious destiny this plan has in store for us. We should, therefore, beware of philosophies that reduce the infinite glory of God and His/Her plan for us to simple-minded, one-dimensional, all-too-Earthlike world views.

2. On one level, you and I are like little children. It takes us time, space and many experiences to grow from immature, selfish, lopsided, narrow-minded little beings to fully mature, loving, perfectly-integrated, fully-conscious beings. God knows this. Our souls know this. The Earth and universe at large knows this. We can, therefore, be patient with ourselves -- and with others. In time, we will all have learned our lessons and matured into the glorious beings we are destined to become. In the meantime, life is fully prepared to deal with whatever mischief we create.

3. As much freedom as we have to explore and experience the many wonders of life, we are also held accountable for whatever we choose to do. What's more, life has an agenda. Like it or not, believe it or not, agree with it or not, all human beings have definite lessons to learn, behaviors to master, and principles to embody. Life, in other words, is like a giant biofeedback machine: The more our thoughts and actions are aligned with God's plan, the more peace, happiness and fulfillment we experience; the more our thoughts and actions are misalligned with this plan, the more pain, suffering and disillusionment we experience. The growing number of near-death experiences illustrates this fundamental law with thought-provoking clarity:

"'It's like climbing right inside a movie of your life,' says one Near-Deather. 'Every moment from every year of your life is played back in complete sensory detail. Total recall. And it all happens in an instant....' During this instantaneous and panoramic remembrance NDRers reexperience all the emotions, the joys and sorrows, that accompany all of the events in their life. More than that, they feel all of the emotions of the people with whom they have interacted as well. They feel the happiness of all the individuals to whom they've been kind. If they have committed a hurtful act, they become acutely aware of the pain their victim felt as a result of their thoughtlessness. And no event seems to be too trivial to be exempt." (From "The Holographic Universe," by Michael Talbot)

"The depth of emotion I experienced during this life review was astonishing. Not only could I feel the way both I and the other person had felt when an incident took place, I could also feel the feelings of the next person they reacted to. I was in a chain reaction of emotion, one that showed how deeply we affect one another.... I was forced to see the death and destruction that had taken place in the world as a result of my actions. 'We are all a link in the great chain of humanity,' said the Being. 'What you do has an effect on the other links in that chain.'" (Dannion Brinkley, "Saved by the Light")

Life, in other words, intends to shape us into loving, mature beings. And it accomplishes this Herculean task is by allowing us to experience the far-reaching effects of every single thing we think and do.

4. While our true natures are spiritual and our earthly experiences, as well as all other experiences in the created universe, are illusionary and transitory, not many of us have direct access to this knowledge. Instead, we must rely on scriptures, the stories of saints, sages, masters, and teachers, flashes of intuition, visions, dreams, deductive reasoning and other tools to figure out the mysteries of life. And while this may appear to be a handicap at first, apparently this is not the case. Some of humanity's most renowned visionaries have reported that using our limited faculties to sort things out is a vital part of our growth process. Without access to higher, more direct knowings, we are forced to develop various aspects of our earth-based egos and personalities. The idea that most of us enter into our bodies with little or no memory of where we came from, or why we are here, is evidence that there is something important about being cut off from our deeper spiritual knowings -- and also something very important about being almost exclusively focused on our earthly existence. Indeed, even those who have experienced moments of transcendental consciousness almost always lose most of their God-like knowingness once they return to normal earthly consciousness. In the end, the only ones who maintain constant contact with their Higher Natures are those who have fully-developed their personalities and individualities the hard way, via mastering the day-to-day grind of earthly existence.

5. Being born on this planet in human bodies, provides a special opportunity for growth. All attempts to escape, bail out, to allow aliens, discarnates, or other real or imagined forces to take over, rather than moving fully into the earthly experience and mastering it ourselves, are generally misguided, counterproductive, and hurtful to ourselves and others. So, too, are all attempts to escape whatever problems we have brought with us into this life. Suicides, for example, are universally said to place those who chose to depart from the Earth in this fashion in more dire straights than they were while incarnate. Exiting their bodies before they've learned what they incarnated to learn, leaves them with the same lessons to learn, but without the vehicle they need to master the lessons.

6. Our relationships with one another are our primary vehicles of growth, and fulfillment. While other vehicles of human transformation, like solitude and long periods of meditation, may assist our development, in the end it is our relationships with one another that provide us with the most insight into ourselves, the most opportunities for growth, and the most potential for peace, happiness and fulfillment.

7. There are absolute laws, truths, rules, and realities that hold everything together -- and you and I can and will discover what they are.

In ages past, nearly everyone on the planet believed that the Earth was flat. This belief, which led to a host of unfounded fears, misguided philosophies, and comical precautions, was eventually cleared up when humanity reached a point where it could discover the truth. Granted, it took thousands of years for us to make this breakthrough, but, eventually, we did. And, of course, we are continuing to make breakthroughs. It should be clear by now that there is nothing in heaven or on Earth that we do not have the potential to understand, fully and completely, once we have developed the inner and outer resources necessary for the job.

Those of us alive today are especially fortunate. Not only are we witnessing an extraordinary leap in human consciousness, but many of us -- especially those of us plugged directly into the global communications system -- are actively helping give birth to it. Thanks to the power of the emerging global network, we are building communication channels to others of like mind all over the planet. No longer bound by time, space, culture, and a thousand other limitations, we can compare notes, discuss issues, and gather information about whatever topics interest us. We are also building a system that can, if used wisely, help us discern the truth about any particular person, place, or thing.

A good example of this global discernment system is the recent Hale-Bopp episode. The global communications system, including the Internet and offline mass media, let everyone know that a remarkable comet would be making a dramatic appearance in our skies. Shortly thereafter, all kinds of wild rumors began to spread (something that regularly happens when unusual or unexplained events occur on our planet). But this time, the wild rumors were quickly counteracted by facts. Each time an unfounded rumor entered the fray, someone who knew it was bogus challenged it. In ages past, such rumors would have taken decades, possibly centuries to spread -- and just as much time to counteract. Now, however, the whole process took place in a matter of days. In the end, those who wanted to believe an alien spacecraft four times the size of planet Earth was trailing Hale-Bopp, or that Hale-Bopp was going to crash into planet Earth, or that Phobes, the Martian moon, was going to be knocked out of its orbit and bounce into the Earth's atmosphere, were hard pressed to base these wild speculations on any real facts. Indeed, many people who began believing these Hale-Bopp rumors, later walked away wondering how they could have been so gullible -- and, perhaps, a little less susceptible to the next wild rumor that appears on the scene. The idea that lay people and professionals, from different parts of the country and world, can quickly pool their resources and come up with solid answers, is an unparalleled breakthrough on our planet. For the first time in human history, all the pieces necessary to discover the truth about anything are coming together -- and you and I are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this.


My hope is that you and I, by virtue of sincere hearts, open minds and a desire to reach our fullest potential, can become an increasing potent force on our planet for separating truth from fanciful thinking and, as a result, help stabilize our planet as it passes through these turbulent times. Beyond that, it is also my hope that we can come to embody the truths we discover, and, by virtue of our example, inspire others, all over the planet, to do the same.

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LETTERS:

NO QUICK FIXES

"In light of the recent... suicides in San Diego, I thought it important that NHNE know about the connection and widespread infiltration of these belief systems in the online spiritual community... It is a passion of mine to dispel these quick-fix approaches to enlightenment, encouraging instead a path of personal discovery and empowerment. You may already know about Kryon, Heaven's Gate and others, but many of your readers may not realize the depth of these bizarre practices. As an observer and staunch resistor, I encourage you to bring this to light in the newsletter. When investigated, most of these systems have several aspects in common (a psychologist would have a heyday). Most promote a salvation of sorts from extraterrestrial beings. They answer the common questions, 'Who am I and where do I belong?' These beings are always 'speaking' to certain 'chosen ones' in the form of channeling. They have some of the same features of the various Bhakti traditions in Hinduism (e.g. Hare Krishna). These belief systems encourage the devotee to 'get on board and leave the work to those who know what is best.'

"Rather than being full of fear, I prefer to look at these cults as the natural result of so many looking for answers. However, most long-time seekers realize there is no 'quick fix.' The path to self-discovery is one tread with awareness, responsibility, diligence and love."

---Kalleen Ragan-Pepper

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DEPENDENT CULT MEMBERS

"I am a psychotherapist. Your recent News Flash by Behzad Sarmast, a former member of the Heaven's Gate cult, helped me see how dependent the cult members had become on their leader and how he controlled the smallest detail of their lives."

