The Return to Normal Reality
My life had been something of a deviation. Most of my adult life since leaving home and finishing University had been lived on the margins and outer fringes of mainstream society. I had become involved in various deviant and counter culture scenes and had explored some of the more colorful aspects of life. After having experienced a series of mystical episodes I decided that the purpose of my life was to communicate certain sorts of Philosophical and Religious ideas to mainstream society.
It was in the year 2001 that it occurred to me that I needed to become a public speaker and a proficient one at that. At first I thought the best way to go about it was to first concentrate on the written word by producing literature outlining my ideas and somehow getting these distributed to my initial audience whoever they were, for at that time I didn’t have any idea. But I slowly realized that I had to get people’s attention in the first place and the only way of doing that was to present my thoughts and ideas in public talks. So from the Summer of 2001 onwards it was always on the back of my mind to get myself ready to start public speaking and this I did early in 2002.
My first public speaking appearance was on the 14th of February. It was to a crowd of 20 or so people at an intimate venue in Kings Cross, London and it was an evening that was hosted by a small underground esoteric organization called the ‘Vision Network’. It was a strange collective of odd and unusual people who got together to host talks about various matters concerning mysteries, esoterica and spirituality. Before I gave a talk for them I had already attended several sessions in the year or so leading up to that time. I remember that the quality of the speakers and the number of people in the audience would be extremely variable. Most of the people who attended the meetings were very low status and low income, people who hadn’t achieved very much in their lives and who existed on the margins of society. People who were not so dissimilar from myself. It was very much a scene for outsiders. However it was this crowd that gave me my first opportunity to give a live public presentation of my message. This context was entirely appropriate for my first public speaking appearance for I was myself a total outsider who didn’t have very many friends and who still existed only on the outer most fringes of society. So it was these people who first showed an interest in the things I had to say and who accepted the validity of my truth.
This first talk I gave was an introduction to the idea that everyone is God presented from a mainly philosophical and religious perspective. I also talked about the prophesies contained in the scriptures of the World’s various great faith traditions in relation to current events. The talk went down very well and I discovered something that I’d already suspected, that I liked giving public talks to a room full of people. So much so that immediately in the weeks following this first appearance I prepared and promoted myself for a further 4 more talks in order to say all the things I couldn’t fit into the first talk. This was a lot of hard work as I had to now hire the use of the venue myself and it was down to me to get people to come and be members of the audience. I gave a talk a week and I remember that this was a very intense time. I had to prepare and memorize the material but then I also had to do all the promoting. I would telephone just about everyone I knew to ask if they would like to come. Also I would ask anyone I met or came into contact with whether they were interested in learning that their real identity was God and that the prophesies were currently unfolding. In retrospect it all seems a little bit pathetic and desperate but at that time I was too fired up with zeal to notice. As a result of my enthusiastic efforts in promoting my series of talks I actually managed to get people to come which in retrospect was quite an achievement. Effectively I was able to arouse sufficient interest in people that they would want to come and hear a lonely outcast unemployed man talk about God, the universe, the meaning of life and everything else too. The attendance was modest averaging around 10 people or so but I never had an audience of less than eight people. I was so passionate about communicating my message that even if no people showed up I would have given the talk to the walls of the venue but luckily this never happened. After I had done these four talks which covered and elaborated upon the main themes of my message, I felt emboldened by the experience.
These small beginnings in public speaking have were very rewarding and I was encouraged by the positive feedback I have received. Also through public speaking I have discovered that many people have had similar experiences to myself and also share my views. This was a very heartening experience which inspired and motivated my efforts even further. So I had discovered that I could give a longish public talk, hold peoples attention and cause people to become excited and enlivened as a result. People came, people stayed listened and encouragingly people also came back. So I decided to look for more public speaking challenges.
