The Alpha course experience
A series of mysterious synchronicities that led to a powerful mystical experience in an Evangelical Christian Church and a clear vision of my purpose in life.
This section relates a mystical experience that occurred in the Autumn of 1999. Also described is the strange series of events and uncanny coincidences that led up to what happened.
The year was 1999 and this particular year started off really well. When it began I was filled with a sense of purpose and mission. I kept myself very busy and worked steadily through January and February. But then I encountered a little emotional turbulence towards the end of Winter and the early Spring of that year, around March time. It was mainly brought about by a brief love affair that left me a little broken hearted. However, despite this I was still able to have a very productive Summer that year after rebounding from quite an intense depression. In retrospect now, I can see that the Summer of 1999 was perhaps one of the most creative periods of my life. My mind seemed to produce an unending stream of interesting and useful ideas concerning the brain and functioning of the human mind. Also my studies into the brain and mind started to connect with my investigations into mystical and spiritual matters. Increasingly I began to see deep and close relationships between the workings of the brain and the workings of the universe. In trying to understand the mind of man, I realized I was at the same time getting a glimpse into the mind of God. And also, while I was studying mystical concepts and ideas relating to God; I would constantly be finding correspondences between that and what I knew about the brain and mind. And so it was for several months. A lot of interesting ideas concerning the brain that had been floating around in my head for years, were really coming together. If before I was only really seeing the trees, now I was starting to see the whole forest.
I should also mention that in 1999, I was rather gripped by Millennial fever. That is, as somebody with a keen interest in the prophesies for the end times contained in all the world's religions, that I was by this time; I was really expecting something dramatic to happen sometime this year or early in the next. This state of expectation was further heightened when I saw a series of documentaries about the prophet Nostradamus shown on Channel 4. Previously I was rather skeptical about the writings of Nostradamus, in the same way I don't pay much attention to Horoscopes. I only considered prophesies contained in the scriptures of the worlds religions to be valid. However, as I watched and learned more about the life and predictions of Nostradamus, my mind changed. I recall, I was quite impressed by what seemed to me to be clear pre-vision of the place and circumstance of the assassinations of the Pope and also of J.F. Kennedy. As a result of this, when I learned about the famous or perhaps notorious Nostradamus prophecy for some great awakening in month seven of 1999, I felt sure something would happen in July of that year.
I remember how on the last day of July in 1999, after nothing had happened all that month, I devoted that whole day in search of a sign from the universe. I did something similar the previous year and something extraordinary did happen, so taken together with the Nostradamus prediction this really put me into a keen state of expectation and hope. But all that day, absolutely nothing happened, nothing mystically significant and certainly nothing worth mentioning. I was definitely disappointed. So I returned my focus to my work, but my millennial fever returned a month or so later when there was a full solar eclipse in August of that year. Again, I thought that this would be the trigger for some major event of far reaching effect on my life and the fate of the planet. But again, nothing happened. I saw the eclipse, but then life went on as usual, without any sort of noticeable spiritual transition at all. I continued with my work.
September came and things slowed down a little. I had a very productive Summer but now my creative run was coming to an end. The ideas no longer flowed as fluidly and my energy levels became lower. However at this time, rather thankfully the troubling pain that I carried with me all through that year in the back of my mind as a result of my failure in love, eased. In retrospect I suspect now that perhaps this background angst that I carried with me all Summer, actually helped to fuel and drive my work and creativity. So I took things a little more easier at this point and relaxed my pace a little. However, this state of relative tranquility was disturbed by a series of strange coincidences or what might be called synchronicities. They all occurred one day as I was going to visit an old school friend for dinner and to catch up on things.
I was walking to my friends house, in the Holloway area of London, when as I was walking into the street where he lived, I noticed a large advertisement on a billboard. It was advertising something called the Alpha course and it had something to do with Jesus and Christianity. I recall taking note of it but not really thinking much about it. Sometime later I had a pleasant time sharing a meal with my old acquaintance from school. We caught up on things and the conversation meandered towards discussing what the various people in our lives who were known to us both, were doing.