---Kathy McClure, La Grange, Illinois

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SUICIDE IS RUNNING AWAY

"The recent mass suicide of 39 people involved in the Heaven's Gate organization was a very sad incident. My friend (58 years old), who had laughed at the so-called 'weird, New Age-ish' information I talked about over lunches, asked me with a very serious expression on her face what I thought about the incident. She was obviously concerned about me, as if I was also into one of those 'cult' beliefs. I was shocked to realize that people actually have doubts about me being brainwashed. I am extremely interested in philosophy, ancient history, and mysteries like UFOs and crop circles. I was also born and raised in Japan and live my life according to the Eastern tradition and old-school practices. I probably appear rather strange to many Western people, especially to my friends who are in their late 20s. My answer to the friend who asked me about the Heaven's Gate was that I think it was a tragedy, but whoever believes and follows any specific living human as if he is the savior would be considered 'gone.' I believe there is life out there. Conspiracies exist. There is life after death. Something is fishy about Hale-Bopp. Yes, there were times I thought there seemed to be no single reason good enough to live on for. 'Seems to be,' however, is a very self-centered thinking.

"One of the cult members said on the video that she has been on this planet for 31 years and the world is now so terrible that there is nothing left for her. That is a very selfish conclusion. If she had realized that she could have changed the world for better, she would have had a great reason to live, help others, and make herself worthwhile. A weak mind is like a disease.

"We all have ups and downs: ups to appreciate and be thankful so that you can return or give good to others; downs to reflect, analyze, and develop ourselves by learning. Suffering is a spice in life. Suicide is running away from our responsibilities, giving up. Questioning 'why' is the beginning of our awakening.

"The whole thing almost sounded like the devil tricking aliens to mind control the lost sheep so that they can possess human souls. It is impossible for me to think that none of them ever visualized their crying parents and friends faces before they killed themselves. Was it a result of broken families? Where has our dignity gone? The social system corrupted, people lost their instinct and fell in the indulgence of self-pity."

---Hiromi Okamoto, San Francisco, California

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THE SEDUCTION OF LEAVING

"Our mission is to create heaven here on Earth in every moment that we have and with all whom we come in contact with. We must become clear about what it is that we all want. I think that what we are all looking for is to feel love, connected and understood. For when we feel this way we are then free to transform the environment we each have created out of fear. This work and transformation is what will create and then bring heaven to Earth. Fear will only take us further from God and each other. The seduction of leaving, instead of working through the fear and transforming it in each moment, is something we all deal with everyday: There are, in other words, many ways to leave and still remain here on Earth."

---Fay Lynn

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I CANNOT SPEAK FOR OTHERS

"In the words that you wrote about 'Jesus, the Man' (http://nen.sedona.net/nhne/jesus.html), I found your truth very much like my own. After all is said and done, the bottom line for me is love and kindness. I have a very deep belief in God's love and the peace it brings and in Christ as teacher of compassion towards ALL. Each person is made up of his own choosing of belief systems. I know myself that is what is real for me. I cannot speak for others. What you said about Jesus was a perfect description of how I feel. I don't like to judge what Heaven's Gate group did or the reason they did it. In my heart I feel sad. I feel God will bring us home in his own time not ours. In the meantime, I feel my purpose is to love to serve others and to remember the peace of God. When I have that, there is nothing else I want and no place else I want to be. It is within me always.

"When my daughter, Janine, was born 33 years ago, I had an out-of-body experience. I had no idea at the time what it was. Only later did Elizabeth Kubler Ross write about such things. Everyone in my family was upset by what I was telling them. I had a severe asthma attack and stopped breathing. I went into both past and future lives. There is much I would like to share about that experience. But for now I shall share only what I experienced about those who took their own lives. I was able to see those who were leaving their body. When a person left their own body by taking their own life there was great deal of pain and chaos for them. They really believed that death was an escape from suffering. Yet that suffering was still with them. Even deeper and more painful than before. What was of greatest pain was to see that they had other choices and other opportunities which would have given a very different outcome. But the most painful thing of all was the cause of hurt and pain they caused others who loved them by taking their own life. This is a living hell. The good thing is that it does not last forever, even if it may feel that way at the time. Heaven and hell were more or less a review state of our deeds while on Earth. Acts of kindness and love brought forth bliss, and hurtful thoughts, words or deeds caused great pain. After a time, you went beyond either state to a place beyond suffering. But looking at ourselves when we are out of the body is very different from when we are in the body, because you cannot hide from yourself in any way when you're not in the body. Is this all true or not? The truth is I don't know. This was my experience. It was powerful and it was the first time I realized that FORGIVENESS and LOVE were truly what my own life purpose should be. I have been working very hard on this and have been deeply rewarded in the opening of my own heart center, and in the union of mind and spirit with others."

---Marie

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I'LL NEVER KNOW!

"As each 'New Age' event, such as the Hale-Bopp Comet, takes place, opinions will naturally encompass both extremes, as well as everything in between. You have done a good job reporting the controversy over the past few months, and it was clear to those of us who are thinking humanoids that there was never enough information to know whether there really was a spaceship following it or not, or indeed whether or not its passage would trigger monstrous earthquakes.

"Some people flatly denied such 'nonsense,' others 'tuned in' psychically and predicted that such must happen, and most of us just waited for more information. Unfortunately, those who believe in the extreme possibilities in any event such as this, often take unwarranted, extreme action. I grieve for the families of the 39 suicides, and send love and light to them and to their loved ones. I also see this as another unfortunate example of people being willing to turn over their free will to the beliefs of another, supposedly smarter, leader.

"Life is about choices, and it's easy to make the wrong ones. But then, who's to judge the rightness or wrongness of any decision. Are there now 39 new inhabitants on the invisible nth dimension spaceship? I'll never know!"

---Bill Dewey, Rochester, New York

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MAYBE THERE IS A PURPOSE TO THESE MASS SUICIDES

"I feel very sad to see lives wasted in mass suicides in the name of 'New Age', transformation or spirituality, and think it will add to the negative image of people on a path of new thought.

"It has been my experience that most people are led to spirituality following a tragic or traumatic time in their lives: In their pain they reach out for a new way of living, a less painful one. Some turn to churches, new-thought organizations, or New Age philosophies, all searching for a place where they will be needed, wanted and loved.

"Looking for a place where one can feel worthwhile and turn from the 'dis-ease' of the past, people can easily be taken in by cults or whatever fills the 'hole in their soul' and be misled by some misguided soul who probably thinks he/she is being led directly by God.

"When we are fortunate we find support groups, spiritual groups, lightworkers' groups or places which are positive and help us see and affirm our own divinity, then we know that God is all loving, and there is no way that He/She/It would ever require or want us to take our own lives -- that is a function reserved only for the Highest Power, 'the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.'

"I think 'millennium madness' stems from all the things that we hear about someone or something from 'out there' coming to save us, to save the planet, or on the other hand, to destroy us. It is my personal opinion that the only saving that will be done is by our own shifting within, from a materialistic consciousness to a consciousness of love of self, and world responsibility: 'I create my own reality,' therefore I choose to create a wonderful loving atmosphere around me, and to send this love and light to every corner of this incredible universe we inhabit.

"In extreme pain, 'common sense' seems to disappear, because no one who is tuned-in to the inner voice could ever choose to take their own lives. Maybe we could all join in prayer today, asking for the return of 'good old common sense,' and for blessings on these poor misguided souls.

"Surely only things, events and directions which are for the good of all mankind can come from God, the other stuff is for the aggrandizement of some individual and of the ego. 'Mine is always your Highest Thought, your Clearest Word, your Grandest Feeling. Anything less is from another source.' (This is a quote from Conversations with God). Yet the same book states that God created us so that He could experience all things. So, is there truly an answer? If everything is unfolding exactly the way it is supposed to, maybe there is a purpose to these mass suicides: To teach us what not to do? To show us the error of the ways of cults? To help us see the difference between community and cult? As long as in some way we can learn from this, then those lives will not have been wasted. Let us learn to love -- everything and everyone!

"The thoughts we choose to think are the tools we use to paint the canvas of our lives."

---Allison

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THEY DID NOT FIND VALUE ON PLANET EARTH

"I was surprised to hear about the 39 suicides. I was most interested in hearing about their philosophy, which is very similar to mine: i.e., our bodies are vehicles; we live in a multi-dimensional universe; that there is a possibility of life on 'spaceships,' etc. They did live a life full of alternative beliefs.

"I believe, like Jesus, that taking your body with you is a reality. I think that this is what the group suicide was trying to succeed at. I also believe that in order to raise your body you must live life at the highest vibrational frequency. To me this means that we experience and contribute to life in service to ourselves and others.

