(I'm not a musician.) I was taught as a child that I must not 'blow my own trumpet' as in talking about myself – especially not to say anything good about myself. I was also taught that much of what I could say about myself was nonsense and I needn't expect anyone to believe it. If I myself believed it, I must be insane. If not, I was obviously a liar. Telling my story, therefore, became a very confronting task. I am now 76, as I begin this blog, and it is only a preparation – things I write on the way to writing the memoir.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Guru

What shall I call her? OK, for reasons of my own I'll label her Laura (which is not her name). I’m planning to say some critical things about her, so I don't want to identify her – even though she’s been dead 15 years or so; and even though some people may think, rightly or wrongly, that they guess.

Looking back, it would be easy to think she was evil – a consummate con-artist. But it was much more complex than that.

A young man I'll call Tim (because it's not his name) was in a spiritual development course with me and others. He took a weekend trip to do another course he'd seen advertised. He came back to Melbourne full of enthusiasm, telling us of the remarkable gifts of the woman leading the course and the wonderful experiences he'd had. Not only that, but he had news that the course leader, she whom I'm calling 'Laura', was soon to move to Melbourne bringing her programs with her. We could hardly wait!

Laura arrived with her family and an entourage of staff and course assistants, rented a large house, found suitable teaching venues, and started promoting her programs. She also offered some individual advisory services with a spiritual slant. Tim introduced us to her and her work. A number of us enrolled enthusiastically. 

My husband Andrew and I did a number of her courses, including one residential long weekend. I have to say we got a lot out of them. She displayed considerable knowledge about healing, and mystical matters in general. She helped her students shift old energy blocks and evolve. But how? Was it through genuine healing ability or was it merely the psychological effect of the things she had us do? (And does that matter anyway if it comes to the same result?)

The exercises we did were active, interactive and full of drama. That is what I most remember now, rather than any particular piece of wisdom or even information.  Or no – wait – there was that prediction she made ... and there was the wisdom from beings who spoke through her.

Laura was a full body channel. She said that her consciousness went off somewhere else while the channelled beings inhabited her body. After she returned to it, she had to rely on other people, plus any recordings that may have been made, to let her know what had been said or done in her absence. 

During her courses some amazing beings channelled through her. One in particular was an ancient Oriental sage and healer: a kindly, wise, humorous and humble soul. When he came into her body, which happened in front of the course participants, it visibly expanded in size. Not hugely of course – though there was one tale of her coming back in to find he'd split her slacks – but you could just see that the energy, and hence the body it inhabited, had expanded. He sometimes used to say, as he came in, 'Now, what is she wearing today?' If that included high heels, he'd wriggle out of them and give his teachings barefoot.

The Sage delivered whole lectures on healing, including some exclusively to Reiki people, which gave us a deeper understanding of that modality. (Laura herself had not learned Reiki.) And he taught other methods of healing, which were valid, practical and demonstrable. Some of them were methods of energy healing, and they certainly worked – not only during those classes but in all the years since, whenever I've had occasion to use them. He also wrote two books during the time I was associated with Laura. That is, he dictated them, when he was using Laura's body, to one of her assistants. They are excellent, wise, beautiful books, which I have always quoted to my Reiki students. I still have my treasured copies. One was published, using Laura's name as the author for legal reasons. The other was photocopied for a select few people, crediting the Sage by name as author. 

Laura channelled many beings, including archangels and ancient Egyptian deities.  At the residential weekend, one evening she had us walk in turn along a short pathway her assistants had created, as a symbol of leaving behind old burdens and limitations and travelling into a new self. We all lined up and traversed the path one by one. Laura – or rather the Sage, who was inhabiting her body at the time – ceremoniously ushered each of us onto the path. As I was coming up for my turn, I heard Laura/Sage say quietly to one of her assistants, 'Raphael's coming in on top of me'. I didn't understand what was meant; then as I was walking the path I heard behind me a huge, booming male voice utter the word, 'ELOHIM!' It reverberated to the rafters of the big hall we were in and echoed around the walls; I nearly left my own body with shock. Archangel Raphael, in Laura's body, then conducted the rest of that exercise. That was the first, and in fact only time I was present when she channelled an Archangel. It was vividly unforgettable.

At the end of one evening's lecture she did some predictions, as herself, for each person present who wanted it. It was a gift to us, and also a demonstration of her skill as a psychic. She asked her husband to blindfold her with a thick black cloth, so that she couldn't see who was in front of her. Her husband beckoned each of the volunteers up on stage in turn, and he wrote down what she said and gave the piece of paper to the person afterwards. Laura was seated. Each person in turn knelt in front of her, and she took their hand and then spoke. This was very similar to the way Ridge had read for me, and was another factor influencing me to read that way in my turn: holding the client's hand, shutting my eyes....

The messages were brief but important, and very specific; it was clear she knew who was in front of her, or that whatever guides were speaking through her knew – if that was what was happening. (This was not full body channelling and she used her own voice, but presumably she was receiving the messages from somewhere.) 