At some point my friend mentioned that his brother had moved to London and was now working in a church in the Kensington area of London. I discovered that this church happened to be located right next door to the place I was living when I myself moved to London, some ten years earlier. It was the church that was literally less than a minute away from the university halls of residence which served as my first home in London. I recalled that back then, I would often sit in the graveyard of the same church to think about things in general and reflect on life. It was conveniently located between where I was living and some shops which opened 24hrs a day. So I have many recollections of sitting in the grounds of the church, whilst eating the recently purchased fast food and contemplating the interesting questions in life. Then I learned from my friend that his brother was involved in something called the Alpha course and that the church happened to be the headquarters and origin of this christian movement that was hither to unknown to me.
I was intrigued by what all these strange coincidences meant. The Alpha course poster on the street, the church I recalled from my college days and the brother of my friend now working there. I sensed a feeling that somehow I was being told something by the Universe. I immediately decided that I had to investigate what this Alpha course was all about. I definitely sensed the hand of providence at work. So my friend and I decided we would both enroll and do it. I had a strong feeling that something strange was going to happen.
Here is a photo of the church yard where during my first year in university I would sit, eat and think late at night on returning from the local 24/7 shops from where I would buy snacks. Located literally a stones throw from where I was living at the time, little did I know then that more than 10 years later, I would be having a borderline mystical experience in the church, which can be seen in the background.
A few weeks later, I found myself queuing with my friend outside the church where we were about to find out what this Alpha course was all about. It was a pleasant Autumn evening in late September. The queue was very long, this Alpha course had obviously attracted much interest. I found the surroundings very familiar, just how I remembered it all those years ago. For the first time I registered the name of the church, it was called the Holy Trinity Brompton. We were quite near the end of the queue and it moved quite slowly. It was a relief when one of the stewards allowed us to jump the queue and go right to the front. It was lucky my friends brother worked for the church. We got in and milled around a bit.
The church was large and quite modern looking inside. We were provided with some dinner from the serving area and sat down to eat. There were many people, and I noticed that most of the people present were young adults in roughly the same age group as myself or perhaps slightly older. On talking to a few people I also got the impression that there were a disproportionate number of people from the commonwealth countries i.e. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. I had already read somewhere that the process of secularization was a generation behind in the former colonies, so this made perfect sense to me. The people were very nice, decent, respectable and clean. Definitely the sort of people your Mother would like you to be friends with. All the while I was feeling a growing excitement and there was a strong sense that something important was going to happen. I also had this expectation in the back of my mind in the days leading up to this moment.
After the food everyone sat down in rows in front of a stage area in preparation to hear the sermon. There was some singing, which I found difficulty in joining in. I couldn't relate at all to the words and tone of it all. Then a strange feeling came over me, a sort of nausea combined with a sense of heightened attention. My heart was beating fast. I thought at the time perhaps it was the food not agreeing with my constitution. I started to sweat. It was warm and I could feel surges of adrenaline going through my body. When the singing stopped and the sermon started I started to relax a bit but still felt strange.
As the sermon progressed and I started to digest what the preacher was saying I started to feel agitated. I was a little incredulous at the things I heard, some of which to me was very obviously false. Here I heard with my own ears what I already knew some christians believed, that is the idea that all of the Bible was literally true. The Bible was being presented as the infallible word of God. Up until then, I'd always had the idea that this version of christianity was only really believed by simple hill billy people living in the more remote parts of America. But here I was seeing and hearing an obviously highly educated and well spoken person, talking the grossest nonsense about religion and christianity. Also I got a strong sense of the intolerant nature of this Alpha course when the speaker talked about the invalidity of other religions. I distinctly recall the speaker saying in effect that a good alpha student should of course be tolerant of other peoples religious beliefs while at the same time recognizing that they're wrong. So I switched off a little and went into my own thoughts. I reflected on the whole situation and realized that even though I felt a liking for the people around me, at the same time I also felt a sense of detachment.
The sermon ended and there was more singing. By now I really felt a definite aversion to the substance of the sermon and what the Alpha course was all about. As the music and mass of singing voices flowed and swirled around me I could feel my perception change markedly. Things started to look strangely cartoony and the people around me seemed to take on something of a doll like appearance. Also my perception of sound became distorted. The singing and music became garbled and sounded a little grotesque. My heart was racing, I felt confused and agitated. But soon a relative calmness set in and I could think more clearly. Then I had a vision. The church became like an ark or some space ship coursing through the ocean deep or perhaps in outer space. I no longer felt that I was in Knightsbridge, London, where the church was located. Then I felt a strong presence of evil and chaos outside this church or ark where I now was. It was as if all the troubles, suffering and evils of this universe were located immediately outside the church but were being restrained and kept out by the walls of this sanctuary. I imagined that a host of demons and monsters were lurking outside this protective bubble called the church, seeking to demolish and devour.