"The group who committed suicide did not find value on planet Earth. I believe that the possibility of them ever feeling truly validated or valued in their own life was missing. I believe that each person on this planet is here to discover their value and contribute to enhancing our earthly experience, which in turn elevates our own personal journey, which is to experience no separation. As the scriptures say, 'we were created in the image and likeness of God.' So let's be those gods and serve ourselves and our brothers and sisters by creating a universe that works, contributing to our communities. Heaven is present everywhere. Heaven is on Earth. The spaceships and the other entities are already doing their job to assist in our transformation on this planet. We are in bodies to make that contribution on/in the 3rd dimensional plane. Are you doing all you can to contribute to your community?"

---CBR

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SCALLION & OTHERS SHOULD TAKE STOCK

"For the past couple of years I have worried about what negative effects might result from all of the predictions of doom and destruction coming from the mouths of self-appointed prophets such as Gordon-Michael Scallion and others. I fear that this 'millenimum-related' suicide may be just the first of many to follow. This might be a good time for Scallion and the others to sit back and take stock of what they're doing to those weaker souls out there who are apt to attempt to jump ship in expectation of the horrors that they've heard are coming. How much responsibility are they (the prophets) willing to take if and when people start killing themselves in droves?"

---Jack Martire

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THE CONFLICT OF HUMAN BELIEFS

"As an astrologer, I've kept in mind what Mark Twain said about being born with the arrival of Halley's Comet and that he would die upon its return. That's exactly what happened! So it's possible that on an esoteric level, comets drop off and pick up souls. The possible 'error' of the mass suicide is that these people were expecting their souls to be picked up by a UFO, rather than by the comet. Also, that instead of exiting through an unforced death, they perhaps unwisely stormed the gates of heaven. In any event, their belief systems were fueled not only by New Age philosophy, but also by Christian theology and the picture provided by science and technology. What's unprecedented about this event is that not one of these groups has grounds to point a finger at another and this could lead to the understanding that they may have all failed. Perhaps the real question is: 'Have we created a world that is not worth living in, no matter what our level of success?' The spiritual ramifications of the energies and consciousness flooding society since the Pisces eclipse on March 8th are amazing. Significant too is that there will be three more eclipses in Pisces (tropical) between now and September of '98. Belief systems (Pisces) of all kinds appear to be up for heavy review and there are numerous land mines along the way. I see this as a period where some of us will be asking ourselves whether being awake is dependent on ANY kind of a belief system at all. For instance, if astrology is the study of the movement of these very real planetary energies through the psyche of human beings, we should be able to experience these energies as realities and not as 'beliefs.' When the Sun comes up in the morning do we 'believe' that is up or do we experience the reality of its rising? I think that the essential role of astrology is to open the door so we can track the internal movement through direct observation of life and free ourselves of thousands of years of dubious human conditioning. This is what the oncoming Aquarian Age is about -- the movement into 'absolute unconditioned reality.' In other words, it's possible that unless we as a species experience something beyond the limitations of beliefs and finite knowledge, we may be doomed to self-destruction."

---Haizen Paige, Sedona, Arizona

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THE ABSENCE OF TESTING

"My comments about Heaven's Gate are short, and probably obvious: They sound like fairly reasonable 'New Age' folks, with a combination of beliefs each of which are commonly accepted and familiar to major segments of the New Age community. As such, their actions exhibit a 'reasonable' consequence of the extraordinary credulence of the New Age community. As long as a claim is non-traditional, it is unbelievable how easily the New Age community takes it seriously. Almost the reverse of the scientific/academic tradition seems to be in force: If one doubts or wants some kind of verification of a 'nice' sounding claim, it is you that need to provide justification for your 'intellectual' 'mind-centered' 'fault finding' approach.

"In summary, I think Heaven's Gate highlights the relative absence in the New Age community of a value placed on SOME kind of evidence/verification/ testing/credulence for a path or set of claims. As a wise old sufi teacher said (to paraphrase), 'It is very difficult to tell the difference between the voice of your heart or inner self, and the voice of your ego.'"

---Howard

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A LESSON IN DISCERNMENT

"Recently a most disturbing event took place in California. The news was inundated with the facts and pictures of people who believed they were sent by heaven on a special mission. They 'shed their containers' and committed suicide. Led by a man who claimed to be occupied by an alien spirit he led them peaceable to their death. They were presented with many thoughts, words and instructions that seemed to be 'A truth.' Yet in their belief of their truth they willing gave up their lives to follow a leader that was misrepresented by his delusions.

"This is a common lesson in discernment. The desire to be special, unique, called by God, or sent by God for unusual service can lead one into very bizarre and tragic happenings. Death is in God's hands. Ascension and transition are in God's own time. There are no leaders that can set your time or prophesy your time to leave the body. Evil can show up like an angel. The dark side can confuse and cause great harm. Though truth weaves into the lie, it nevertheless is a lie. So discernment is a very important tool of consciousness. The truth is that you are sent by heaven on a mission. We all are here by some choice of our own consciousness. We all have things to do and accomplish. It is not wrong to think that you are an 'angel on assignment,' but you are human beings that are in need of completing your own life's journey. Being an 'angel on assignment' is looking at life from a perspective that is healing and open to be a friend, a confidant, a helper if needed. It is not escaping the needs of the body or the mind.

"You are the writer, director and actor in your life's drama. You are the one to have the intellect and the insight to make decisions that are for the greater good of your experience. Karma is a law. Cause and effect are not escaped because you become spiritually awake. You can be spiritually awake and yet be confused. So the lessons of the light can assist as you seek to be enlightened."

---Toni, Dallas, Texas

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PEOPLE OFTEN TAKE THINGS TOO LITERALLY

"Making oneself angels and/or gods will never work. God and angels, and even Jesus, are something by themselves. We might bring the light from the Messiah and work on his behalf, but we are not him. No matter how high up one feels he/she has gotten, it's one of the most spiritually arrogant ways to cut off one's own and other's life, even if it is a ceremonial suicide. It's a dead end! There is a lot of work to do here in this world -- on every level! Also, taking things too 'literal,' like waiting for a spaceship pick-up, is ridiculous. One has got to read through the lines to pick up the real meaning. People often take things too literally instead of looking into the real symbolic meaning that can be applied to our daily life and events. We are evolving into a higher consciousness towards more kindness, more love and more peace, or maybe love and peace will achieve perfection one day very soon, but that's only possible if we all contribute with hard work, and that includes never giving up! The mass suicide did a lot of harm, not just to the people doing it to themselves. It threw back at us a lot of negativitiy and nihilism. We don't need that anymore. Going out there, whether it's at work, with friends, with the disadvantaged ones, or just with our soul, or with nature itself and bringing tons of positive love-filling vibrations continuously to this world/planet, will truly bring the so-awaited change, even if that will be at a moment we can't predict. Go with the heart and soul, not with a spiritual superiority complex.

"God is cooperating, and He is watching each one of us, and knows our hearts, and hopes, and sorrows the very best, not someone who makes himself God or His son."

---Clara

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FALSE TEACHING FROM FALSE PROPHETS

"I am sixty-five, female and Christian. I have been all over the WWW since Xmas. It was a whole range of emotions to find out what was really out there. There was nothing so frightening our God cannot comfort, mend, heal or handle.

"My greatest fears are the same that the disciples had: False teaching from false prophets in every field. The effect this teaching has on the inexperienced and young could be of concern. However, on the other side of the coin, I have also found that truths covering the same spectrum are also available on the Web, if not so readily. I guess it is the searching out that some don't have the patience for.

"I think part of the basic problem is the overly large egos of far too many of the various groups on the WWW. They don't seem to have mastered some basic principles and most can't accept the same criticism they dish out. In this category we must include these New Age Christian prophets, church theologians, teachers and pastors of every denomination. These same large egos grossly misquote or misinterpret the scripture and then shun responsibility for putting a stick in his brother's eye. Is it the log in his own that prevents him from seeing?

"The problem is rampant in most every group. Politicians, scientists, theologians, you name it -- there's the same ego. Once they say something, they won't back-down, retract it or admit it was a mistake, no matter how much proof to the contrary one offers. Rather, they just fabricate more of the same or excuses.

"Maybe the only safe thing is the Web. See how easy it is to drop out of a group if you find them false."

---No Groupie. I'd rather be a loner. AJF

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OUT OF BALANCE

"Regarding your request for opinions on the mass suicide, I found it troubling and extremely sad. To me, this situation speaks of the dark forces that will use any ruse to lure people into negative situations. That the people wanted to go to heaven is not hard to understand, but that they believed they had to die so their spirits could be transported on a physical spaceship is bewildering. My sense is that they were highly intelligent, but they perhaps had long been cut off from their emotional/spiritual side. And when someone came along with a now-or-never offer to help them reconnect with their spiritual/emotional selves, they grabbed it. I think it was because the people were so out of balance with the spiritual/emotional bodies that they could not discern the negativity of what they were asked to do."