In the Spring of 2002 I purchased a mini step ladder from a hardware store and proceeded to spend my Sunday afternoons at London speakers corner, standing on my little platform giving condensed presentations of my message. Speakers corner, which is in Hyde park, is a place where anybody may say whatever they like to whoever happened to be gathered there at any time, though most people would know to congregate there on a Sunday. The place came about through an act of parliament in the 19th century which created this forum for free speech. Speaking there was something very different from the public speaking I had already done earlier in the year. For one it was in the open air with members of the general pubic and tourists wandering about from speaker to speaker. But the most noticeable difference was the amount and ferocity of the heckling. It was difficult to say a complete sentence without being interrupted and sometimes the barrage of heckling was incessant. This provided me with good public speaking practice even though most of the time was spent dealing with hecklers rather than delivering my message. I remember the first couple of times I was left rather shaken by the experience, but with perseverance I started to develop a thicker skin and the ability to deal more effectively with the hecklers. So I continued this routine of spending Sundays at speakers corner right through the Spring of 2001. During the Summer I didn’t go as much and this was probably because I had arranged several talks which were held in rented indoor venues during this time. But I returned to speakers corner from the Autumn of 2001 right up to the time the weather started to become less hospitable around late November. Looking back on things I can see that this time spent at speakers corner provided invaluable public speaking experience, which made giving talks in more controlled and less chaotic environments seem much easier and more straight forward. It also gave me a chance to receive feedback from a diverse range of people who wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to hear my message at such an early stage in my development as a communicator. All in all Speakers corner was and is a wild place and I felt like a voice in the wilderness.
During this time in my life when I started public speaking I would often go along to St James Church in Piccadilly, on a Monday nights in order to hear the talks which were are regular feature there. About 7 years earlier a friend had introduced me to the Church and the Alternatives Organization which hosted the regular Monday night talks. My friend’s Father was one of the directors of Alternatives so we we could get in for free and hang out there from time to time. The talks which were mainly focused on New Age topics didn’t really interest me massively at that point in my life. Fast forward to early 2002 and things were very different, I was very different. In the intervening 7 years I had transformed from a narrow minded Scientific Materialist into a more open minded Mystical Idealist who believed that a person’s real and true identity is God. Furthermore my goals in life were very different. Back in the mid 90’s my overriding goal was to understand how the brain worked and to start a software company based on the things I learned. In contrast, at the start of 2002 my life’s purpose was to communicate to the wider world this idea that Everyone is God and also the notion that the Prophecies contained in the worlds religions are really about present times and the world in which we are living today. Also I had it in my mind to sharpen up my public speaking skills and I thought that by sitting through a lot of public talks, whether they were interesting to me or not, would help me to improve my public speaking technique.
It so happened that another friend of mine, who was sympathetic to what I was trying to do and who was also a volunteer at Alternatives, suggested that I come along to hear the talks and perhaps get some ideas. This I duly did and so from January 2002 up to April of 2003 I would spend most Monday evenings down at St James Church Piccadilly to help out with the Alternatives events and check out what the New Age had to say and how they were saying it. Since my previous encounter with the Alternatives Organization in the mid 90s there was a change of management and the atmosphere was a little different, slightly less colorful and alternative seeming, but the basic format of the evenings was essentially the same. I would show up early and help out a bit perhaps helping to move and arrange a few chairs or other bits and pieces in order to not have to pay to get in. So it was basically a cheap night out for me where I could see people do public speaking. So over this time I managed to get a fair idea of some of the recurring themes and ideas that make up the diverse and disparate ideology of the New Age as presented by the Alternatives Organization.
Most of the talks I heard during this period were quite dreary and dull though there were also one or two gems and several more quite memorable presentations. Certain ideas would come up again and again. Often a speaker would relate some unpleasant life experience that happened to them and then the punch line of the entire talk would be that bad things happen to us to help us to get into a better situation in life. Quite true but not very profound. Another idea I’d encounter with some regularity was the assertion that there is no Enlightenment or the idea that everybody was already Enlightened, which really amounts to the same thing. But the real focus was self development and life improvement. ‘How do I find a soul mate?’, ‘How to get rich?’, ‘How to stop worrying?’ and generally ‘How to get all the things that you want!’. I’ll add that I would discover a recurring sentiment that was quite often expressed by the speakers I heard and also shared by more than a few of the Alternatives regulars. This was the notion that you help the world by working on yourself. Put another way, you make the Planet a better place by making your own life better. This was often accompanied by the belief that through this process of working on oneself, a supernatural ‘energy’ would radiate from ones being and automatically improve the lives of those around you. There were also talks that were more spiritual, mystical or prophetic but these were a small minority of what was on offer at Alternatives.
However in retrospect I can see that I definitely benefitted from sitting through all these talks. I probably sat through over 50 during this period which lasted about 16 months. Even the bad talks where the speaker was awful and the ideas I found disagreeable, often actually helped me to formulate my own material in response to the things that I heard. And it didn’t matter whether a speaker was technically good or not because I would learn both from their mistakes and also from their example. All in all, this was a useful context for me to be in at that particular time when I was just starting public speaking. Also I made friends with some of the other volunteers and also with some of the people who would pay to come hear the talks so for a while it was time well spent.
