The long journey to ‘know God’: From the U.S. northeast to an Oasis in the Andean highlands
By Louis Bourgeois
I have learned over a lifetime of study and experience a most valuable lesson. This is about our function, which translates to the all-important “meaning of life.” I was quite young when I had my first “encounter” with God. I actually had no belief in said entity, being a typical young intellectual, so full of myself. Studying for a psychology exam late one night, totally alone in my university dorm room, a Voice spoke very clearly to me. This Voice instructed me to break my engagement to Janet, quit the university, get rid of most possessions, but for my car. Apparently, I was to get in this car, after ruining my life, and “head West.”
It was insane, of course, that I would choose to obey this Voice. As I mentioned, I had no belief in God. Why would I follow the strange command? Some 50 years later, as I sit reflecting on this critical life decision, my willingness to abandon common sense has made all the difference. Knowing God begins with blind faith; eventually this faith is replaced by trust. The relationship evolves over the years, as my life will hopefully clearly describe. Back to the story, “heading West” from Connecticut could have meant just about anywhere. But the “where” ended up being San Francisco. My destiny appeared to rely upon my enrollment in an odd little graduate school, which was named at the time The California Institute of Asian Studies.
Flash forward almost two years, as to complete this part of my destiny I had to go back to Connecticut, sell my car, finish my undergraduate degree, get accepted into the graduate school program, and find my way back to San Francisco. All of this in order to be sitting in a classroom listening to a strange little woman, Rina Sircar, teaching a class in Comparative Buddhist Studies. Rina Sircar was some sort of saint, a healer who had a group of devotees who would attest to her spiritual powers. I was fully the skeptic, but I “paid attention” when Rina stopped me after class one day and said that she needed to see me in private. I agreed to come to see her the following Saturday morning. The night before our meeting I woke up from a very strange dream. In this dream I saw myself in a sunlit room, surrounded by a group of smiling faces. I was some sort of spiritual teacher and I saw the name of the place where I was teaching: OASIS.
Now knocking on Rina’s door, my heart trembling a bit, she opens the door, reaches up and touches me on my forehead, between my eyes. A tremendous bolt of energy, like lightning, exploded through my body, which collapsed to the floor. I was sobbing. I knew that I had just been touched by God. Rina gathered my still sobbing body in her arms, rocking me like my true mother, whispering strange truths into my ear. She told me about the dream I had just experienced, that it would all come true, that I would become some sort of “great spiritual teacher.” But first there would be a long road, filled with trials, certain failures, certain suffering. Of course, I would doubt this prophecy, my supposed destiny, misunderstanding most everything about it.
Now we leap forward 10 years, where I am living in a halfway house in Springfield, Massachusetts. My life has spiraled down into an abyss of failure, true devastation. I am 33 years old and fully lost. My counselor in the halfway house asked me from time-to-time what plans I had after my 6-month stay was over. I had no idea. I had no family, no home, no money, no friends. Then came a miracle. There was an event, I think it was called a Whole Health Expo, nearby in Springfield. I knew that I should attend this two-day event. On the first day I witnessed that there were many holistic healers and spiritual teachers from the Northampton/Amherst area. My sense was that I perhaps should find a way to live in that area. Then on the second day I heard clearly the call. A woman by the name of Claire Ludlow was teaching something called A Course in Miracles. Within minutes of her 2-hour presentation I knew that I was to move to Amherst and study A Course in Miracles with Claire.
Claire and her husband, Ben, became my surrogate parents, gently guiding me into a whole new world. Amherst was a true mecca, rich with resources to support my healing and recovery. Claire quickly recognized my aptitude and enthusiasm as her student, and she encouraged me to join her as an assistant. She explained that teaching was simply an accelerated form of learning. And she gave me a very valuable lesson, seeing my potential as a teacher: “pray to stay small.”
One of the keystones in the teaching of A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is that the Holy Spirit, the term it uses for the “voice for God,” was always guiding the student. So, I could now recognize that it was the Holy Spirit which had guided me first to Rina Sircar, and then it was Rina who had guided me to Claire Ludlow. The prophetic message “pray to stay small” would evidence itself as guidance from the Holy Spirit in a wide variety of ways. There were 3 clear instances: for example, where a writing contract with publishers was suddenly and mysteriously cancelled. I would come to understand the importance of “failure” in my relationship with the world.
After 25 years of devotion to ACIM I knew that it was time to “leave the womb.” Literally I was being called to leave life as I knew it, once again without family or friends. A new life, remarkably different from any life I could have imagined, was calling me to the Andean highlands of South America. And this the result of the guidance from an indigenous prophecy: “It is only when the eagle flies with the condor that there will be a birth of a new earth.”
And the final piece of the teaching around “knowing God” is expressed in the essence of ACIM, that our function is to be the conduit through which God, the unmanifested, might express itself in our world. “Through you is ushered in a world unseen, unheard, yet truly there.” Our body and person hold a great potential, to be this portal between heaven and earth. In understanding and fulfilling this function comes our true happiness and inner peace.
Louis Bourgeois lives outside of Cuenca with his wife and young daughter at the Oasis Center. He teaches courses in Conscious Living and Conscious Dying. He is planning a one-day intensive course, The OASIS Experience: How to Know God. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org