She only addressed one person by name, as part of a spontaneous poem in which she worded that particular reading. The rest of us she identified by accurate labels. Everyone present could recognise that each label applied to that person; but even more, it resonated deeply with the person. She addressed me as 'Weaver of Dreams' – not a bad description of a poet. To me it meant that, and more than that; I knew that whoever was giving me the message had 'got' me. 

On another occasion, during a group exercise, she asked us to please focus extra energy. As a Reiki Master, I used Reiki energy. The way I did this was with visualisation and intention, not by any sound or movement – invisible to the naked eye. But not to Laura and her husband. During the lunch break they remarked to me with surprise and pleasure what a powerful burst of energy I'd sent forth. I was startled to realise they could see it (though it seemed they didn't realise it was specifically Reiki energy). I have occasionally met other people who can see energy, but it's rare. 

A great deal happened in the couple of years I was associated with her. Some things appeared positively miraculous. I’m telling you just a few of my experiences so that you can see I had reason to perceive her as the genuine article, not any kind of fraud or charlatan. Looking back, I still perceive these things as genuine.

But powerfully gifted beings, for all the good they may do, are not always nice people. She presented as charming, delightful, benevolent, as well as wise and gifted. Also she had both aplomb and charisma. And there was another side.

I was of course impressed with her from the start; most people were. I talked about her to people I knew, many of whom were Reiki people, and encouraged them to come to her events. At an early one, when she went around the room asking people how they heard of her, a number said, 'Rosemary'. I saw her looking at me speculatively. She was very nice to me, and spoke to me more as an equal than a student. Then I brought along my Reiki Master, Ann, who was also very impressed and encouraged her students and colleagues to get involved. Laura made a great friend of Ann. In hindsight I believe she assessed correctly that it was Ann, more than me, who was the centre of a large network and would bring new students to her. Many years later, someone who had been one of her assistants told me that in private she not only criticised but ridiculed Ann (who would have been deeply wounded had she known).

A funny little thing happened. Ann asked me why, when I had first taken her to meet Laura, I had not introduced her as my Reiki Master. Actually I had told Laura beforehand that that was who she was to meet. But Ann said Laura had remarked to her that I had not mentioned this. It wasn't said in a nasty way, I was told; it was more that Laura was puzzled. I could only reiterate that I had actually said it; she must have forgotten. Ann remained a little shaken by it for some time. I had great respect for Ann. I gathered there had been some kind of insinuation that I had shown I did not. I look back now and see an attempt to drive a wedge between us, but in the long run that didn't work. 

One friend I introduced, Sheila, was young, shy and naive. She attended some events I was unable to. It never occurred to me that she wouldn't be taken care of. (I had been taught a duty of care to my students, and imagined all teacher-healers would have the same.) The first time Sheila went to an event, it was fine. In fact Laura and several other women greeted her as an old friend, saying, 'We know you,' and claiming past life recollections. But the next time, she was in an exercise that involved going around a circle, looking into people's eyes, and sensing when to move on to the next person – or so I understand; I wasn't there. Sheila told me about it afterwards, in great distress.

She didn't understand the exercise, had never done anything like it before, and kept looking into the first person's eyes, waiting for someone to indicate when she was to move on. The group became very uncomfortable, and eventually someone pulled her away. Then the whole group, with Laura in the lead, accused her of draining the man's energy. She was publicly scolded and humiliated at length, and finally allowed to leave with the command never to return. (I don't think they refunded her money, though.) Not that she would have had any desire to return. She still didn't understand what she had done to incur such punishment, and she was utterly traumatised. 

Now it may be that, on some level, by standing still and gazing into the person's eyes, she had drained him energetically. But she was quite unconscious of it. Not only were Laura and her chief assistants unkind to her to the point of cruelty, they seemed also curiously lacking in perception – especially for people supposed to be highly psychic. I would have thought any fool could see that Sheila was gauche, well-meaning and unaware. I had expected they would help her to gentle awakening. Now I think that, on the contrary, they picked on her BECAUSE she was so vulnerable.

I was indignant at the way they had treated her, but by that time I was having little to do with Laura and her programs. I was very busy with my own life, and also, even before learning of this occurrence, some instinct had me keep her somewhat at a distance. Later I became aware that she sometimes did this public blaming and shaming to other people too. I deduced it was a sort of group bonding – giving them a common enemy.

She evidently became jealous of or threatened by a friend and colleague of mine, Maria. Maria welcomed her to Melbourne, enrolled in several of her courses and brought other clients and students to her. Maria herself was a powerful teacher, channel and healer. It wasn't in her nature to resent Laura or see her as a rival, so she didn't expect that Laura would feel that way towards her. 

Laura began undermining her to other people, accusing her of damaging her clients during energy healings, for instance. Her story was that these people came to her (Laura) in a mess after Maria’s treatments, and she had to work hard to fix the damage done. This certainly didn't fit with my personal experience and observation of Maria's work! Laura also tried to persuade Andrew and me that we should not remain so close to Maria, on the grounds that her energy wasn't quite what it should be. We were flabbergasted.

