MARCIA'S STORY: A STRANGE BUT TRUE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

By Marcia Montenegro, revised July 2011

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 path?

The beginnings

I grew up with an agnostic father and a nominally Christian mother. My sister and I had to attend church because my mother thought that children should go to church, 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 junior high and early 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. I wanted something deeper, more experiential. I was also rejecting the idea of hell, that the Bible was God's word, and was disillusioned with Christians. Christianity seemed defined by sermons, going to Sunday School, and doing good works. How boring! I started a serious spiritual search and 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 claimed to receive 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. I had other paranormal experiences as well.

The journey stretched on after college when I visited psychics and an astrologer, and did a lot of reading on the paranormal, past lives, contact with the dead, and on 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. 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.

I also learned to meditate, do psychic healing, analyze dreams, and chant. 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, a bit of palm reading, numerology, psychic development, and past life regression. Reincarnation seemed to answer questions and I experienced what I thought were memories of past lives.

Finally, it seemed I was on the edge of a hidden wisdom, a truth higher than the everyday superficial thinking around me. I devoured books by Edgar Cayce, Ruth Montgomery, Chogyam Trungpa (Tibetan Buddhism), Annie Besant (Theosophy), Hanz Holzer (ghosts), and Ram Dass (Hinduism/New Age). Titles like Seth Speaks, The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra, The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary (published by the Unity Church and used widely by psychics and New Agers), 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. I felt I was an insider in the spiritual realm.

I even set up a photo of Yogananda on the bedroom fireplace mantel and prayed to him. I set up photos of gurus on the mantel of my son's bedroom.

Unanswered questions

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 for four years on the board of astrology examiners that gave and graded the exams, becoming chairman of that board for the last three years. 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 while doing chart readings for clients, that I would "tune in" to the chart in a mystical 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.

Yet, with all the knowledge and experience I had acquired, what were the answers? 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.

I sought peace in Zen Buddhism and participated in meditation with other students of Zen at some area zendos, as well as meditating at home. 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. But though detachment sounded good in all the books, there was a price to pay. The detachment seemed contrived and unnatural. Is it human to be non-feeling, to accept every thought, action, and emotion without judgment?

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 recapture that elusive peace.

Death and love

We are just drops in the ocean, I learned from Hindu sources (I blended Hindu and Buddhist teachings, as many do), 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, 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? Or love?

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.

The compulsion

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 Christian 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 quietly crying. I knew this love was from God, not from the music, the people, or the place. 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. In fact, a few asked for my business card. All I knew was that astrology 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. This gnawed at me. Give up my life's work? 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 November of 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.

Now what? 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 encountering something clean, much cleaner than I was, as I read it.

The turning point

This person Jesus fascinated me. It was as though I was learning about Him for the first time. One winter evening on Dec. 21st, while reading part of the 8th chapter of Matthew, the real Jesus was revealed to me. I was reading the account of Jesus on the boat with His disciples when a terrible storm arose. The disciples were afraid they would drown, and so they 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 a ritual. He rebuked the winds and the sea, and they obeyed him. He was displaying his authority over nature.

While reading this account over and over, I realized that 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 dismissed 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 unconditional love. I realized Jesus is the only Savior, 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 amazing truth! And so I gave myself to Christ and knew I belonged to Him from that moment on. At that moment, I realized I was a new person inside. This was the Holy Spirit indwelling and regenerating me, although I did not understand this at the time. This is what is meant by "born again." It is an act of God upon faith in Christ.

Several months later, I found out that a young Christian man at the part-time job where I worked (as a secret astrologer giving astrological advice to the boss about employees) had been praying for me with a fellowship group at his church during 1990.

As real as it gets

Jesus was different from the masters I had studied. He was more real than the spirit guides, the Ascended Masters, the mythical figures of Eastern religions, the Higher Self -- all those airy, elusive things that gave no evidence of their existence -- because Jesus 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 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. "I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades" (Revelation 1:17b-18).

Truth and satisfaction

Spiritually, I had been in a grave with the buddhas and the gurus 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.

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 (I still went forward but it was difficult). When I went home, I got sicker. I felt an angry presence in the room and I knew it was my spirit guide. I realized he was, in reality, a demon. I 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, nor advise it; 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. 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 spiritual realms (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:19-22).

What is the biggest difference between my former life and my life in Christ? That I am happier, that life is easier? 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.

Jesus speaks

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," - John 14:6.

"But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." - John 4:14

"I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." - John 6:35

"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.'" - Matthew 28:18

(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. Marcia's testimony has been published in many other publications, including the end of the chapter on Astrology in The Kingdom of the Occult, by Walter Martin, Jill Martin Rische, and Kurt Van Gorden. These books are sold on Amazon and also on the CBD site at www.christianbook.com, and can also be found in or ordered by bookstores).

Note: Up to 50 copies of this document may be made without permission if no fee other than copying fees are charged. Linking to this article from another site is also permitted. If one desires to put this article on a website or to publish it or publish part of it in hard copy, please contact Marcia for permission at mmontenegro@fim.org. Thank you.
 

Support
This Ministry
Gospel Communications Alliance Member