---Karol Ann Barnett

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PATHETICALLY CLUELESS

"The report on GOOD MORNING AMERICA today was pathetically clueless: 'Why, oh why?' 'How could it happen?'

"I would like to hear just ONE thoughtful commentary that recognizes:

A. The inherent human drive for transcendance
B. The emptiness that modern consumer culture creates in so many
C. The paucity of genuine spiritual role-models and traditions in America
D. The inevitability of hucksters that recognize points A&B, and exploit them because of C.

"Maybe we could also talk about some people who are dropping out, but haven't gone over to a cult-think alternative."

---Dave Willsey

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A SPIRITUAL VACUUM

"Never say never, but I personally feel immunized against following New Age leaders, especially those who might attempt to induce me to suicide, murder or other extreme behavior. I have never been without caring family and friends and basically feel fine about my niche in life.

"I see two key societal causes of the Heaven's Gate group suicide:

"Few people in contemporary society have a sense of community, a sense of belonging to a group or clan that treasures them and their contributions to the group. Seemingly rational, intelligent folks took part in Heaven's Gate who had a spiritual vacuum in their lives.

"Secondly, our current world-culture is so inhumane, so unjust, so intolerant of minority viewpoints and so obsessed with consumerism that it makes life seem meaningless to many people. This increases the likelihood of things like Heaven's Gate, Waco, and the Jim Jones Guyana tragedy."

---Michael Mariner, Boulder, Colorado

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THE GREAT HUNGER FOR SPIRITUAL SUSTENANCE

"This incident calls to mind the thoughtful piece you wrote some time ago about gurus of various stripes, and each person's responsibility to investigate them with an open, but thoroughly cautious mind (http://nen.sedona.net/nhne/geoletters.html).

"This particular event also underscores for me the great hunger for spiritual sustenance in our culture in the wake of decades of the big lie -- that there is something, or somebody, or some job, or some amount of power and/or money 'out there' that will make us okay inside our own skin. We are also, because of that very pervasive lie and our penchant for the 'quick fix,' especially vulnerable to charismatic characters who, because of opportunism and/or their own insanity, are ready to lead the hungry, insecure 'true believer' personality to his or her own destruction."

---MarciaTorrey-Jay

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MAKING SENSE OUT OF OUR OWN CONFUSION

"When we learn of a seemingly senseless tragedy like this one, our first response seems to be to directed towards making sense out of our own confusion. Often, we find ourselves scrambling like mad to form a meaningful picture out of whatever pieces of information we possess. Since no one person among us possesses all the facts, we will no doubt find ourselves unable to completely fit together this puzzle. There may arise the temptation to see this event through a filter of fear, with judgment and blame inevitably surfacing to replace the missing pieces. It is my hope that we will not only use this tragedy to learn how to overcome the tendency to judge, but also that we will choose to redirect our energies in ways that offer comfort and compassion to all those who are affected by this very sad event."

---Helena Rocca

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I FEEL HAUNTED & VIOLATED

"I feel haunted and, for some strange reason, violated by the Heaven's Gate mass suicide.

"Haunted, because of my own dreams related to end times and a particular dream about something visible in the northwest sky that split into two parts. The first part came to Earth. Everyone saw it. It was a big deal. Fear, apprehension, wonder, etc. I have been following the Hale-Bopp debate hoping that nobody would get sucked into some vortex of lies based on supposed theories concerning a "companion" and all that stuff.

"Violated, because in my own journey to the truth, I have easily seen the deception, the cults, the wacked-out theories. I'll bet that all of those people felt that way, too. I recognize the work of the devil. I feel that every time 'he' wins a battle, he scores a hit on me. I take it personally.

"Pray for those who died. Pray that this does not continue. Pray for truth to enter the lives of those who are lost and need guidance."

---Chris Czech, Moose Meadow, Alberta, Canada

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GONE THROUGH THE EMOTIONAL WRINGER

"Some of us have gone through the emotional wringer with this event and I for one am doing some self examination.

"On the one hand, most agree these folks were out to lunch. On the other, those who knew them speak highly of them and it seems very important to them that we understand these were intelligent, good people. They left this world on their own terms, and they left happy. Some have said that their ignorance was their bliss.

"Did you see the folks from the car wash who were friends with the group? On Saturday, one of the men from Heaven's Gate gave a young man there a bolo tie with an alien hologram attached. The young man had long admired it, and he wanted him to have it. He said they were going on a trip and couldn't be reached. The reporter asked the car attendant if he had been wearing the tie. He said no, but he had been keeping it close to him because things had been so strange and confusing. After I saw that report last night I turned off the TV. In the middle of all this confusion, there was something human and of the heart. And I wanted to leave it there.

"On the Heaven's Gate Web site there was a line, amidst all the rest: 'When we are gone, we will think of you. When we are gone, please think of God.' Whatever we think -- what is, is. And we are still here, floundering about, trying to put some good meaning into our lives, hoping to effect some good in the world. How are we doing? Do we honestly have any more of a clue than anyone else? We think what we think, believe what we believe and live our lives accordingly. So I can't really judge these folks in any meaningful way. I don't think self-judgement is very useful either. But self examination, and re-dedication to the principles in which we truly believe can be a useful occupation.

"I am praying for the families as I sense further despair could lead to more trouble for them. I am praying that somewhere people find a tenderness in their hearts. I pray that we can all be much kinder and helpful to one another.

"Remember:

''We're all stumbling towards the light with varying degrees of grace at any given moment.' (Bo Lozoff)

"'Give. Love. Serve. Purify. Meditate. Realize.' (Swami Sivanada)

"'Have Fun!' (Wolfman Jack)"

---Renuka

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I GIVE THEM AND "A" FOR COURAGE

"Unfortunately the news media cannot be relied upon to see the whole truth, much less report it. They use descriptive words like 'grisly events,' not realizing what the beliefs of the individuals who took their own lives were. Perhaps to these spirits who have moved on, a new world of beauty has opened. I don't know, no one has reliably reported back after death, as far as I have researched. The point is that the news media doesn't know either. No one does. It takes a great deal of faith and commitment to perform the act of ending your own physical life. Perhaps it is the ultimate act of faith in a life beyond this one. I give them and 'A' for courage. Who knows if they are where they hoped they'd be. If any documentable evidence appears to prove they arrived, anywhere, I'd love to know, wouldn't you?

"I just found this site tonight (the NHNE Web site), and don't belong to any groups. I'm a hobbyist astrologer and want to believe that we can achieve better than what this life, with all of its blessings, has to offer to the very luckiest of us with money, beauty and talent."

---M

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I'M IN MEXICO IN MY MIND

"Mind/Essence seeks all manner of experiential gain, investing Itself in every combination of values stacked into beliefs that are built into platforms to take a stand on. A set of beliefs has lead to this compelling story, a drama staged for those who agree to now reach for transition beyond what the rest of us still cling to. That those who took the leap are the only ones who know where it takes them, adds to the mystery life sends up to us time and time again.

"I'm in Mexico in my mind, at the parade and celebrations that are undertaken for those souls who now fly free of this world. I hope they are finding the joy they set out for! I pray for their well being and safe passage, marveling at yet another surprising display of God's imagination let loose and exploring."

---Steve Haag, San Jose, California

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HALE-BOPP WAS AN EXPLODING DISTANT STAR

"The suicide was a rash and irresponsible act where the members committed suicide by fraud reports that the giant Comet Hale-Bopp with a hidden UFO ship was on the way to pick up Earth people before the disaster 'shift'. Actually, Hale-Bopp was an exploding distant star which has no effect on our solar system. Though scientists are fully aware of the 12th planet which circles the sun once every 3,600 years, they, too, had wrongly mistaken Hale-Bopp as the 12th planet. There is no easy way out for the coming 'shift' or gain full 4th dimension consciousness with special training from the Hale-Bopp's ship. We have to be well-behaved and send positive energy to heal the Earth to avoid a real disaster 'shift.'"

---Loo, Singapore

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DIFFICULT TO EXPLAIN TO LOVED ONES

"What a mix of the Bible, Christianity, New Age, Ascension, UFology, and the macabre. For me, no problem, because I can separate them, but it makes it difficult to explain to loved ones, and friends about the present reality. We now become associated with a fringe group by design or accident."

---Tom Rogers

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BIAS AGAINST NON-TRADITIONAL FORMS OF FAITH

"I have noticed that the media has on several occasions grouped all 'non-mainstream' religions into one lump that 'needs to be examined.' I have been a practicing Buddhist for almost 10 years, a religion that dates back 2,500 years, and I've always found people make comparisons with 'other cults.' I fear now that this media bias against non-traditional forms of faith will adversely affect people's opinions of anything that is not Judeo-Christian.

