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    7. Driving with the Brakes On

    Those of you who have met me, in person or on the phone, know that I’ve struggled with speaking fluidly, freely, and easily, often with a strained or stuttering voice.

    Today it became clear how the Universe has been sending me messages (or reflections) – on three occasions (that I’m aware of) – over the past few months. I might have finally heard them.

    I took my car into the shop today because what had started a week ago as a squeak had turned into a rumbling vibration when I drove with normal speed. My fuel usage had increased markedly. A few months ago I’d had a similar squeak, and a few months before that as well. In the first two instances, and again today, the diagnosis was, “Your brake calliper is seized and has destroyed the pads and rotor as well.” The past two times, it affected a single wheel. Today was not one, but two.

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    6. 20th Anniversary of My Heaven’s Gate Departure

    August 31, 2013 was the 20th anniversary of my departure from the Heaven’s Gate cult. That was about eleven months ago. Below is my journal I shared with my brothers on that day. There may be contextual factors of life in the group you may not understand in this account since it’s a snippet of my time in the Heaven’s Gate group. (If you find you have questions, you might have to wait for the book to come out, or please leave your comments and questions below.)


    Today was the 20th anniversary of my departure from the Heaven’s Gate group (cult, classroom, commune). It was 20 years ago today – on August 31, 1993 – that I was driven to the airport in San Diego and I boarded a plane for Calgary (with a plane change at LAX). I remember two fellow group members, Srrody (pronounced “Sirr-ody” – Terry Stephen McCarter) and Swyody (pronounced “Soy-ody” – Robert Stephen Havel), sitting with me at the San Diego airport in the departure lounge. (It was pre-2001 of course – remember when you could see your friends and family off in the departure lounge?)

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    5. An Instrument of Vision

    Recently, I visited my uncle, Cabot Lyford, near Portland, Maine. Cabot is well-known in New England as an artist and sculptor of stone, wood, and bronze. He’s in his late-80s and has retired from sculpturing due to health. Recently, a film was released about him as part of an ongoing series of film portraits of distinguished Maine artists, Dale Schierholt’s “Cabot Lyford: Portrait of a Man as Artist”. On my recent visit, I had a chance to share my appreciation for him and my thoughts on the advent of the film. The letter below is a follow-up to that conversation.

    July 6, 2014

    My Dear Uncle,

    It’s been two weeks since seeing you last in Damariscotta. On our brief visit, I attempted to express my appreciation for you and for the honor being given you in the form of Dale Schierholt’s new film, “Cabot Lyford: Portrait of a Man as Artist”. This letter is the result of collecting and refining my thoughts since then which I’d like to share with you now.

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    4. Relationships

    Preamble

    With this post, I’m breaking from chronological order in the cult saga, but this is what’s coming up for me now, so I’m writing about it.

    Let me also cut to the chase here and explicitly reveal the name of the cult for anyone who may not be familiar with it. I was a member of what the news media eventually called the “Heaven’s Gate” cult. As mentioned in previous blog posts, the focus of the cult was to embark on a classroom experience, likened to an astronaut training program, as preparation – according to the cult leaders – to graduate into “the real physical level above human” or the “Next Level”.

    In March, 1997, the cult made international news headlines due to the unfortunate event in which all remaining 39 members committed group suicide in San Diego, California. That was three and a half years after I left the cult. I knew most of the people who died. In future posts I will write more about that and its effect on me.


    For now, I’m at a crossroad, a next step in my life. I’m about to divorce Elizabeth, my wife of nine years, the last year or more apart.

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    3. What is My Business?

    Why would I join a cult? Why would I willingly embark on a life-path of giving others power over how I lived my life every day? How do I make sense of my choices day after day to relinquish my freedom of thought to someone else? Maybe these are your questions; they have been mine since leaving the cult.

    When I joined the cult in 1975, I was an idealistic, somewhat naïve 21-year-old young man. I joined after attending a meeting at which the two leaders spoke. At the time, the group was not known in the press, and cults were not in the public eye. The two leaders, a man and a woman, shared a message unlike anything I had ever heard. They talked about preparing to ascend to the “level of existence above human”. Their teaching involved assisting any who cared to join them in undergoing a process they called “human individual metamorphosis” (HIM) in preparation for ascension. This process would involve leaving behind our human lives and devoting all of our focus and energy to preparing ourselves to “graduate” into this “next evolutionary level of existence above human” or “next level”. They likened this process to the chrysalis stage a caterpillar undergoes to become a butterfly.

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    2. My Open Heart

    I want to tell you a story. It’s my story. I have a secret. I’ve held it close. I’ve told very few people. I have been ashamed. The shame and the not-telling has been a weight on my life. The failing to shine a light on my story, even for myself, has kept me from becoming all I could be. I’ve played small. I’ve maintained the illusion that by hiding I would be safe. But it wasn’t true. Instead, I was choosing not to live fully.

    Here’s what I have been ashamed of letting be known: I was in a cult for eighteen years. In joining, and choosing to remain as long as I did, I relinquished my choice to determine my own beliefs and my own behaviors moment by moment, day by day, until years had gone by.

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    1. Inaugural Post

    It’s been said that our greatest weakness can become our greatest strength. That is my experience in life. For several decades I’ve had a stutter, a faltering voice. I’ve been self-conscious of it. In compensation, I’ve excelled at expressing myself in writing. I find in writing my focus is less on visual or audial presentation and more on allowing my inner well of ideas and inspiration to express. To tap that inner well, I’ve often asked myself: “What is the root of what I’m feeling; what is my heart telling me; how do I put these inner messages into words?”

    The printed page has no judgment about what appears on it, so when writing for myself or for tiny readership, I’ve felt tremendous freedom to express freely what comes forth, without filtering or bracing for a public critique. In the movie “Finding Forester”, the character Forester, played by Sean Connery, said at one point, “Write your first draft from your heart, and your second draft from your head.” When my writing is good it’s because I’ve done just that.

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