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Mike Shreve was a teacher of yoga at fouruniversities. (The portrait above was drawn by one of his students in1970.) Then a spiritual rebirth brought him into a real relationshipwith God and drastically changed his heart, his life and his beliefsystem.  Read his story here.

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Vail Carruth's Story

"True Awakening"

Former teacher ofTranscendental Meditation

    

The University of California Berkeley campus in the 1960s was a place of great social ferment, but some referred to it as the open ward.Fringe members of the hippie movement like me, and even those from the far side, found a comfortable social acceptance there. The campus was divided into two main groups at the time: the political activists and the spiritual seekers. Most of us felt that something was terribly wrong with the way things were going in the world. The political activists joined peace marches and student strikes, or served jail time for their confrontations with the police. Those of us who felt we were more spiritual, or more aware, believed that what the world needed was a transformation in consciousness. We took LSD, smoked grass, went back to the land and joined communes, or meditated.

It seems I was born wanting to know the meaning of life, and my early years were underscored by a deep, relentless hunger for personal identity. My mother, grandmother, and some kitchen helpers told me about the gentle, caring Jesus, and gradually I came to realize Gods love for me and His eternal provision through Christ. When I was twelve years old, I responded to a call to invite Jesus into my life. Because I had no mentoring and no understanding of the Bible, though, this fell short of a life-changing experience. Furthermore, Jesus never seemed very real to me in the church services I attended, and no one ever explained how I could have a personal relationship with Him. The resulting vacuum drew me toward experiences that would prove to be counterfeits of spiritual fulfillment. I thought I could find ultimate answers without a Scriptural basisan unfortunate mindset held by many in our day.

As I entered my teen years, I became interested in psychic abilities and began dabbling with the Ouija board, astrology, hypnotism, or anything occult. I was fascinated with psychic powers and wanted to learn how to attain them. Consequently, I drifted away from Jesus and more or less did my own thing. Though I had begun my spiritual journey believing in Jesus as the Messiah, I inevitably cast aside what I perceived as boring Christianity and chose the path of mystical self-realization and enlightenment. This pursuit became a near obsession with me, until an event occurred much later that would radically change my life forever.

Hippie Days

Seeking to be closer to where things were really happening, I moved to the famous Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco and hung out at the Psychedelic Shop, the famous Bill Graham rock concerts, and the Golden Gate Park Love/Be-Ins. The marijuana and LSD began taking their toll on my memory. I began to view taking these drugs as playing Russian roulette with my life and sanity.

Some of my hippie friends taught me the value of health food. They cleared out my entire food pantry, declaring almost everything unfit to eat. Out went the white sugar, white flour, white bread, and almost everything else. Within just one day I had switched over to a diet of mostly organic and fresh vegetables, beans, brown rice, honey, and raw food. I came to believe that being high should be the result of a healthy lifestyle and not drugs. The hippies had it right about materialism, but carried it too far, developing a kind of reverse elitism toward anything they considered establishment. Living in Haight-Ashbury began to turn sour, as reports of thefts and murders surfaced. When the house next door was robbed by a cat burglar, I decided that it was time to move on.

As my interest and experience with altered states of consciousness increased, I began to read many New Age books, including the writings of Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary, former Harvard professors who had dropped out of the academic world to pursue the path of altered awareness and spirituality. Berkeley, California, was home to a virtual buffet of spiritual and self-enlightenment groups. When I was not attending classes at the university, I could be found selling my jewelry on Telegraph Avenue, visiting with the street hippies, or hanging out at the Forum coffee shop. Telegraph Avenue was considered the hub of Berkeleys cultural life for many of us.

The writings of Alan Watts and Herman Hesse were very popular at the time, as well as the I Ching and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. There was a bookstore on Telegraph Avenue called Shambala, that featured metaphysical books. I tried to read the Essene Gospel of Peace, while my own Bible was gathering dust on a shelf back in my apartment. Whenever someone nudged me to read the Bible, invariably I would begin at Genesis only to get stuck somewhere in the begats. My spiritual journey might have taken some big steps forward if I had begun with the Psalms, Proverbs, or especially the Gospel of John.