This state of affairs ended in the Spring of 2003 when I decided to quit being a member of the Alternatives team. I started to see a corrupt and rather self centered side to the New Age as represented by the Alternatives organization. I started to find that the whole scene was too concerned with money and selfish ends. Some of the things I witnessed whilst a member of the Alternatives team I found, quite frankly, a little disturbing. Also the main director tried to make an ex-girlfriend a director to replace one of the three then current directors who had just past retiring age. This was an unpopular move and served as a factor which hastened the departure of several other of the people involved with Alternatives. And so during one of the team meetings I made clear my sentiments and described exactly what I thought about the behaviour of some of the directors. This did not go down very well at all but at the same time several of the other volunteers expressed their agreement with some of my views, though in a more hesitant way than I did. And so ended my involvement with the Alternatives organization. I probably didn’t get much out of the content of the talks, but nonetheless with the benefit of hindsight I can definitely see it was a good thing for me at that time of my life to have taken the time to see other people do public speaking in order that I may do my own public speaking better.
In the beginning of 2003, I started to regularly use a small venue called Watkins Esoteric Centre in order to host my own talks which I self promoted. It was actually an esoteric shop with a meeting space in the basement and located in the heart of London’s West end just two doors away from Watkins bookshop, which is the oldest esoteric and spiritual bookstore in the UK, and which it was an extension of. The Watkins Esoteric Centre sold all sorts of Esoteric, New Age and Mystical items, i.e. ornaments, pray beads, tarot cards, crytals, incense etc. It had a great atmosphere. The manager of the shop was amazingly trusting and gave me the keys to the place so I could lock up and leave whenever I wanted. So taking advantage of this flexibility, some of the talks that I held there and the socializing that carried on afterwards would go on until round 3am in the morning with a 7pm start! I remember these events could be real marathon sessions and tests of endurance fuelled by chocholate and caffeine. The talks themselves, which including questions and answers could quite easily go on for almost 3 hours, and the intense socializing following the talk, which gave me a chance to really get to know what people thought about various things, went on for some hours afterwards. I can see now in retrospect how these public speaking events that I organized provided for me an excellent training ground, allowing me to sharpen my speaking skills and to try out new material in front of a regular and receptive audience.
I would end up using the place 9 times over a period of around a year or so. During this time I saw my audience expand from around 10 people to around 40 when the venue became too cramped to accomodate any further expansion in the size of the crowd. It was great having a regular venue because it really allowed me to develop and fine tune my message. And by putting myself on the treadmill of constantly having a public talk to prepare for and do, I kept the aim of developing my public speaking in mind, and imposed on myself a useful level of self discipline. And so I also started to acquire a small but loyal following of people who would consistently turn up at each and every talk. A side effect of this was that I had to produce new material for each talk so that I wouldn’t have to keep saying the same things and repeating myself. This forced me to expand my knowledge of things relating to spirituality, prophesies and mysteries that I could speak confidently about. So this led to a lot of studying new topics and interests that I otherwise wouldn’t have delved into so deeply. This had the effect of accelerating my learning and intellectual development. Also the fact that all the reading and studying was geared towards giving public talks and handling people’s related questions, meant that I was in a highly motivated state. This helped me to cover more ground and to absorb more information than would have been the case otherwise.
Starting in 2003 I started getting invitations to do public talks as a guest speaker for other peoples events. So I would find myself speaking at vegan gatherings, student events and various types of social clubs. This gave me further experience of speaking to different kinds of people. However due to the nature of my message, i.e. that everyone is God and the prophesies are now, my talks in these contexts were not always well received. These occasions, even the ones where the audience reaction was quite negative, were usually places where I would still make new friends and expand my mailing list. You could please most of the people some of the time and you could never please all of the people any of the time but you could always please at least some of the people almost all of the time.
I can see now looking back on things how the process of organizing and presenting my message in various public speaking contexts, was very helpful towards the goal of getting myself back together again. Having to regularly face an audience does wonders for a person’s confidence and sense of self esteem. Also the fact that I was presenting and promoting my own talks meant that I had to do things like finding and hiring out venues. Then there was the significant task of getting people to come along to the talks, which involved contacting people, distributing fliers and generally selling myself. It is clear to me now that all these activities did a lot to make me more grounded and worldly. Most of my time from the start of 2002 right up to the Spring of 2004 was heavily concentrated on preparing myself for and promoting public talks about my message and related themes. But by the beginning of 2004 I was starting to look for new challenges and desired to expand my horizons, whilst continuing with my mission to explain to the World that a person’s real identity is God and that the prophesies were unfolding in present times.
