The "world" of magic and myth and supernatural beings and events was interesting to me as a child. I really believed in the possibility that "step on a crack, break your mother's back," at least to the extent of caution, when I remembered. Giants, as well as wee people, gave my imagination a power that I, as an ordinary child, did not have. I didn't dwell on all this very much, but as an adolescent carried it over into an interest in science fiction—to my mind, a precise and almost inevitable transition. The world available to me as a teenager was still a bit overwhelming, and I sought the power of answers to my questions, even if they might be questionable to the world of adults.
My own experience of new adulthood was full of mistakes and wrong turns and regrets and anxiety as I gradually learned how to live with my sudden-seeming load of responsibilities. Facts were hard and (when one learned them) clear and clean. The borders between fact and wish seemed easier to deal with if I cut them severely—anything I did not know as a fact was discarded. (Well, that rather brutal mindset didn't carry over completely to the realm of relationships, about which I retained a lot of my old dependencies on magic, if not myth.)
Mysticism was relegated to the trash heap along with myth and magic. The mind (not necessarily, but at least potentially, my mind) was the sole determiner of reality. It wasn't until I was in my sixties that I noticed that I kept bumping into something that seemed outside the province of the mind. It began with experiences of deep connection that I felt but couldn't put to words. Eventually, the questions that were raised led me into another world.
This new world, however, seemed populated with a lot of the same "irrational" baggage that I had left behind many years ago. It turned out to be not so easy to find my way through the new forests as I had first hoped. I tried to understand the religious beliefs of my childhood in new ways—I saw glimpses of truth, or at least plausible explanations, in the myths of scripture. Religion, it turned out, was a mixture of fact and fantasy no matter how much I tried to rationalize it. So I chose a more solitary path, aware that I might be missing something important but deciding that it was easier to reinvent the wheel than to sort through someone else's designs looking for satisfaction.
I followed suggestions that meditation—particularly in the Buddhist tradition, which allowed me to practice without having to "believe" somebody else's ideas—could lead me to a larger understanding of reality. I deliberately avoided religious interpretations of what I was investigating. Even vipassana, or "mindfulness" meditation, I found strewn with ornaments and vestiges, but I've managed to keep to my own path (at least, as it appears to me).
I attended some retreats by a local teacher of vipassana meditation, Barbara Brodsky, and benefited from her insights and knowledge of the practice. Her own path has been different from many of the current teachers, who learned at monasteries in Asia. As a result, she offers a "non-standard" version of reality that includes Aaron.
Aaron is a "spiritual being" that does not live in the limited world we all recognize and interact with daily. He is one who has lived a number of separate lives in the past, and who has therefore acquired a measure of wisdom that could benefit those of us seeking our own enlightenment. He speaks directly to us through the mouth of Barbara Brodsky during special situations in which Barbara relinquishes her own voice and mind to him. He teaches those of us who are able to listen. The technical term for his relationship with and speaking through Barbara is "channeling."
While Barbara Brodsky offers instruction in vipassana meditation without recourse to the words of Aaron, she also offers separate sessions that include Aaron. Those of us who prefer not to deal with questions about just who Aaron is and where he resides and what kind of reality might include such phenomena can attend her sessions at which he is not present.
Her newsletter, distributed by Deep Spring Center, contains transcripts of Aaron's teachings. It's easier for me to read his words as simply offerings of wisdom without attribution to a supernatural source than it would be to hear his words coming out of Barbara's mouth. Wisdom, it seems to me, is independent of its source. Words of wisdom put things together for me that I might not have integrated on my own. It is crucial, however, that they not violate the aspects of reality that I have labored to know. It's one thing to "push the envelope," to stretch the limits of my universe, but quite another to blast holes in it for the sake of absorbing somebody else's views of reality.
"Spiritual beings," in the form of separate personalities that are somehow not affixed to physical bodies, don’t fit in my universe as it is presently conceived. Reincarnation depends upon the concept of (in Christian terms) immortal souls. Christianity, of course, does not hold to the idea of reincarnation with the sole exception of Jesus, but retains the idea that each of us will live forever in another realm called heaven (or else, as some insist, in an alternative place reserved for those of lesser accomplishment in some way). When we die, as I see it, we die. We may be remembered, and we may while alive have some lasting effect on our environment. But when the light is extinguished, as it will be for us all, the darkness takes over. If I refer to "the spirit of Jesus," I am talking about the lingering effects in people alive today of a man who very likely lived a couple of thousand years ago. Profound as that effect may be, that person is no longer with us in fact. Neither is his "heavenly father," a being (a person, in many reports) who is said to be the power behind everything. I am willing to leave open the questions of how it all began and how it keeps going and what gives meaning to it all.
Well, that last may be something I'll reserve for myself, for the present, at least.
Even if I could accept the reality of Aaron as a separate person who temporarily occupies Barbara Brodsky's body in some way, I haven't read in the words attributed to him any remarkable wisdom that I didn't already know. Perhaps he expresses some things well. Many physical beings do and have. I don't get much from Aaron that isn't just a reworking of fairly simple truths I've heard most of my life. I don't mean to put "him" down for that; we all express our views of reality and idealism with varying degrees of eloquence. The attempt is important, too.
My challenge is to accept Aaron without judgment based on conceptual incompatibility. His wisdom, wherever it comes from, needs to be heard with the rest. I don’t have to try to integrate his description of things that he says happened to him in a previous lifetime with his urging on me of enduring values.
Therefore, I take Aaron with a grain of salt. I'll listen to him, perhaps, but I'd rather pursue wisdom in more familiar places.
Donald Skiff, January 23, 2000