"I don't subscribe to the beliefs of the Heaven's Gate group, but it seems that they were all people searching for some kind of spiritual truth. They felt confident enough in their beliefs to carry them to this extreme. Who are we to judge what they did was wrong? For a country with religious freedom, we seem to do a lot of judging of anything that doesn't fit our model of the way things should be. Certainly the history of the so-called mainstream religions is littered with acts of brutality, violence and destruction against non practitioners. That seems to me to be far more worrisome than a group of people who felt that their spiritual path no longer existed in the physical plane."

---Dave Bokhour

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BLASTING ANYONE INVOLVED IN SPIRITUALITY

"My friends and I were saddened by the mass suicide in California. We were also concerned that the press would latch on to this and label all spiritually-oriented efforts as dangerous and 'cults.' The Dallas news coverage on Friday did just that, with a cult expert who went on to blast anyone involved in spirituality and 'New Age' approaches as evil, dangerous and cultish. I thought it was interesting that one of the ex-members of the Heaven's Gate group who was interviewed on TV tried to send the message that these people were sincere in their seeking -- and not to lump all spiritual efforts into a convenient negative label. Of course, many groups can fit into the cult definition -- Baptists, the new men's movement "Promise Keepers", Amway... you name it, if people want to engender fear it can always be done. I know there will always be those who will fear the non-mainstream spiritual effort -- it is just part of our journey together. It saddens me that this comes at a time when there seems to be a coming together of these approaches with more mainstream ideas -- Deepok Chopra, Bernie Segal, Tony Robbins, Louise Hay, just to name a few individuals who have really made an impact. I will be interested to see what comes next."

---Mary Dodd, Overton, Texas

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AVOIDING THE BACKLASH MAY BE DIFFICULT

"The media is putting an interesting spin on this whole event (the mass suicides) and is bringing 'New Age' types of concepts and issues to the general public as never before. The general tone, however, is negative. It is raising concerns about the potential for cults being able to recruit new followers through their Web sites. This makes it even more important for sensible and responsible organizations like yours to be very careful so as not to be lumped together with such groups. Avoiding the backlash may be difficult, however.

"I think this event may have far-reaching implications. On the one hand, sites like NHNE may attract more visitors; on the other hand, there may be more 'New Age' bashing by the media. A third possibility may be the unfolding of events that indicate some confirmation of all the prophecies, UFO speculation, Hale-Bopp speculation, etc.

"It's going to be very interesting."

---Cordell Svengalis, West Des Moines, Iowa

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THERE MUST BE A COUNTER BALANCE

"My first thought after hearing about the Heaven's Gate mass suicide was about the invaluable information you disseminate through NHNE. I only wish that more people could be made aware of your site and the information it contains. When people give their homes and their souls to wholesale mind-manipulators out of fear, loneliness or fear, there must be a counterbalance available. You are it! Thank You."

---Theresa Carroll

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MAINSTREAM & ALTERNATIVE PRESS REACTIONS:

IN THE AMERICAN GRAIN

"Do's own vision, pieced together from various speeches and writings, was an odd mixture of Biblical apocalyptic, New Age mysticism, and science fiction. To those with eyes to see and ears to hear, there were elements of Eastern religions, black Islam, Mormonism, and Scientology. By all accounts, Do's gospel evolved and changed over the years from a 1970s-style UFO cult into full-blown sacred narrative. It was, in the end, a witch's brew: a recipe for collective death. But for all that, Do was very much in the American grain: a would-be prophet melding bits of this tradition and that into a desperate and eccentric faith aimed at saving a tiny, marginalized cult from impending world disaster."

---NEWSWEEK, April 7, 1997

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"I LEARNED THAT LESSON THE HARD WAY"

"Since news of the Heaven's Gate mass suicide broke, I've seen all sorts of experts on TV talking about why people join cults. There are no simple answers. These people aren't necessarily from dysfunctional families. My loving parents gave me everything in the world, and I was a successful assistant district attorney. People join cults in moments of weakness -- when they're angry about something in their personal life or in the world around them. For many in our throwaway, hedonistic society, life has become empty. Anything that involves a family -- which is what a cult is -- can be very appealing. People want simplicity; a cult provides ready-made answers. I learned that lesson the hard way."

---Jim Jones' lawyer, Tom Stoen, who tried, unsuccessfully, to rescue his 5-year-old son from the Jones Town mass suicide that claimed the lives of 913 people. NEWSWEEK, April 7, 1997

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AUFORA NEWS UPDATE
Friday, March 28th, 1997
By Dave Watanabe, Assistant Director, AUFORA
http://www.aufora.org/

Undoubtedly, we have all heard of the mass suicide which has taken place near Rancho Santa Fe, California. The group engaged in the mass suicide under the belief that they would join a UFO which was "hiding" behind the Hale-Bopp comet. AUFORA's coverage of this will be brief, since this story has taken over all media.

What you will not hear in the media, however, is the side of the rational UFO believer. The media will unintentionally place UFO believers and researchers in the same category as the disturbed members of this cult. Because no TV network or newspaper will ever stand up to point out the distinction, UFOlogy will ultimately be hurt by this event. It will serve to cement in people's minds the idea that UFOlogy is not a valid science. It is thus important that all members of the UFOlogy community work to cast off extremists and to focus on rational, scientific thought. The claim of the cultists that a UFO was hiding behind Hale-Bopp closely mirrors the controversy which occured earlier when amateur astronomer Chuck Shramek claimed an object was orbiting around the comet. One should note that AUFORA and others quickly moved to distance themselves from these extreme claims. Had there been any doubt in men's minds, it should have been removed when Hale-Bopp came into close proximity with Earth, where it could clearly be seen that no object was present. So it was with much surprise that AUFORA found some major UFO sites (whose names will not be mentioned) STILL supporting this idea (along with wild claims of conspiracy). This combined with the deaths of the cult members seems to indicate a serious problem for UFOlogy. If we can't even wrap our heads around this, how can we make any progress?

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AUFORA READER FEEDBACK
Saturday, March 29th ,1997
http://www.aufora.org/

"Seems that the only times UFOs make it into the news are as part of some misguided individual's mixed up cosmology. Not everyone interested in the phenomena is unhinged, I wish the media would get it."

....................

"My take is this, if there was a UFO next to the comet, and if the aliens were watching the news coverage of the mass suicide, they would be looking at each other and shaking their heads saying, 'What the hell is the matter with them?' There needs to be a large warning sign posted on the entry to UFO studies; 'The study of the UFO phenomenon is NOT a substitute for religious belief, if you need emotional or spiritual fullfilment, you will not find it here.'"

....................

"Your article helps bring some focus and needed criticism to a field that is overwhelmed by space brothers, higher steps on the evolutionary ladder and the 'X-Files.' It may be boring to ruthlessly examine the evidence, but ultimately it will prove much more fruitful in finding the truth."

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"HALE-BOPP COMET MADNESS"
By Alan Hale, Co-Discoverer of the Hale-Bopp Comet
(Exerpted from a longer article that appeared in the SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, March 1997. Widely circulated on the Net, the entire article is presently posted at: http://www.csicop.org/si/9703/hale.html)

With all the knowledge about comets that we have gained during the past few centuries, one would think that there would no longer exist any reasons to fear these visitors into the inner solar system. Unhappily, this has not been the case, as the twentieth century has seen its share of "comet madness." The return of Halley's Comet in 1910 sparked much mass panic, especially once astronomers pointed out the possibility that the earth might pass through a portion of the comet's tail. While a comet's tail does contain gases that might be considered "poisonous" -- cyanogen, for example -- the material in the tail is so rarefied that it would make a good vacuum by terrestrial standards. Although this was clearly pointed out to the general public in 1910, it did not prevent outbreaks of hysteria from erupting over parts of the world, nor did it prevent several enterprising entrepreneurs from earning brief fortunes by selling "comet pills" and the like. More recently, the appearance of Comet Kohoutek in 1973 inspired several apocalyptic proclamations by certain religious groups, statements which in retrospect seem even more ridiculous than they otherwise would have in light of the comet's failure to achieve its expected brilliance.

We are now seeing a resurgence of "comet madness" accompanying the impending appearance of Comet Hale-Bopp. In some ways this object, discovered by myself and Arizona amateur astronomer Thomas Bopp in July 1995, is unusual; its intrinsic brightness appears to be one of the highest ever recorded for a comet, and its discovery when located well beyond the orbit of Jupiter and over a year and a half away from its passage through the inner solar system is almost unprecedented in the history of these objects. Nevertheless, a seven-foot-tall human being is still a human being, and likewise Comet Hale-Bopp, despite its apparent large size and brightness, is no less and no more of a "dirty snowball" than are any of the other two dozen or so comets that will pass around the sun in 1997. Many of the chemical constituents that were detected in previous comets have now been detected in Hale-Bopp, and the evolution of its activity level has more or less followed the expectations that were derived from studies of earlier comets.