Another Choice

Before making a major spiritual shift in my life, it seems I was always mysteriously presented with another choice, the way outbut I was usually not very responsive. I discovered that two of my acquaintances from college dormitory days were living upstairs in my apartment building. I was amazed to learn that they were the best friends of the head secretary at my job, who was a former personal secretary of Billy Graham. I met them on the stairs one day, and around their dinner table they shared how they had come to experience a close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They described how His love had given them indescribable happiness and peace. They seemed to be enjoying a kind of Christian nirvana, but were not spacey like a lot of New Agers I knew. Their joy and fulfillment made me quite jealous, but I just didnt see the answerthough it was right in front of me.

Another Christian was a man who tirelessly preached in front of the Cal Berkeley campus: Holy Hubert Lindsey, the original red-haired and freckled Alfalfa of the TV special, Our Gang. Scores of Berkeley hippies and bystanders were converted because Lindsey preached and prayed faithfully in the face of much opposition. Unfortunately he died many years later, in 2003, from the many injuries inflicted by his persecutors. God was certainly reaching out to me through these unusual circumstances, but I was unwilling to surrender. The current political correctness was enjoying its infancy in those days. A popular saying was, Do your own thing as long as it doesnt hurt anyone. I imbibed this attitude and was sold out to the lifestyle and mind-set of the sixties.

Even though I had been offered matchless wisdom, all I could see was my own agenda. Faith would have unlocked the golden door to the incredible richness described in Matthew 13:16-17: But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. Instead, my friends and I floated on a sea of relativism, refusing to consider the possibility of moral absolutes or doctrinal boundariesespecially anything that breathed normalcy, like the Christian faith. We were not full-fledged hippies, only because we still retained some remnants of decency and social responsibility from our family background. For this moral heritage and for their long-suffering patience, I owe my parents a considerable debt of gratitude.

Transcendental Appeal

When Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a guru from India, brought Transcendental Meditation to the United States, it took the Berkeley campus by storm. Disillusioned with drugs as a means to altered awareness, many young people were looking for a safer alternative. We really believed the claim that within five years of practicing TM we would reach enlightenment. We were told that if we became TM teachers our progress would be quicker. The irresistible bait was the promise that such a state of consciousness would free us from all suffering. I swallowed the lure without question. Unlike regimens requiring hours of concentration or a change of lifestyle, TMs appeal was its easy accommodation to the tempo of modern life. For me, TM promised to meet a need that all the benefits of education and a high standard of living had not fulfilled. And certainly an undisciplined life had not brought me any closer to knowing who I was. They say hindsight is always perfect. I understand now the hollowness of the claims that were made. It is so much wiser to fully inspect the details before embarking on some new spiritual journey. But then, we were young, idealistic, and impatient for answers.

My first TM experience made me feel very relaxed and high, and I was elated to learn that this feeling could be had without drugs. I was very devoted to my twice-daily meditations, attended meetings regularly, and generally enjoyed my life as a meditator. Maharishi first promoted TM as a five-year plan to Bliss Consciousness. TM was promoted as a simple means to stress reduction, but it was much more than that. I began to see that there was a deep spiritual element pervading every aspect of the practice.

Sproul Plaza on the Berkeley campus was a place where political or spiritual groups could meet and promote their programs. One day I was drawn to a group of Christians who had set up a table in the open square. They seemed to have the look, that mellow look, that made me think they were meditators. When I asked if they meditated, they showed me some scriptures from the Bible that I never knew existed, quotes of Jesus like: All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but My sheep did not hear them. John10:8

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man can come to the Father except through Me. John 14:6

This did give me pause to think. These were not the words of a narrow-minded fanatic. They were spoken by Jesus Himself. I began to read my Bible in an effort to find a unity between TM and Christianity, but such effort left me in frustration. So I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time, and that was to put my Bible back on the shelf and to continue TM.

Becoming a TM Instructor

In an effort to speed up my progress toward cosmic consciousness, I enrolled in a teacher training course in Fiuggi, Italy, under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. There were about 2,000 of us from all over the world. We memorized the TM initiation ceremony in English as well as Sanskrit, and meditated sometimes as much as 12 hours a day. We would round off our meditations with breathing exercises, called pranayama, and yoga postures, called asanas.

At this course, Maharishi unveiled his World Plan. His goal was to establish one TM teacher for every 1,000 inhabitants in order to bring about world peace. This would be arranged under the auspices of 8,000 appointed Peace-keeping Experts in major cities across the U.S. It might be likened to a spiritual shadow government exerting psychic influence. It seemed like a plan that would help bring harmony around the globe. But afterwards, I overheard one teacher trainee saying, This World Plan had better be right or were all in BIG trouble!

