Marcia Montenegro's Story
A Strange but True Spiritual Journey
Spirit guides, meditation, astrology, the "higher Self," raising the
kundalini, developing psychic abilities, praying to gurus, astral
travel, numerology, Tarot cards, contacting the dead, hanging out with
witches, Sufis, followers of Muktananda, Rajneesh, Sai Baba, Maharaji,
-- all these and more were part of my journey. How did I get on this
I grew up with an agnostic father and a mother who was raised
going to church. My sister and I had to attend church, because my
mother thought that was the right thing to do, although she did not
always go. Due to my father's job in the Foreign Service, we moved
around a lot, so we ended up in different churches located overseas and
in the Washington, DC, area. Eventually, I became serious about
religion. In high school, I had the idea that being good would please
God and get me into heaven. But reading about other religions and
meeting those who believed differently made me wonder. Maybe there was
more to it than what I had -- some knowledge of God and Jesus which was
mostly superficial. I wanted something deeper, more experiential. I was
also rejecting the idea of hell and was disillusioned with Christians.
Christianity seemed defined by sermons, going to Sunday School, and
doing good works. How boring! I was missing out on something! Also, I
never fit in during my high school years. Being someone who wrote
poetry, being in an alcoholic home, having no real roots all combined
to make me feel different and unlike other people. I started my journey
at the end of high school.
That journey continued through college where I had paranormal
experiences, made friends with someone who said she saw auras, and
attended spiritualist meetings where the ministers received messages
from the dead. One bright sunny Florida afternoon, as I rested on my
bed fully awake with eyes partly closed, I felt myself floating. I
opened my eyes and was stunned to see my body on the bed below me as I
hovered near the ceiling. I thought I had died. The shock slammed me
back into my body in an almost painful way. This was my first
out-of-body experience and I had no idea what it was or that it even
had a name. I told no one about it.
The journey stretched into the 70's when I visited psychics and
an astrologer, and did a lot of reading on the paranormal, and about
Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. I remember reading a book on Vedanta (sect
of Hinduism) each morning in the cafeteria of the building where I
worked. I started to see connections in my life with the colors of the
chakras, the seven psychic centers of energy in the body according to
Hindu beliefs. This and other experiences pushed me into an active
plunge into the alluring worlds of the paranormal and Eastern beliefs.
Into the fire
In an Inner Light Consciousness class, I was introduced to my
"spiritual master" during a guided visualization. This guide, a spirit
being, looked kind and wise. I felt his presence with me and sometimes
saw him in dreams and meditations until 1990. I also had unpleasant,
scary and weird experiences and visitations, once seeing a tall hooded
figure in dark robes looking at my body in the bed as I hovered
out-of-body nearby. Although extremely frightened by this apparition, I
rationalized it by telling myself that I was being tested. Another
time, as I was out-of-body, I not only saw my body on the bed, but also
saw a double of myself floating across from me. I had spontaneous
out-of-body experiences that sometimes kept me from sleeping and that
were also often very eerie. But to me, the paranormal was spiritual,
and spiritual was good.
Another reason I accepted the scary stuff was my attitude. I
liked to think I was tough and nothing could frighten me away. So I
would think, ?Go ahead, scare me. I can take it!? I had a lot of anger
and defiance in me which probably came from dealing with an alcoholic
parent. This angry defiance proved useful to me in many ways. It helped
me get through a lot of painful situations, and it was going to help me
deal with the bizarre experiences I would face. But anger and defiance
over a long period of time easily turn into cynicism. I did become
cynical although it was usually hidden, even from myself, behind a
desire to help people. This defiant cynicism was my defense, as in ?No
one is going to stop me doing what I want; nothing can scare me away;
and don?t try to impress me.? Later, after many occult experiences, the
cynicism was deeper. I knew a lot of people had not done what I had,
and I thought most people were wimps and satisfied with superficial
lives, not searching deeply as I was. But this was my defense against
getting hurt or feeling helpless.
I also learned to meditate, do psychic healing, analyze dreams,
and chant. It was mystical and magical. When I first started to do
Eastern meditation, I felt an incredible peace. I felt that I was
fading away and merging with something greater. It seemed I was
literally one with the universe, and the teaching that we are all
connected to one force seemed true. After all, I believed that truth
was in experience, and here my experience was confirming that belief.