Much of the "comet madness" associated with Comet Hale-Bopp focuses on the fact that its appearance coincides rather closely with the end of the second millennium which, despite the fact that this is an arbitrary point in time, is being viewed by a disturbingly large segment of the public as an omen of significant upheaval. Several Christian fundamentalists have proclaimed that Hale-Bopp could be one of the "signs of the end times" as foretold in several New Testament prophecies, and some have gone so far as to suggest that Hale-Bopp might be the star "Wormwood" discussed in Revelation 8:10-11. (For the record, Hale-Bopp comes nowhere near the Earth during its passage through the inner solar system; at closest approach, to occur on March 22, 1997, the comet is 1.3 astronomical units -- 122 million miles, or 197 million kilometers -- from our planet.) Several New Age devotees have claimed they have found references to Comet Hale-Bopp within the writings of Nostradamus and within various Native American legends. Whatever the source of the "prophecy," Hale-Bopp's appearance three years before the end of the millennium is generating an apocalyptic upswelling on a scale rarely seen.

Another source of the "comet madness" centered around Hale-Bopp is tied to the ongoing belief among a significant fraction of the public that Earth is being visited in large numbers by extraterrestrial aliens. (As one radio host recently and appropriately described to me, this seems to be the "new mythology" that is replacing the older religion-based myths.) Almost from the time of Hale-Bopp's discovery there have been claims that Hale-Bopp is some kind of alien "mother ship" or, at the very least, is "under intelligent control." Some of these claims have been based upon reputed "course corrections" that the comet has allegedly undergone since its discovery. Many of these claims have not been restricted to the tabloid media but instead seem to have undergone widespread dissemination among the more "mainstream" elements of the press and have consequently become fairly widespread among the public.

Like many such pseudoscientific claims, there is an element of truth contained within these. The "course-corrections" claim very possibly arose from the fact that the initial calculations of Hale-Bopp's orbit, based upon extremely limited data and labeled as "highly uncertain" when they were published, differed in some particulars from the more definitive orbits published subsequently. (This is not at all unusual, and has happened with numerous other comets.) Also, cometary orbits do experience slight changes as a result of planetary perturbations and also through the process of outgassing, which tends to produce tiny rocket-like effects acting upon the comet's icy nucleus. To my knowledge, this phenomenon, described under the term "nongravitational forces," has not yet been observed in Hale-Bopp, although it surely must be occurring at a level too low for us to detect at this time.

A recent incident illustrates just how widespread this belief that aliens are associated with Hale-Bopp has become. On November 14, 1996, an observer in Houston obtained electronic images through his telescope showing an alleged "mysterious Saturn-like object" following the comet. That same evening, this individual appeared as a guest on the Art Bell radio show, a nationwide call-in program that could perhaps be charitably described as "tabloid" radio. There apparently was speculation on this program that the "Saturn-like object" was in fact an alien spacecraft, four times larger than Earth, following along behind the comet. Despite the absurd nature of these claims, this story was picked up by several elements of the "mainstream" press, and throughout the following day I was contacted by numerous radio and television stations from around the country soliciting my comments on the "mysterious spacecraft" following "your comet."

My investigation of this took me first to the World Wide Web homepage of the Houston photographer, which contained several apocalypse-suggestive statements about Hale-Bopp as well as numerous allegations of government coverups and conspiracies (including references to known "fringe" writers like Richard Hoagland and Zecharia Sitchin). These strongly suggested that this individual was predisposed to come to "strange" conclusions about the comet. Even more important, once I was able to examine the images in question, and could match the surrounding star field with a photograph of the same region of the sky taken during the course of the Palomar Sky Survey in the early 1950s, I found that the location of the "Saturn-like object" coincided perfectly with a bright 8th-magnitude star that the comet just happened to be located next to on the night in question. The "Saturn-like rings" extending from the "object" were apparently nothing more than a diffraction effect, a common occurrence with over-exposed stellar images on astronomical photographs. (It has also recently come to light that the particular CCD -- charge-coupled device, an electronic detector -- camera used to take the photographs in question is of a type that is highly sensitive to infrared wavelengths, and that the star in question is a red giant and consequently more luminous in the infrared than in the visible part of the spectrum.)

Numerous other astronomers who investigated this came to the same conclusion I did, and in an effort to redirect the flood of inquiries I was receiving I posted the results of my explanation, along with the appropriate photographs, on the Hale-Bopp Home Page (http://www.halebopp.com). My explanation there apparently generated an enormous amount of discussion on the Art Bell program and elsewhere, and led to a large amount of surprisingly vicious "hate mail" being sent to www.halebopp.com, as well as numerous accusations that I am involved in the "conspiracy" that is "hiding information" about Hale-Bopp. (For the record, I continue to be an all-but-unemployed astronomer, and I have not received a single government paycheck for any involvement I have had with this comet!) This claim of an alien spacecraft following Hale-Bopp has refused to die since that time, with one persistent claim being that a "famous astrophysicist . . . affiliated with a top-ten university" has verified the existence of this object and would announce it via a major press conference (which has now been "imminent" for almost a month as of this writing). What I've found most fascinating are the numerous falsehoods that are being written about me -- for example, the claim that I have "changed my story" and am no longer claiming that the "Saturn-like object" was a background star, but instead am offering some other "explanation."

Although I find this entire episode of the "Saturn-like object" and all the other pseudoscientific claims surrounding Comet Hale-Bopp quite amusing, the fact that claims such as these receive such widespread acceptance among large segments of the general public is not something that we scientists and rationalists should dismiss lightly. This whole phenomenon of "Hale-Bopp madness" strikes me as a glaring example of the scientific illiteracy that pervades our society and that has been addressed many times in the pages of this magazine and so eloquently by Carl Sagan in "The Demon-Haunted World." The numerous scientific and technological challenges that our society will be faced with during the years and decades ahead are too important and too complex to be adequately met and dealt with by a population that cannot distinguish between legitimate science and the pseudoscience that is so prevalent now. It is imperative that we, the scientists and rationalists of today, diligently work toward alleviating this scientific illiteracy, a quest that has become even more important due to the recent losses of such prominent voices for rationalism as Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan.

Fortunately, I believe that Comet Hale-Bopp provides a unique and perhaps unprecedented opportunity to work toward this goal. The comet is already attracting an enormous amount of attention from the nonscientific world, and this can only be expected to increase as it makes its passage through the inner solar system during the coming few months. (At this writing the comet is continuing to brighten more or less "as it should," and thus the prospects for a spectacular display continue to be encouraging, although one should keep in mind that a Kohoutek-like performance is still very much within the realm of possibility.)

When Hale-Bopp is brightest, it should be easily visible to the unaided eye of anyone in the world, and at that time perhaps the best thing we can do is to encourage everyone simply to look! I have challenged numerous "believers" of an extraterrestrial object following Hale-Bopp not to take my word for anything, but to go out and look at the comet for themselves and see if there is indeed any "object" accompanying it. (As I write this, the comet is slightly beyond the orbit of Mars, and already any spacecraft "four times larger than Earth" would be among the brightest objects in the nighttime sky.)

And while we're at it, let's encourage those who are gazing cometward to take a few moments to look at some of the other wonders of the universe around us and point out to them that there is far more to be in awe of in the real world than there could ever be in the pseudoscience we are encountering today. Recently, on a radio talk show where I had asserted that there is no spacecraft following Hale-Bopp and that if any listeners doubted me they should go look at the comet for themselves, the program's host told me that I was "taking all the fun out of this." Hale-Bopp is an opportunity to show our fellow citizens of Earth that the pursuit of knowledge of the real world and universe around us is far more "fun" than pseudoscience could ever be.

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"AN ASTRONOMER'S PERSONAL STATEMENT ON UFOS"
By Alan Hale, Co-Discoverer of the Hale-Bopp Comet
(Exerpted from the SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, March 1997. The entire article is presently posted at: http://www.csicop.org/si/9703/ufo.html)

To me, it seems extremely likely that life has started and evolved at other sites throughout the universe, quite possibly in a great number of places. It also seems rather possible that, at some of those sites, evolution has created an intelligent species which has developed technology far in advance of our own and which might be capable of interstellar space flight. Despite the incredible distances between stars, and despite the vast dispersion in evolutionary states that must exist throughout the sphere of races that have achieved some sort of sentience, it is possible -- although, to me, extremely unlikely -- that one or more of these races has visited Earth within the relatively recent past. Indeed, I would be absolutely ecstatic if any such visits have taken place. No one would be happier than me to meet with and converse with these beings and, I dare say, there are very few people who are better prepared intellectually and emotionally to deal with this prospect if it were to occur. But again, I want the direct evidence for their existence; I want the aliens themselves. I don't want to hear stories about some "thing" that some person somewhere might have seen.