'She's a very old and close friend,' I said firmly, and Laura had the sense to abandon the attempt. She did it gracefully, as she did all these things, assuring us that she had the greatest respect for Maria, was only speaking from deep concern, etc. Why did no-one take her to task for slandering good people? Somehow she convinced you it was all said with the greatest goodwill. She was so charming and lovely, and so plausible, I repeatedly found myself glossing over such nastiness, not quite seeing it for what it was. 

Even when she bawled me out over the phone one time, I didn't argue, defend myself or hang up in her ear. I remained astonishingly polite, though not obsequious. Andrew and I had put out a newsletter to my Reiki students and gave spare copies to friends involved in energy work. I gave a few to my friends amongst Laura's followers (for that's what they were, followers). One piece of spiritual advice in the newsletter was similar to something Laura taught. She accused me of stealing it and taking all the credit, and told me off for my ‘arrogance’. Actually I had been teaching my version of it before I ever met her, but I couldn't get a word in edgewise, and by the time I could I didn't bother. She was forthrightly angry, to the point of rudeness, whilst claiming it was all said for my own benefit. Afterwards neither us ever referred to the matter again; it was as if the conversation had never happened.

I didn't for a moment let her brainwash me into thinking I was in the wrong. But I allowed her to suppose I was suitably chastened; I didn't challenge her. Why didn't I? It wasn't that I was cowed, though I was very much taken aback. I can only think I was, in some way, charmed – yes, even in that situation.

It became apparent to me in some of her courses that she had training in Ceremonial Magic, and at some point I perceived that she was very good at casting a 'glamour' over herself. That is, in her presence people perceived her as radiantly beautiful – even though we also knew she was overweight, had a big nose, and so on. Sometimes, in the moment, I felt as if I loved her overwhelmingly; when I was not in her presence, I knew that was a great exaggeration.  

As you may have gathered by now, she loved being the centre of attention. She thrived on adulation, and played up to it. From my present perspective, taking everything into consideration, I suspect Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

I am well guarded and guided. As I said, instinct kept me from getting as fully involved as many did, and except for that one time she was always very cordial to me. Andrew and I were not among those she was able to manipulate – largely, I think, because we kept that degree of distance and gradually attended fewer and fewer of her courses; though we did maintain some connection, until right up to the time we left Melbourne.

After that we didn't stay in touch with her, but did hear of her through others from time to time. Some of her students fell away; new ones came. Somehow she got into drugs, but managed to conceal the fact from many people, explaining some of her symptoms as psychic attack by the forces of evil. The symptoms were described to me by someone who witnessed them, and I later found out they were classic symptoms of addiction to a particular drug. 

It was probably her addiction that killed her. She was away from home at the time; no-one was very clear on the details, but it seems she had some kind of seizure or collapse, very quickly lost consciousness and could not be revived. Her husband and three children survived her. Even the youngest child would be an adult by now. I have no idea what became of any of them.

Yet I list her as a mentor too. So why? 

She did teach me some extremely useful things which I never found anywhere else. But also she is a negative mentor for me, showing me what not to do and how not to be. 

One of my friends, who studied with her only briefly and saw through her quickly, once said to me, 'It's a full-on cult!' I replied that if so it was a very small one – but I see that there was cult-like behaviour. The group bonding over savaging a scapegoat, for instance. And the personal aggrandisement of the leader.

She taught me, by bad example, not to fall into the trap of being a guru. It's an innocent word which really only means teacher, but has acquired other connotations, of being exalted and special. That must take a lot of work and energy, I think! I'd rather be loved and admired for real – or not at all. It's not necessary that everyone like me. 

If a student asks me a question, and the truthful answer is, 'I don't know,' I'm happy to say that; I don't think it means there is something wrong with me. Then we can find the answer together.

Though I can stand on my dignity if necessary, I don’t take myself too seriously, and I don’t let students do so either. 

I think I have a better life by remaining humble – honouring myself, certainly, for being willing to do the work I do, whilst remaining conscious that I'm only the instrument of higher powers. I was taught that by both my Reiki Masters: Beth, from whom I learned Levels I and II, and Ann, who trained me as a Reiki Master. Jenette and Ridge, too, were examples of gifted people who remained entirely human, not conceited. Laura was a terrible object lesson on what can happen to someone highly gifted if it all goes to their head. 

3 comments:

  1. A fascinating read, Rosemary. Such a difference in gifted people who remain authentic and humble and those whose heads get puffed up. What a sad end for her. She lost her way. This was most interesting to read. I like your recognition that she taught you how not to be. I had a mentor like that too.

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  2. I can see how a person can learn even from a negative mentor. As I read your account I could think of some examples in my own life of leaders who turned out to be narcissistic and one in particular whom I identified as a cult leader in my early observations of him. There are all kinds of gifts and people use them irresponsibly at times. Thanks for sharing this most interesting part of your life.

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  3. I will come back and finish later...have to get to work now....

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