At last, I thought, I was connecting to that spiritual realm. Later, my
studies took me on many paths -- Tibetan, Hindu and Zen meditation and
philosophy, spirit contact, numerology, psychic development, past life
regression. Reincarnation seemed to answer questions and I experienced
what I thought were memories of past lives. However, it was sad to
think that my next life might not be so great so if I did not learn
lessons from this or previous lives. But why dwell on that?
Finally, it seemed I was on the edge of a hidden wisdom, a
truth higher than the everyday superficial thinking around me. Books by
Edgar Cayce, Ruth Montgomery, Chogyam Trungpa (Tibetan Buddhism), Annie
Besant (Theosophy), Hanz Holzer (ghosts), and Ram Dass (Hinduism/New
Age), and titles like Seth Speaks, The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra,
The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, and Autobiography of a Yogi by
Yogananda began to fill my shelves, along with books on astrology,
tarot cards, numerology, and other occult teachings. My spiritual
progress seemed assured, especially since I was having so many
paranormal experiences. The natural result was that I felt I was an
?insider? in the spiritual realm.
Over the years, my psychic experiences escalated. I studied
astrology and took a 7-hour exam on astrology in Atlanta, Georgia,
administered by the City but formulated and graded by an astrology
board, in order to qualify for the business license. Passing the test,
I started practicing astrology, and eventually I taught astrology, gave
public talks, wrote for astrological and New Age journals, and sat on
the board of astrology examiners that gave and graded the exams,
becoming chairman of that board. I became president of the Metropolitan
Atlanta Astrological Society in June, 1989. My Halloween birthday and
astrological skills made me popular with witches and others.
I noticed that while doing chart readings for clients, I would
?tune in? to the chart in a paranormal way, during which I felt an
energy connecting my mind to the chart, and felt guided through the
chart. It often seemed that I was being fed information or led to
specific things to say about the client. After so many years of Eastern
meditation techniques, I was slipping without effort into an altered
state of consciousness while doing astrology. I gave credit to my ?past
lives? as an astrologer and spiritual counselor, to the help of spirit
guides, and to astrology itself. In those years, the only source of
such information could be good since I did not believe in evil.
Yet, with all the knowledge and experience I had acquired, what
were the answers? Since I came to believe there was only ignorance, not
evil, stories of vicious cruelty and murder made me uncomfortable.
Though I believed I would be coming back after my death, where would I
go in between and for how long? Some taught that we would go somewhere
that was like a school, then choose our next life. Others taught that
we go somewhere to be spiritually purified - how, it was not explained
- then our next life would be chosen for us. By whom? That was not
explained. We were supposed to just trust the process.
There was also the disquieting teaching that whatever thought
was in my mind at the moment of death would determine the after-death
experience for some time. Better not have a bad thought for too long!
Better not fall asleep with fearful images! This was scary to
contemplate -- but that contemplation was itself a negative thought! I
would often soothe myself by meditating or chanting something -- maybe
the "Hare Krishna" chant I had taught myself, or repeating a Tibetan
Buddhist mantra like "Om Mani Padme Om."
I sought peace in Zen Buddhism. Trying to detach myself from
all desire involved a meditation that allows thoughts, fears, or
desires to come up and then not to respond to them. This was to be
applied to life outside meditation as well. For someone like myself,
carrying a lot of emotional pain from my past and my present, this was
appealing. But though detachment sounded good in all the books, there
was a price to pay. The detachment seemed contrived and unnatural.
Seeing ?the emptiness? behind my surroundings, another sign of
spiritual acumen, struck me as nihilistic and depressing. Maybe if I
had pursued these practices more devoutly, I might have gradually
replaced my natural reactions and feelings with non-feeling. But is it
human to be non-feeling, to accept every thought, action, and emotion
Being taught to be natural and ?holistic? on one hand, but then
learning to let go of my natural reactions on the other, seemed a
contradiction. Of course, rational analysis like this was discouraged,
even attacked. Therefore, contradictions could and should be accepted.
If it didn?t make sense, so much the better. The idea was to transcend
the rational mind which was a barrier between me and enlightenment.