As a lifelong amateur astronomer, as a professional astronomer, as someone who has read countless science fiction stories and scientific essays, I have devoted my life to unraveling the secrets of the universe and to pushing humanity and humanity's knowledge as far into space as I can. (This is my reason for claiming that there are few people in the world who are better prepared than I am to meet with an alien race; if there is any human being who could meet with alien beings, it would be someone like me.) At the same time, I suspect there is hardly anyone who watches and studies the sky more than I do, and while I have almost continuously observed the sky for most of my lifetime, I have yet to see a single object for which there was not a prosaic explanation. I have seen such diverse phenomena as: fireballs, rocket launches, satellite re-entries, comets, auroras, bright planets, novae, orbiting satellites, ionospheric experiments, high-altitude balloons -- all of which have been reported as "UFOs" by uninformed witnesses. If indeed there are alien spacecraft flying around Earth with the frequency with which UFO devotees are claiming, then I must ask how come I have never seen anything remotely resembling such an object, while at the same time I have managed to see all these various other types of phenomena.

In summary, I consider it likely that there are advanced alien races somewhere "out there," and I remain open to the possibility that, unlikely as it may seem, one or more such races could be visiting Earth. But if so, where are they? If they possess the technology capable of traveling interstellar distances, then they are so far ahead of us that there can be no reason for them to be afraid of us. If they wish to hide from us, they could do so easily; if they don't wish to, then they have no need to play games with us and only show themselves to a few unwitting individuals. Let them reveal themselves to humanity at large, to our scientists, and to me.

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Astronomer Alan Hale is Co-Discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp and Director of THE SOUTHWEST INSTITUTE FOR SPACE RESEARCH, Cloudcroft, New Mexico. His is also the author of, "Everybody's Comet: A Layman's Guide to Comet Hale-Bopp" (High-Lonesome Books of Silver City, New Mexico).

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GREYS, THE PURPOSE OF LIFE & EXTRATERRESTRIAL CREATORS
By David Sunfellow

[I recently shared some of my personal views concerning "Greys", extraterrestrials in general, and the issue of whether or not our race was created by extraterrestrials, with a friend who asked for feedback concerning a project he was working on. I have decided to include portions of that letter in this Special Report because many of the topics it deals with are related to the ideas championed by Heaven's Gate and other extraterrestrial-oriented groups and philosophies.]

THE LETTER:

I wish I had more time to fully explain and reference everything I am about to share with you, but I don't. I will, therefore, be painting with rather broad strokes, trying to impart general concerns, ideas, and things to ponder, rather than diving into everything with microscopic thoroughness.

Heaven's Gate was a startling example of the kind of chain of events someone can set in motion by making sloppy public declarations that troubled souls can then latch onto and turn into some terrible tragedy. (I am speaking of Courtney Brown and others declaring that there was a spaceship connected to Hale-Bopp.). Granted, people who are searching for something to hurt themselves with, are going to find someone, or some idea, to latch onto that will give them what they want. But we don't have to be the one to give it to them. I have often watched some of the horrible shows that are on TV these days ("Millennium" comes to mind) and thought to myself, "When I die, I'm going to experience all the ways I have affected others. I will see, first hand, how my thoughts and actions have touched those closest to me, as well as the chain reaction of events that went out all over the world from those connections. I sure wouldn't want to be the person that created that show and have to experience all the horrible ways my ideas reached out across the planet creating fear and adding to the chaos, darkness and twisted ideas that hurt so many people."

This is something to keep in mind, I think. Not to paralyze ourselves with, but to carefully ponder. Obviously, there is no way we are going to get away without saying and doing things that hurt ourselves or others. Making mistakes, and learning from them, seems to be one of the main ways human beings learn and grow. The critical point here is not so much that we never make mistakes, but that our hearts are in the right place. If we are sincerely seeking to do the best we can, then I think whatever errors we may turn loose on the world with be much easier to live with. It is when we rush ahead with things, not considering how our thoughts and actions might affect others, that we potentially get in trouble.

So here are four things to ponder.

FIRST POINT:

The general consensus in the UFO circles is that there are several races of beings visiting planet Earth. Typically, the Greys are regarded as one of the least evolved and most dubiously motivated of the races that are mentioned (see <http://nen.sedona.net/nhne/robertodean.html> for more details). While some abductees claim that the Greys are here to help us, to aid the planet and to promote our spiritual development, which, in their case, apparently includes genetically manipulating and/or merging our race and theirs, other abductees have a far less charitable view. They believe the Greys are conducting dangerous, self-serving and stunningly insensitive experiments on the human race, against our will, falsely passing themselves off as highly-evolved beings who are emissaries of God in much the same way that misguided, self-righteous and uninformed white Europeans passed themselves off to the Natives of the New World.

Before I spell these transgressions out in detail, let me say that I, personally, am not convinced that the Greys even exist. Based on what I know about how the individual and mass mind work, it seems entirely possible that the Greys might well be some kind of collective archetype, or self-generated myth. I have even heard it suggested that there is some kind of energy or presence behind the Grey archetype that is real, but not fully understood. People promoting this view point to the fact that some supposed real-world encounters with aliens (versus hypnotically-induced ones) occasionally do not behave at all like you would expect an authentic physical encounter to behave. Instead of the alien presence maintaining a solid, consistent, earth-like form, they change shape, often transforming from an apparent physical form into ghost-like apparitions.

It is also significant that the great majority of abductees have no conscious recollection of their abductions until these experiences are brought to light via hypnotism -- something that has been proven to be very unreliable in cases where adults claim to remember, via hypnosis, being molested as children, or forced to participate in Satanic rituals. As far as I know, the growing consensus among scientists who study the human mind is that real traumatic events are remembered, while fabricated events are not. Events that are remembered by a potential victim long after they supposedly took place, are, in other words, becoming increasingly suspect. Similarly, various studies have proven that a person can easily be made to believe certain things to be true that, in fact, never took place -- and, what's more, they can believe these false events so strongly, that these false events eventually feel the same way that real events do, making it exceeding difficult, if not impossible, to sort out what is fabricated from what is real.

My point here is that the human mind is very complicated and the evidence presently available on abductions is far from conclusive. Many years ago, Hugh Lynn Cayce (the son of Edgar Cayce), joked with me about how various mediums used to channel Native American medicine men. When, however, space brothers became the new fad, all of a sudden space brothers were coming through mediums instead of Native Americans. I think something very much like this could be happening with the Greys -- especially since our culture is becoming increasingly saturated with their pictures, stories, and myths.

I realize, of course, that various kinds of physical evidence is sometimes present (needle marks, bruises, supposed implants, missing fetuses). But many, if not all, of these things could be produced by the human mind. Stigmatists, for instance, have no trouble duplicating what they believe to be the wounds of Christ in their bodies. And along with whatever true spiritual forces may be at work in the case of stigmatists, they obviously aren't tapping directly into the archetype of Christ's crucifixion. If they were, their wounds would appear in their wrists, rather than their hands.

In my mind, the jury is out as to whether the Greys, as beings from another planet, even exist. At this point, the only thing I would accept as proof of their physical existence are a few bodies (real ones, mind you, not Hollywood dummies or video tapes of them), and maybe a spaceship or two. And that kind of proof has been surprisingly absent, especially in light of how active they have supposedly been in tampering with our race. Keep in mind we are talking about millions of abductions here. Is it possible that this kind of massive meddling could produce no physical proof for so long?

SECOND POINT:

For the sake of argument let's agree, though, that the Greys do exist as physical beings and that the growing legion of people who are claiming to be abducted, actually have been. Then I would strongly object to painting the Greys as some kind of angelic race of beings. Their reported treatment of human beings reveals, in my opinion, a significant lack of development. Even abductees who eventually come to see the Greys as a friendly, helpful, spiritually-motivated influence (a pattern I'm sure you know is common to human beings that have been brutalized by people and situations that they can't escape from), begin their tales speaking of the sheer terror they experience (a terror which is visited upon them again and again, every time their little Grey friends pay them another visit). To be sure, everything can be justified. Hitler (and legions of other misguided human beings before and after him), have concocted elaborate reasons to explain their barbaric treatment of fellow human beings. But no matter what is said, if the thoughts and actions involved are not genuinely loving, then something is not right. I know of no stories of spiritually advanced saints, sages, masters, beings, or angels, instilling this kind of terror in the people they approach -- awe, yes, and occasionally fear at meeting the unknown. But whatever apprehensions exist at first, are quickly replaced with the peace and love, the understanding and patience, that normally accompanies authentic encounters with the divine. Such encounters are, as far as I know, also consciously remembered and, in addition, the people who experience them, long to be visited again. The divine presence also has the ability to fully understand the thoughts, emotions and perspectives of the person they are visiting, and help them feel at ease. This, of course, is patently not the case with the Greys (which makes you wonder who they are really working for).