We teachers were never to teach TM without the Puja (the Sanskrit initiation ceremony). Though it was not apparent to newcomers, this is actually a declaration of worship offered to various Hindu gods and goddesses, as well as TMs honored lineage of gurus. For instance, part of the Puja translates:

To the Lord Narayana, to lotus-born Brahma the Creator, to Vashishtha, to Shakti and his son Parashar, to Vyasa, to Shukadeva, to the great Gaudapada, to Govinda, ruler among the yogis, to his disciple, Shri Shankaracharya, to his disciples Padma Pada and Hasta Malaka and Trotakacharya and Vartika-Kara, to others, to the tradition of our Master, I bow down ... offering an ablution to the lotus feet of Shri Guru Dev, I bow down. Several of the most revered gods in Hinduism are mentioned right at the start: Lord Narayana (another name for Vishnu), Brahma, and Govinda (another name for Krishna). Shri Guru Dev was Maharishis mentor. So, unknown to novices in the movement, during the initiation a consecration to Hindu deities and a psychic link to the Hindu tradition of departed masters (represented by Maharishi) is established. The Puja is not merely a polite ceremony to honor the tradition, which is the excuse for requiring it.

Though it is claimed that TM will make one a better Buddhist, Christian, or any other religion, the philosophy behind the practice of TM still conflicts with the basic values of the Judeo-Christian world view, as well as other faiths that do not acknowledge these deities or subscribe to their worship. In an earlier book, Maharishi even admitted this connection when explaining the mantras TMers are given: For our practice, we select only the suitable mantras of personal gods. Such mantras fetch to us the grace of personal gods and make us happier in every walk of life.

It is interesting to note that Jesus taught against the use of vain or meaningless repetitions, but instead encouraged his disciples to pray with a fully alert mind in a two-way communication with God through His Spirit (Matthew 6:7 KJV, NASB). This does not involve shutting down the mind or altering the consciousness in anyway. Moreover, Jesus passionately upheld the truth of the Ten Commandments, the first of which declared that there is only one God and that none should be worshipped but Himno god, no goddess, no guruNONE!

At the teacher training course, many complained about the negative symptoms they were experiencing, but the leaders said these reactions were merely due to a process of unstressing. Of course, this explanation is not very convincing or comforting for the one going through distress. Some scientific studies have concluded that what occurs in TM is actually the result of a conditioning of the nervous system rather than removal of stress. It has been shown that TM lessensnot increasescreativity in the waking state. There are many studies that try to prove the benefits of TM, but not surprisingly, many are conducted by TM meditators themselves.

Just Ask Them In

One night an evil spirit tried to take possession of me. This was not a dream or figment of my imagination; it was a real, powerful being with the intention of taking complete control of me. I could feel it putting pressure all over my body, and it was very frightening. Someone asked Maharishi, What do you do if you see a demon? to which he replied, Just ask it in. On another occasion he conceded that if a demon tries to force itself upon you, resist it and it will leave. So the teaching was not always consistent. Providentially, I chose to resist. The Hindu tradition does not recognize the very real conflict between good and evil, as the Christian faith teaches. Because of my early commitment to Christ, I knew I should resist evil. However, others on the course did not fare so well. One acquaintance of mine told me that she had personal knowledge of an entire wing of a psych ward that was filled with TM practitioners who had flipped out.

After my return from the teacher training course in Fiuggi, my sense of spiritual emptiness grew. I also observed a lack of love in myself and other meditators. I kept hearing about suicides and divorces, especially among the teachers who had gone in for the longer meditations. I personally witnessed a suicide attempt in the meditators house where I lived in Berkeley. The woman, who had recently come back from the teacher training course, was looking for a pair of scissors so she could kill herself. She kept screaming and crying for a long time.

Obviously, some of the extreme changes brought about through TM or Yoga go way beyond what is referred to as relaxation. Many meditators experienced astral travel, visitation of spirits, psychic awareness, and other manifestations. I began to be awake during my sleep state, aware of the beginnings of astral travel. However, I always had a concernWhat would happen if I checked out of my body? Would someone or something else check in while I was gone? I have since concluded that allowing ones mind to become passive (unattended) is like a country failing to properly guard its borders from foreign invaders. In TM there is something called the blackout phenomenon, where one goes blank and cant remember anything during that time. For me, this virtual black hole experience could last anywhere from a few seconds to an hour.