Although I failed in achieving detachment, I clung to the paradoxical
teachings of Zen, reading books with Zen tales, and continuing the
meditation. I noticed that the peace I had felt with my initial
meditations had decreased, causing me to meditate more in an attempt to
re-capture that elusive peace.
I also learned that the nature of occult and New Age thinking
is that there is no one answer. There is no one single truth, and there
is no one reality. Truth is based on your experience, so it changes and
can differ from person to person. If there are multi-levels of reality
and there is no absolute truth, then there must be many contradicting
truths and realities. In the abstract, this was fascinating food for
thought, and led to being comfortable with whatever truth I wanted. But
on the practical level, what difference did truth make if one finally
discovered it? Or how did we know if there really was such a thing? And
if not, what did anything that anyone believed matter anyway? These
teachings gave answers that only raised more questions.
Death and love
We are just drops in the ocean, I learned, and the goal is to
eventually, after many lifetimes, rejoin the cosmic oneness that some
call God. This God-force was what we came from and was our final
destiny. So that meant my identity, memories, talents, and personality
would be swallowed whole into the cosmic One. Where would I be? The
disturbing answer was that I would no longer be. Death became an
absorbing but uneasy topic for me.
The best way to help others and stay true to your path, I heard
and read over and over, was to work on yourself and love yourself.
Although talk of ?love? was common and was taught to be the basis for
everything, it also seemed that some used the "law of love" as a way to
justify whatever they were doing. So, if your husband was not your
spiritual match, then ?real love? allowed you to leave him or find
another with whom you had a true bond. After all, this was a ?law? of
the universe: the law of love. But this love was not defined. It was
just sort of out there - a love force that pervaded the universe. There
was no personal being to love me; there was this energy coming from the
cosmic One and that was it. Could a force care?
Despite the meditations, trying to live in ?the now,? and the
talk of love, I continued to have frightening experiences. One of the
worst was waking up to see an older woman staring at me from the bottom
of the bed. I knew she was not flesh and blood, but a spirit. She did
not speak, but I heard her in my mind say to me, ?I am here to take
over your body.? Too scared to speak, I said in my mind, ?No! No!? This
seemed to go on for a long time, although I have no idea how long it
really was. Finally, she simply faded away. I was left trembling,
perspiring, and my heart racing. By the way, I was not doing drugs.
An unexplained compulsion to go to a church gripped me in the
spring and summer of 1990. Since I hated Christianity, churches and
Christians by now, this made me angry. I first ignored this compulsion,
then resisted it, and then, after struggling against it for awhile, I
decided to give in, hoping that it would go away. It was probably from
one of my former lives as a priest or monk, I reasoned.
In the opening minutes of a service in a large church in
downtown Atlanta, I felt a love I had never known wash down over and
through me, so powerfully that I started crying. I knew this love was
from God, not from the music, the people, or the place. That love was
the real thing. Coming from an alcoholic home, I was starving for that
love. I returned the following Sunday, not to have another experience,
but so that I could be where that love had happened to me.
After several weeks, I began to feel unclean about astrology
although no one in this open-minded church said anything about it. All
I knew was that it was somehow separating me from this God of love. I
then got the impression that God did not like astrology and wanted me
to give it up. Give up my life's work? Give up my identity and purpose?
Outside of my son, nothing was more important to me than astrology. But
I felt I had no choice; it was so clear to me that God did not like
astrology. Not even believing what I was doing, I decided to give up
astrology in late 1990. At the time, I was chairperson of the
curriculum committee, a member of other committees at the astrological
society, and scheduled to teach an upcoming class. I had to find
another teacher. I had to tell clients who called I was no longer an
astrologer. (I did give a talk in February, 1991, after bad advice from
a pastor and not liking what I was doing but not strong enough to get
out of it. It took over a year for full comprehension of what I had
been involved in to sink in.) Now what happens? Thinking I should read
the Bible, I started reading in Matthew, the first book of the New
Testament. Reading the Bible put me in touch with something pure, but I
didn't know what it was. Although I had read the Bible before while
growing up and had quoted from it for astrological articles, this time
it was different. I felt as though I was being cleaned from the inside
out as I read it.
