Recently I've watched a couple of really interesting conversion stories (here
One is from a Pentecostal the & other just a very committed Christian! I thought it would be interesting to post my own deconversion story as I come from a very different background from these two & in some ways hippy spirituality is harder to escape from because it doesn't tie you down to any rules & so in some ways seems a lot more reasonable.... anyway... here you go!
I was brought up Christian. Not particularly strictly, but we had to go to church every Sunday, me & my brothers were baptised & the church was a fairly large part of our social life. I went on a few Christian camps & conferences as a youngster & age 10 I chose to be confirmed in to the church which involved meeting up once a week with another church member & taking a course of discussions about faith & the bible. Looking back I'm pretty sure I mostly did this purely because I wanted to be part of the club. All the other kids at church were doing it & I simply didn't want to be left out. My weekly discussion meetings were with a lovely lady who gave me Ribena & chocolate so it was win win really! To be honest, at that age I didn't identify as 'Christian' really, it was more a kind of family social club. My church (URC) was pretty relaxed & no one was trying to make me feel guilty for anything.
When I was 10 my Dad left our family & moved away, & without his influence & probably because she had gone through a big upheaval in her life, my mum gradually began to drift away from the church & became involved with the Glastonbury set - a kind of DIY 'spiritual' belief born out of the hippy generation & moulded to fit modern life.
I kept going to church for a while but became increasingly influenced by my Mum's beliefs which centred around 'energy' - an invisible force in the universe of which we were made & which could be manipulated by humans to do almost anything including heal people, connect with people psychicly (including the dead) & connect to a 'higher plane' where all souls were one & knew the 'truth' about the universe. This energy could be controlled by meditation, mental discipline, ritual ceremony & by living a 'natural' life.
As I was pretty young and immature at the time, I think what really drew me to it was actually the idea of power . Think now how much people are amazed by Derren Brown & other illusionists well I thought that I could learn to do that stuff for real. I was completely enamoured & blinded by the thought that I could manipulate the laws of physics & during this time I began to sink in to a delusion that was only supported by people I trusted. For example, My mum offered me the chance to see a homeopath.
Seeing our homeopath was a great experience, she was a lovely warm lady called Andrea. We used to go to her house & we'd get to talk to her for as long as we needed about our lives, it was a form of therapy. Then at the end of the session she would prescribe remedies to us, & the amazing thing about them was they were for anything! Not just physical ills but for literally anything that was wrong with our lives, Andrea had a pill. Sometimes she would use a pendulum to help her decide, & that was something that really impressed me. You can try it yourself in fact, just get some string & attach a weight to the bottom. Now hold the end of the string in one hand & believe
that you can make it swing. Concentrate fully on it, blanking out anything else in your mind. You should be able to get some pretty good movement going on it, some people I knew could make their pendulums fly round & they had really
strong energy! For me, this was definite proof - how else could you have just a direct physical effect on the world. Of course it's complete rubbish, you're actually just moving your hand, just minutely enough that even you don't notice, but I wasn't interested in anything that didn't prove my world view.
So I started playing around with 'energy' & learning about the theory of it from people my Mum knew & in Glastonbury. Around this time I went on a Church summer camp where I met a boy & we developed a bit of a thing. I taught him all about energy & we would sit up all night testing our powers & playing weird psychic games. Due to a mixture of staying away from home & being in a heightened environment it all started to get a bit surreal. I was acting exactly like one of those creepy spiritual gurus, it was all very intense. I had an interest in paganism & wicca at the time as well & obviously there was a bit of sexual tension going on too, it was a very surreal week. Afterwards I found out that he'd told people in church about me & they said he wasn't to contact me again as I was clearly influenced by the devil!
As I got older though, I grew out of needing to control things quite so much & focused instead on my own spiritual growth. I learnt about chakras & the way energy is ordered & flows through us, about ways of harnessing it to achieve enlightenment. I went on courses on psychic defence, healing & many other things, picking the bits that sounded fun & ignoring the rest. Most of what I incorporated came from eastern religion, some from paganism, lots of it I simply made up (but still believed in). In that culture you are encouraged to do things your own way. You are taught that each person has their own path & however you chose to raise your energy is fine as long as you don't hurt anyone else. Looking back this seems like such a childlike world view, but I guess for a teenager looking for answers it's very comforting to think that we're all heading in the right direction, just some people are further on than others. It's a movement that sees itself as very tolerant (& in fact is compared to some denominations!) but unfortunately its tolerance is also its prejudice.
It's very hard when you're striving to ardently towards enlightenment, to look at non-spiritual folk & think patronisingly how less advanced their soul is. There's a general belief that when you're born, your soul has chosen its life in advance in order to gain the experiences it needs to be enlightened. So you look at someone in a wheelchair or a poverty stricken country & think they have chosen
that life. That's not to say you don't try to help people, but you can see how the danger of prejudice & apathy is constantly there. It's equally as bad as the Christian who thinks God has punished you, or the Buddhist who thinks you have bad karma.
Surrounding all of this was a massive subculture with festivals, drugs & a generally laid back & hippy vibe going on. I immersed myself in this, & actually, this is the one aspect of it that I am genuinely thankful for. I had a bloody brilliant time hanging out with people in fields, singing & dancing, getting high & generally having a whale of a time. If there's one brilliant thing about the spiritual movement it's that they know how to have fun. Also, they do genuinely build up your self esteem, encourage you to be an individual & foster an appreciation of, & respect for, all living things.
Around the age of 15/16 I started going to Quaker Meeting, & that is what the next section is about.