Woman and lights

Encountering a Cult

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George’s memorial service drew to a close and an old school friend, Chris Jenkins, offered me a lift back to the home of George’s family for the reception. Twenty minutes or so later we pulled up and parked a couple of streets along from the house, got out of the car, and began walking up to the house. Other guests were arriving simultaneously, and I struck up conversation with a short and lively lady who was milling around.

After exchanging greetings, conversation quickly turned to George and how each of us knew him. The lady’s name was Priscilla. She told me how George had been on a meditation retreat not long before he died, and that she was a member of the same meditation group of which George had been a part.

We began talking about cancer (the cruel illness that had claimed George’s life) and I told her a little about my mother’s death and her battle with cancer. She began talking about past lives, a subject that felt quite alien to me, and remarked how George had been trampled upon so much in his past lives that even the powerful shaking meditation he had been doing in Bali wasn’t able to save his life.

Priscilla described a spiritual experience that she had been going through recently involving being burned at the stake in a past life. She had been a witch. She had had to undergo torturous witch tests like walking barefoot on hot coals – it sounded so fictional and so far removed from any testimony I had ever heard before, and yet she spoke about it with such certainty and truthfulness.

Was I really standing in the presence of a lady who had been a witch in a past life? The thought was quite bewildering, and a little frightening. Priscilla said she’d like to introduce me to a few of her friends. I followed her through George’s house into the back garden, where everyone was tucking into sandwiches and drowning memories of George in alcoholic beverages.

Priscilla walked me up to three women who stood together in a semi-circle, eating their lunch. What I saw and felt when I stepped into the presence of these women left me gobsmacked. They seemed to be radiating an immense amount of what I can only describe as light. It was coming from them, and up and around and through them, almost like a forcefield. And indeed it forced me to stand rigid with amazement. I had never seen anything like it.

I exchanged the word “amazing” with one of the women, Sally, for some time (maybe we were amazed by a kind of connection we were all experiencing), and I was so shocked by what was happening that I didn’t know where to look, or what to think.

“Wow!” said Sally enthusiastically, as we stood looking into each other’s eyes, “a kindred spirit, for sure!” I took these words to be a great compliment, and they lodged firmly in my mind. Perhaps it was a boost to my self-esteem to think that I might be associated with these light-wielding women, and may even be a light-wielding person myself (in spiritual circles there is so much talk of light and enlightenment, and I was truly fascinated by the idea that I might somehow become enlightened).

I got talking to these ‘light’ women about my mother and about my background with George, and they told me about the shaking meditation they were doing, and how it was a wonderful and powerful way of removing emotional blockages. What they said held resonance with me, as through my mother’s battle with cancer I had explored the links between emotional and physical disease in some depth. My mother had introduced me to various proponents of Eastern alternative therapies, Deepak Chopra in particular, with his philosophy that drew on accessing deeper levels of oneself through meditation as a source of healing.

Sally said there was a shaking meditation group in London and that I should come along. It all sounded very exciting! She handed me a small card with a picture of a well-built longhaired Indian man on the front and the words ‘Om Swastiastu Ratu Bagus’. She explained that Ratu was the leader of this shaking meditation practice, and that he had led the retreats in Bali that George attended not long before he died.


Later that evening I went for dinner in a local restaurant with a group of old school friends who had been at the ceremony that day. I tried to engage with the light-hearted conversations about what everyone had been up to and how we all were, but my mind kept flicking back to the ‘light’ women I had met at the reception, and the shaking practice they had told me about, and the picture of Ratu that I had tucked away in my bag. I was looking forward to the bus journey back home to London that night, when I could be on my own at last to chew over the experiences of the day and ponder what the significance of my introduction to Ratu Bagus might be.

The above piece is an extract from my book The Philosophy of a Mad Man, in which I recall my spiritual journey and how I eventually came to believe in Jesus Christ. The book is currently available for free — visit the Books page for further information.


  1. Great book Steve! I remember reading this and the scripture ‘just as each person is destined to die once and after that to face judgement’ from Hebrews 9:27 coming to me. When we do away with believing that God’s word is THE truth, all kinds of other ‘truths’ come in.

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  2. The shaking meditation sounds so incredibly odd. Did you ever look into its roots and whether it was an ancient Indian practice, or just the invention of the guy who started the technique?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi David! The practice has similarities to Kundalini Yoga, but to be honest I have avoided looking into it in depth because it was a deeply traumatic experience so to a certain extent I want to shield myself from it. I value my peace of mind too much!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Terribly sorry for the late reply. I’ve been a bit distracted lately and haven’t had a chance to really sit down on the blog. Yeah, I understand. It’s a very strange looking practice and I’m struggling to find out how exactly it is truly spiritually beneficial, rather than just inducing perhaps a sort of placebo effect, if you get what I mean. With Kundalini at least, there seems to be genuine benefits.

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  3. Very, very interesting. Thanks for sharing this, Steven. It is also interesting to note how this “shaking” phenomenon has worked its way into “Christian” churches today, particularly the charismatic ones. This is stuff people definitely need to stay away from!

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    1. Indeed, David, there are some crazy practices out there and when people are going through tough times they can easily latch onto anything that promises healing and peace, however strange the approach is. Thank you for reading!


  4. What an enticing excerpt to share from the book 🙂 The only meditation I do believe in, which I didn’t know till last year, was simply focusing on scripture, repeating scripture to memorize and praise God with. 🙂

    I know people who have been drawn into Wicca because of the promises of feeling grounded, powerful, and being able to sense and strengthen supernatural abilities. But I’ve realized, at least from all of my friends who have talked about this, they all share an empty longing and understanding. They want control and stability in their lives. Despite some experiences, they have shared, and despite a sense of belonging they happily report… the internal core of what they are searching for is still not filled. I see it and they have been open to share this with me.

    If any changes occur within the individual…they are still minor when compared to a person who is with Christ. I’ve seen the love of Jesus changed every aspect of a person, not just one or two things.

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    1. Hey T.R.! Yes often with cults and new age practices there is a longing to fill a void. I got involved with some crazy stuff because on a deep level I was lost and hurting. I think it’s the same for many people. But I don’t want to give away what happens in the book 😁

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      1. Definitely, and keep the suspense for what happens in the book 😉 smart move! I completely agree. I’ve noticed a lot of people who try out different methods are trying to fill emptiness and pain. It’s understandable.

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  5. Oh! I forgot, Steven! I am going to include this post in the Community Spotlight 🙂 I think it can speak to a lot of people. It comes out towards the end of the month.

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  6. You are such a great writer, Steven! Have you ever considered writing fiction? You describe things so beautifully, I bet you could weave an incredibly compelling story! Great excerpt. As TR says, this is an excellent way to introduce your book! God bless you, my friend! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lynn! That’s so kind of you, thank you! I do read quite a lot of fiction, but thus far have only felt inspired to write non-fiction. Perhaps you’re right and I should spread my wings a little. Thank you for the suggestion! It would be a challenge. My sister has written a couple of novels 🙂 God bless you abundantly!


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