Once someone has been practicing TM for awhile, they are eligible to take the Yogic Flying program. Surprisingly, not everyone who takes up this practice belongs to the lunatic fringe. Some are recognized names in media, business, and politics. The Yogic Flying course seemed way too expensive to me, not to mention ludicrous. (No one to my knowledge has ever been able to fly after taking it.) My original mantra cost $35, but today the Yogic Flying course is a whopping $2,500. Advanced techniques can run as much as $100,000. One video course is said to cost a cool million dollars. When Maharishi was asked by a cynical member in his audience how TM would help the poor in India, he responded, They will be hungry, but they will be happy. The mission Jesus gave to His disciples to feed the hungry and heal the sick provides an interesting and stark contrast.

The deeper I went with TM, the more my faith in Christ just kept getting lost in the archives. Someone once asked me if I were a Christian, because they thought I looked like a believer. I replied that I was not a Christian, but rather a Hindu or Buddhist. The conditioning process of twice-daily repetition of the mantra had brought about a distancing from my early Christian roots and the embracing of a New Age concept of God as an impersonal energy or force permeating everything. I had turned away from the understanding of God as Creator, Savior, and Friend.

In spite of my commitment to the goals of TM, however, I saw many things from the inside of the TM movement that I found disturbing. For instance, we were required to hide the Hindu/spiritual nature of the practice from the public because, ostensibly, most people would not be ready for advanced levels of consciousness and would only find it confusing. Therefore we had to operate by stealth, AKA the ends justify the means. Every time I presented TM as being merely scientific, though, I knew I was lying. A non-Hindu practitioner of Yoga might protest, Well, Im just doing TM (or its counterpart, Hatha Yoga) for the physical benefits. The managing editor of Hinduism Today is not so naive. In his article Hinduism is the Soul of Yoga, he says, A Christian trying to adapt these practices will likely disrupt their own Christian beliefs.

Evidently all was not bliss in the ranks of TM meditators, especially among those in the higher echelons. To be honest, the more I continued to practice TM, the more negative character traits I saw in myself. I was becoming increasingly proud, aloof, and insensitive to the needs of others. TM acted as a sort of anesthesia, numbing down my conscience and hiding problems that really needed attention. While I was under the illusion that I was becoming a very evolved person, the sad truth is that I needed a change of heart. As the saying goes, You cant see the flies in your eyes because you have flies in your eyes. Mind-numbing meditations were affecting my ability to distinguish simple truth from obvious error.

The Name

My yearning for spiritual fulfillment and my dissatisfaction with the lack of integrity I saw in the TM movement caused me to look outside the confines of the TM organization to see what other groups had to offer. While many people have found transformation through the plain preaching of the Gospel, God chose a non-traditional approach with me. I met a psychic on the Berkeley campus who had dabbled in Christianity. He held some classes and led us in a unique method of calling on the Name of the Lord.

While I am not recommending this as a correct spiritual technique, God used it in my life. First, we were told to tune into the psychic or spiritual fields of spiritual leaders such as Mohammed and Buddha. Then we called upon the names of some friends. Finally, he said to call on the name of Jesus, the Name above all Names. He said that God loves us and will respond to our call, as a loving father would to his children. He said the Creator would free us from the bondage of the created world. There was a clear distinction between Creator and creation. The Godhead was not to be confused with a life force, although His power created the world and continues to influence it. So in addition to doing my silent TM, I called on Jesus and would say prayerful statements like, Oh Lord Jesus; Jesus, touch me; Jesus, fill me; Jesus, save me; or simply Jesus. There is incredible power in His Name! We were told to call to Him from our heart. If God is love, like a loving parent He would certainly respond to a child crying out to Him.

After calling on the Name of Jesus for a week, verbally and out loudnot silently like my mantramy ego began to feel punier, and I wondered if I was losing my enlightenment. I reasoned that the power in this Name was greater than the power of the mantra, so I pressed on and didnt give up even when I felt my foundations shaking. I want to make it clear that I had come to a point in my life where I was willing to do anything to find God! I would lay down all my preconceptions, hopes, and desires, with only one burning desire, to KNOW HIM! God has promised, You shall find Me when you seek for Me with all of your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

During this time I often visited with the Hare Krishna group as they sat on the lawn of the Berkeley campus. Their leader (who I felt was a very devout and honest man) told me he thought I was following a deceptive path. He said that the TM organization teaches that God is already in us, but the Hare Krishnas worship Krishna, who is separate from them. To illustrate his point, he presented an analogy: Picture a green bird sitting in a green tree. The bird does not become the tree, but remains a bird. This made perfect sense to me. I had never felt comfortable with the idea that God is an impersonal force or energy. Being a worshipper of God seemed so much truer than wanting to BE God. And this was closer to the Christian view of being created in the image of God. Also, I couldnt quite relate to their god Krishna, who is represented as a little blue man with a flute. My parents werent blue, I wasnt blue, and I certainly hoped that God wasnt blue!