I looked around at the people around me and though they seemed happy, I saw deep inside them and felt their inner pain. Then their expressions changed from contentment to sadness and worry. I felt a powerful feeling of sympathy and compassion for the people around me. We were all together in this ocean of darkness trying to reach some place of light and security. We were all in this ship trying to find its way to the safe shores but I also knew that this particular ship had lost its course. It protected people from evil and promised salvation but had no idea about what salvation was. It didn't know how to steer towards the light. It was hopelessly lost at sea, all the while believing that it knew the true path. Then I thought how ironic it all was. The lost sheep were convinced that they knew the way home, and also that only they knew and nobody else. After a while I came to and things seemed more normal again. However I remained in a highly charged state and this might have made me seem a bit strange to some of the people I later interacted with. My head was racing with thoughts and images.
After the evenings schedule came to a close I left the church with my friend and we proceeded to walk across Hyde Park which was close by. My head was buzzing with thoughts about religion and the events of the evening. My old pal couldn't stop talking about some of the attractive young ladies at the church. This brought me down slightly so we split up, my friend catching a tube train home. I continued on foot walking all the way up to the top of Primrose hill. Then I had a long long think. I felt I had got new insights into the meaning and importance of religion. I felt a certain distaste for the variety of religion I had just encountered earlier. It seemed very different from religion as I understood it. I didn't have a label for it at the time but after a little further investigation, I discovered that what the Alpha course represented is religious fundamentalism. It was the anti-thesis of what I was about and what I represented.
I also thought about the meaning of the strange coincidence relating to the location of the church from where I had just come. It seemed to me a little uncanny that this church should be located right next door to the university where I studied and which was my first home in London. It felt highly significant because the university where I studied also happened to be one of the densest concentrations of scientific and technological research in the UK. I thought long and hard about the relationship between science and religion. I subsequently learned that the Holy Trinity Brompton church, through the Alpha course, also happens to be the central headquarters of what might be called the fundamentalist led christian revival in the United Kingdom. This mysterious juxtaposition I believe is no mere coincidence and I find it hard to ignore its significance, though I'm still trying to work out the implications of all these synchronicities and uncanny connections.
So there I was standing at the top of Primrose rose hill looking over London and thinking hard about things. The city seemed to have a sort of aura around it. My visual perception was slightly altered again but not to the extent of the way it was earlier in the evening. I reflected on my life and came to some realizations. I realized that at some point in the future, my ideas would come into conflict with those of the religious fundamentalists of this world. The same kind that I had encountered earlier who insisted that every word of the Bible was absolutely true and that it should be taken quite literally. I felt a sense of trembling when I considered what I was up against. At the same time I was filled with a sense of purposefulness. I felt my life being steered towards the world of mainstream religion. Up till then even though I already had it in my mind that the purpose of my life was to communicate my ideas about the divine and my personal experiences, I had imagined that my audience would be new age types, the psychedelic crowd, neo pagans and people interested in philosophy. The kind of people who were interested in questions concerning God, existence, mind, consciousness and the meaning of life. But now I was being directed by the universe to prepare myself to communicate my message to the mainstream and the sort of people who would get involved in organized religion and cults. I didn't feel up to the task. I felt a certain fear and trepidation.
Then these feelings slowed and changed into one of resolve and determination. I lingered on a little while where I was, thinking about my life and what I had to do. I knew I had gone through a process of transformation that night. My outlook was profoundly changed, I now had a much wider view of things. Life would never be the same again. If the purpose of my life was previously not defined with clarity then that was no longer the case. My purpose and destiny became totally transparent and crystal clear. I was given a mission by the Universe. I would seek to explain the truth behind all world religion and also to help bring about the unification of religion with science and technology. I walked back to my lodgings in North London. I remember feeling utterly exhausted when I got home. That night I had a very very deep sleep.