Then something would happen in April of 2004 which would cause my life to shift again in another direction. In one of those synchronous moments I was thinking about life and contemplating my next move when my mobile phone rang. It was a friend of mine calling me in order to tell me that the church where he worked was looking for someone to fill a vacancy. The church in question was St James Piccadilly and it was a place I knew well because of my involvement with the New Age Alternatives Organization with which I was involved for a while, a year previous to my receiving the offer of the job vacancy at the church. The post that needed filling was the position of Verger at the church, which is sort of like a priest’s assistant and caretaker of the church and its grounds. I was immediately curious and interested in the job and a few day later I was interviewed and got the job. Then something even more synchronous would happen literally hours before I was to start my new job in the early hours of the Morning and on the same day as my period of employment would begin. The events leading up to this strange mystical encounter began the day before.
The Strange Homeless Lady with the Strange Book
It was a Sunday in late April. I was due to give a talk in the evening at a Vegan Raw Food gathering, where I was invited a after dinner guest speaker. It was a busy day and I remember that I was preparing for the talk right up until the last minute. The vegan meeting where I was to give the talk, was held at a venue called the Green Angels, located in Borough just South of London Bridge. It is, or used to be, as it has since closed down, a well known counter culture hangout. A good place to meet people interested in alternative lifestyles and self experiment. Also it was the kind of place where you would meet a lot of people who were very spiritually interested or mystically inclined. Hence I was invited to speak there that day.
There was probably around 80 people in the room, some of whom I knew but mostly It was a sunny day and I was feeling good about things. As I arrived at the venue with my flip chart and accessories in hand, I remember feeling confident and looking forward to giving the talk. For this reason and also because I had done a lot of preparation for the presentation the talk went well and the audience were great, I really enjoyed it. The subject matter of the talk was the idea that everyone can and perhaps should think of themselves as the world saviour. I also talked about the role of psychedelic substances in the history of religion and also in relation to the prophesies. I had an intuition that the kind of people I expected to be present in the audience would be receptive to these perhaps more controversial topics. Anyway... things went great and the feedback was very positive.
After the event I hung around the venue chatting to people and answering peoples questions related to the talk more in depth. As it got later and most people had gone home, one of the organizers of the gathering offered to give me and my companion a lift home. So we waited right to the end which was some time after midnight.
We all got into the car and were driving back. But instead of going straight home I decided to go to the house of the friend I was with and have a cup of tea. We were dropped off outside the Seven Eleven shop near Camden tube station. We wanted to get some food to have with our tea. Anyway I quickly selected what I wanted, paid and waited for my friend. A short while past and my friend still hadn’t decided what she wanted to buy. I grew a little impatient and frustrated. It was late and I was quite tired. I couldn’t understand why it should take someone so long to decide which biscuits to buy, especially when there wasn’t much of a choice on offer anyway. So I went to wait outside the shop.
As I walked out I could see a little old lady with a shaved head sitting beside a telephone box on the pavement and holding something in her hand. She was aged about 70, small and had a round boyish looking face. As I walked closer she said to me in a childlike sounding voice, ‘Would you like to buy my book?’. I didn’t particularly and I didn’t really think about what she said so probably had the impression that she was begging. So I said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have any money’. Anyway, she persisted and continued to ask me whether I wanted her book. I looked at it and was stunned by what I saw. The title of the book was ‘WAI WAI’, which is my name repeated twice.
I felt a jolt and suddenly became much more aware and fully awake. As I turned up to look at the old ladys’ face she seemed strangely transfigured, slightly doll or cartoon like and her features became more defined. She seemed to emanate a power and energy that wasn’t present on first seeing her and I felt gripped by her presence. I told her that my name was Wai and with the same spelling as that of the title of her book. So she asked me whether I’d like to have it. I said yes and she handed it to me.
At this point my friend came out of the shop and came up to where we were. She joined in our conversation and had a real rapport with the old lady. My friend shared with the old lady a child like quality in their manner and speech and so really hit it off. They talked whilst I stood there examining the book. Reading the back of it I learned that it was about a tribe of indigenous people living in the Amazon rain forest called the ‘Wai Wai’. Admittedly, not something that I’ve been very interested in. Anyway... shortly after we said our goodbyes and walked away. After walking some paces down the road, I turned around and looked at the old lady. I saw that she was looking straight at me and nodded her head at me a few times. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.
I reflected on the incident as I was walking with my friend to her flat. I seemed to me that not only was it strange to have received the book from the strange little old lady. The timing made it especially curious, in the early hours of the night before I was start my strange new job, the next day.