Transformation

After awhile the Hare Krishna leader began to read from their sacred Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita. Suddenly he stopped. He looked intently at me and said, You are going to find God because you are sincere. His voice seemed magnified like a megaphone, and something inside of me began to break free. I know this was unusual, but God can speak any way He chooses. Then I heard these words from the text: God has three infinite aspects: Knowledge, Power, and Bliss. I had a burning sense that something of monumental importance was imminent.

Before returning to my apartment, I was standing outside the student union talking with some friends. As I looked across at some trees, I noticed with utter astonishment that somehow they appeared to be clapping their hands in the wind. I did a reality check, and sure enough the trees seemed to be praising God. I was unaware of the Bible verse that says, For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you. And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12).

Back in my apartment, I randomly pulled a book out of the bookcase, which fell open to these words, God has three infinite aspects: Knowledge, Power, and Bliss. I was stunned! That night I wanted to commemorate such an amazing day by saying the Lords Prayer, which in itself would have been a huge change in my life. When I got to the part that says, For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, there was a powerful burst of brilliant white light which shook me to the core. Immediately I remembered the words, Knowledge, Power, and Bliss.

The following night I removed all pictures of gurus and spiritual masters from my walls except one: the Lord Jesus. I had concluded that I only needed one Master. This picture was approximately six feet from my bed. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. My yogi friend stood there and asked if I would join him in calling on the Name of the Lord, as we had done many times before. Shortly after we started, something totally unexpected happened.

The heavenly light of Gods inimitable glory descended from above and I felt lifted into a timeless, eternal space. I dont know how long I was in this state, because I lost all sense of time and felt weightless. It was as though I were a child again, full of wonder and awe. Cords of spiritual bondage previously unknown to me were released, as wave after wave of the purest love imaginable poured through every fiber of my being. There was a sense of freedom and release that I had never experienced in all my years of TM and yoga. My friend saw this in me but said he did not experience it himself ... after which he looked strangely afraid.

When I returned to my bedroom, the picture of Jesus had, amazingly, changed its location and was now right beside my pillow. A vision of something like a flaming dart pierced my heart with a love that was unconditional, permanent, and totally undeserved. This amazing love changed me forever. By placing this picture right beside my pillow, God was sending me the undeniable message that He is the Friend who will always stick closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). I knew that I now had a secure relationship with Him that nothing could take away.

Compass of Life

As a result of this breakthrough, the Word of God, the Bible, became a compass of spiritual direction and living inspiration for me. The TM mantra no longer held the same power or attraction. Instead it brought negative results, so I stopped. The power of Jesus and His precious name threw light on everything dark and sinful in my life, and His love truly set me free!

Ironically, I became a Jesus freak in the eyes of others. Humbled but undaunted, I relished every opportunity to share Jesus with the misguided and wandering souls where I lived. I did go through what I refer to as my white period, in which I wore beads and white clothes because I thought they had pure vibes. I didnt realize that outward trappings dont have a thing to do with purity. Nevertheless, God used this phase to disarm a lot of spiritual seekers who otherwise would have kept a safe distance from me. During this time a friend of mine and I visited some ashrams and yoga centers. We would ask people there if they would like to experience Jesus for themselves, and most of the time they responded favorably. After all, they called on the names of gods and spirit guides all the time. It shouldnt be considered too strange to call on the One who claimed to be the Creator manifested in human form. Several of these spiritual seekers were radically changed.

Gradually I came to understand the difference between true salvation and cosmic consciousness, psychic power and spiritual power. But Jesus did not disappoint my desire for the supernatural! Right from the start of this new life, I experienced many divine touches and miracles of God, including a dramatic, fully documented healing of my own spine. Of course, the greatest miracle of transformation occurred in the sanctuary of my heart. There is no greater way of summing up this account than to quote an appropriate passage from my compass, the Bible:

The Lord says, I will rescue those who love Me. I will protect those who trust in My name. When they call on Me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them My salvation. Psalms91:14-16 NLT


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