THIRD POINT:

The idea that the Greys are a highly-developed race and yet are physically dying out is, in my opinion, also preposterous. Jesus, in my mind, is the ideal and, I dare say, probably something of his example and development would apply to other races as well as our own. In my mind, Jesus was a fully-developed physical being (if Cayce's description of Jesus is accurate -- and the Shroud of Turin seems to support it -- then Jesus was taller, stronger and more symmetrical than most of the human beings of his time period -- and ours, for that matter). If Jesus is the pattern of perfection, then we move through creation until we have mastered the physical and then we transcend it. Turning into giant heads, in other words, and desperately cloning our way to some kind of last-ditch extended life span, doesn't seem to be a part of the pattern Jesus championed.

Which brings up another concern: What is the purpose of life anyway? If my current understanding is correct, the purpose of life is to become fully-developed beings, with all levels of our selves (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) fully operational, rather than limp, big-headed brains in a grey jar. Furthermore, the way we become fully-developed beings seems to be through learning how to deeply love one another, and the rest of creation which, again, would almost certainly rule out the kind of grossly insensitive behavior popularly demonstrated by the Greys. (You can find out more about my thoughts on this subject by reviewing an NHNE Special Report called "Discernment & the Spiritual Path": http://nen.sedona.net/nhne/discernment.html)

FOURTH POINT:

Furthermore, of all the mystical, near-death experiences I have heard, none of them focus on the Greys or other extraterrestrial beings as the creators of our race, or even portray them as significant parts of our development. Instead, these spiritual experiences provide a panoramic view of creation and then focus in on the day-to-day job of becoming better human beings. While the universe is often seen to be full of a multitude of beings who are populating various corners and levels of the universe, tales of alien races flying around in space ships seeding planets with their genetic material are surprisingly absent from the mystical accounts I am familiar with. True, you can find books describing all kinds of experiences people claim to have with alien beings and their home worlds, with intergalatic commanders and their fleets of spaceships, but these accounts, in my mind, are of an entirely different caliber: the first kind of experience is mystical, transformative, sweeping, panoramic, life changing, full of indescribable peace, God-like knowing, angelic music, glorious encounters with God and the fullness of the universe; while the second kind of experience, if it even happened (which, in my mind, is debatable), is like something from a poorly written B movie: The current mishmash of human ideas, customs, languages, rules, social structures, and religions are simply broadened to encompass a simple-minded, one-dimensional universe peopled by good guys and bad guys parading around in spacesuits and intergalactic starships.

Further, I know of no truly-advanced human being that ever ascribed our linage to the genetic manipulation of alien races. Nor, indeed, do these teachers indicate that human beings are somehow a lesser creation in the grand scheme of things. Many human beings, in fact, in both Eastern and Western cultures, demonstrated such mastery of life, including the physical world, that I think they would hardly fall at the feet of any alien or regard them with any kind of special adulation. In my view the caliber of a person, their overall moral and ethical character, as well as their spiritual development as a person, also says something about how trustworthy their views about life are. On this count, the caliber of people that are drawn to the idea that Greys or some other extraterrestrial race created humanity is not reassuring. Unable to trust many of these people to consistently demonstrate basic human virtues, I certainly wouldn't trust them to provide me, or others, with some kind of reliable view of the true nature of reality.

It is also worth noting that while many people have taken various kinds of circumstantial evidence to support the idea that our race is the product of alien intervention, I know of is no physical proof to back this up. Indeed, current research indicates that all of the races of human beings presently alive on our planet probably evolved from Africa, through a long serious of traceable species (which, coincidentally, actually left bones and other physical artifacts behind to bear witness to their reality). Not only are our blood types and genetics the same, but so, too, are the linguistic patterns (all of the Earth's current languages can be traced back to common roots). The psychic and Eastern views of our creation that I most trust also support this view: instead of describing how Earth was peopled, or genetically altered by space-faring aliens, these sources talk of spiritual forces gathering around the Earth and entering into various forms of physical manifestation. Slowly, as the ages unfolded and evolved, these spiritual forces moved from less-evolved forms (like rocks and plants) to more evolved forms (like primates) and finally ended up fully incarnating into the evolving human form. How accurate this view of our evolution is, I am not sure. It does, however, seem far more likely to me that the good-guy-bad-guy-space-alien-archtype with human beings playing the role of the dumb pawn caught in the middle of some kind of all-too-earthlike battle for control of the universe.

As for mathematical and astronomical wisdom that the ancient world demonstrated, I think this can be explained by things other than visitations by alien races. Dreams and visions, for one, can often impart this kind of knowledge and since the entire universe seems to be holographic, archetypes are easily emulated. In other words, an ancient temple made of 12 stones with another stone in the center may not be an indication that the ancients had an intimate knowledge of the carbon molecule. Tapping into the archetype of 12 with one in the middle (an archetype that is also common to astrology, Jesus, the Native American medicine wheel, and legions of other things), the ancients may have chosen to use this structure because it somehow felt "right." They could have also been instinctively guided to major ley lines and important geological formations on the Earth without any kind of alien or ancient high-tech input.

And, of course, if you having been carefully reading the News Briefs you know that a growing number of ancient ruins, long attributed by psychics and other pseudo-researchers to be created by aliens or ancient high-tech human civilizations, are turning out to be the handiwork of our primitive ancestors.

My fourth point, then, is that I think that it is exceedingly unlikely that the human race was genetically manipulated by another race of beings. Nor do I think any alien race should be thought of as our creators. We may, indeed, soon encounter beings from other planets (they may even be here now), but when we do encounter them I don't think they are going to be that more spiritually advanced than we are -- if they were, they certainly wouldn't be flying around in primitive spaceships. Like Earth's many masters, they would probably be able to visit any planet they wanted to by projecting themselves there in consciousness and/or simply making their bodies materialize or dematerialize at will.


In closing, I need to remind you that I am not absolutely certain about anything. Like you, I am still trying to put all the pieces together. I do, however, think that there is enough evidence available to us today to seriously call into question many of today's popular world views concerning extraterrestrials and aliens.

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THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE
By David Sunfellow

"Desiderata," the famous poem written by American poet and dramatist, Max Ehrmann, ends with some of the most inspiring advice I have ever heard:

"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy."

Many years ago, I had a dream that had a similar message for me. Coming during a time in my life when I was especially confused and bewildered, it renewed my faith in myself, in others, in God, and in the great drama of life we all share.

I dreamed I was sitting in a movie theater watching a movie. As I watched the movie, a host of meandering, shallow, incoherent, sometimes violent images tumbled across the screen. "What kind of ridiculous movie is this?" I thought, appalled that someone had spent millions of dollars on such a worthless, poorly-written movie. Squirming in my seat, I watched and watched, becoming increasingly irritated, impatient, and disgusted. Finally, just as the movie was about to end, the nonsensical scenes started pulling themselves together. In a matter of seconds, the jumbled scenes began to make perfect sense, and a breathtaking masterpiece emerged. When the movie was finally over, I sat back in my chair, overwhelmed. I had just seen one of the greatest, most perfectly executed films ever made. Meanwhile, as I sat and watched the movie, another image was playing in the background of my mind. I saw myself laying on a floor in convulsions. Stretching, moaning, and rolling around, I was being compelled by some unseen force to expand into a larger body that had somehow been superimposed over me. I knew that expanding into this larger body was the purpose of my life and that when the process was complete, I would be a new being -- exalted, happy, fulfilled -- even though now, as I was stretching into this new form, I was racked with pain.

Most of us can probably identify with the images presented in this dream. Our personal lives and, indeed, the world at large, often seems to be a hodgepodge of nonsensical events. What does it all mean? Where is it all going? Can anything good possibly come from the pain and suffering, the chaos and confusion so rampant in our personal and collective world? My dream's answer to this was simple: Even though it may not be clear to us now, one day, if we hang in there long enough, all the pieces will come together and we will realize that life is a masterpiece. What's more, we will find ourselves, by virtue of our difficult, often painful efforts to learn and grow, transformed into beings of unparalleled splendor.

Here's hoping that my dream, and the growing number of inspirations emerging on the planet that are saying the same thing, turn out to be true.

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Copyright 1997 by NewHeavenNewEarth

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