As real as it gets
This person Jesus fascinated me. It was as though I was
learning about Him for the first time. One evening while reading part
of the 8th chapter of Matthew, right before Christmas of 1990, I saw
who Jesus really is. On the boat with His disciples, a terrible storm
arose. The disciples were afraid and woke Jesus up, telling Him that
they were going to perish. Jesus stopped the storm in its tracks! How?
He did not visualize calm waters, He did not perform sorcery. He
rebuked the winds and the sea, and they obeyed him. That means He has
authority over nature. I was separated from God by everything I had
done in my past -- I had lived my whole life based on my will, a will
that had rejected and defied God and His word. I realized that the only
way to be forgiven, the only way to be reconciled with God, was through
Jesus, the God-man who suffered and died for me out of a great and
unconditional love. I realized Jesus is the Savior, He is the Son of
God and God the Son. I understood for the first time why Jesus died on
the cross. In those several minutes sitting on my bed with the Bible, I
knew that the truth and the answer to all my questions were one and the
same: Jesus Christ. What a simple but awesome truth! And so I gave
myself to Christ and knew I belonged to Him from that moment on.
Several months later, I found out that a young Christian man at the
part-time job where I worked had been praying for me with a fellowship
group at his church during 1990.
Jesus was different from the masters I had studied. He was more
real than the spirit guides, the Ascended Masters, the Higher Self --
all those airy, elusive things that gave no evidence of their existence
-- because He came to earth in flesh and He hungered, thirsted, felt
pain and sorrow. He did not give a message that denied the dirt and
dust of life, but He sat with the outcasts, the prostitutes, and the
hated tax collectors yet remained sinless. He was as real as it gets.
Though fully man, Jesus was fully God incarnate, equal to God in nature
but setting aside that glory (not deity) to be among suffering men and
women. Jesus Christ willingly was tortured, laid down His life and died
an agonizing death to pay for our sins. He bodily rose on the third
day, conquering death, so that we can have eternal life with God. No
sorcerer, no spiritual master, no Buddha, no shaman, no witch, no
psychic has conquered death, but all still lie cold in their graves.
But Jesus has power over death and is living today.
Truth and satisfaction
Spiritually, I had been in a grave with the buddhas and the
sorcerers and the seekers of wisdom who had rejected the truth of
Christ. The complicated and intricate studies that had enthralled me,
the endless layers of truths and realities I had pursued, the constant
effort to evolve, the paranormal experiences, the need to believe in
one's own goodness at all costs, were all a maze and a trap. The truth
was simple enough for a child because the truth is a Person. Jesus did
not teach the way or say He had a way. He said that He is the way --
not a way, but THE way.
Many people want to know if I had to wage spiritual warfare
after trusting Christ. Well, a few months later, as I was about to go
forward in a church to publicly proclaim faith in Christ, I got
incredibly ill. When I went home, I got sicker. I felt an angry
presence in the room and I thought it was my spirit guide. I basically
told him I belonged to Christ and there was nothing he could do about
it, that even if I died, it was too late. ?You lose,? I said. I was
addressing Satan, although I was really talking to my spirit guide. I
do not believe in doing this now; I do not address demons nor Satan.
They have already been spoken to and defeated by Christ. I prefer to
speak to the ruler of the universe, Jesus Christ. I do not want to give
demons any attention at all. Yes, I have had a few strange attacks that
could be construed as demonic. But I do not like to focus on them. My
focus is on the One who is worthy of attention: Jesus Christ, who has
power over all rulers and principalities, in both the physical and
What is the biggest difference between my former life and my
life in Christ? That I am happier, that life is easier? Not at all. The
difference is that I am spiritually satisfied. There is more to learn
and much room to grow, but the learning and growth spring from Christ
as the foundation, not from a search outside Him. The search has ended;
the thirst has been quenched; the hunger within has been filled.
(You will find Marcia's story with more detail in Chapter 10 of
The Unexpected Journey (Zondervan) by Thom S. Rainer. This book
contains the firsthand accounts of 12 people who came to faith in
Christ from other spiritual beliefs and told their stories to Dr.
Rainer. This book is sold on Amazon's site and also on the CBD site at www.christianbook.com, and can also be found in or ordered by bookstores).
Visit Marcia's website!