"The Father has revealed to me that the Bible contains great wisdom and power," Muriel announced at the beginning of the new series of discipleship training classes. With curiosity, I had noticed the Bible on her lap as she sat at the front of our small group.
"He has directed me to start Bible study here at the Lighted Way," she continued. "In this class we are going to use the Bible as our main reference book."
I was surprised to hear Muriel's announcement. I didn't think our New Age center would ever study the old Bible.
Muriel opened the large, leather-bound Bible. "I am reading from the gospel of Mark," she said. "In chapter eleven, verse twenty-four, Jesus is speaking about faith and the power of prayer. He says, 'Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.'"
Leaning down, Muriel placed the Bible on the carpet beside her chair and then followed the scripture reading with a dissertation on the verse quoted. She emphasized that, when one goes to the Father in prayer with a certain request, it is important to believe that you have already received what you are asking for.
"If, for example, you pray for a healing," she explained, "right after you have prayed, you need to believe that you have been healed, even though the symptoms have not yet disappeared."
I felt a little strange sitting in this first Bible-study class. I had always been enthusiastic about studying Djwhal Khul's writings and about Muriel's channelings of the masters. But for some reason I was hesitant about getting involved with Bible teachings. Since joining the New Age movement, I had regarded the Bible to be very much out of date.
After Muriel's talk, we did some group meditation work and took turns praying to the "Father" that the work at the Lighted Way would be blessed. We also offered prayers for our personal needs.
Jesus Christ Appears and Performs a Healing.
During a subsequent class at the Lighted Way, Muriel excitedly told us about a wonderful experience that had recently happened to her.
"While staying at the Brentwood Holiday Inn, I was awakened in the middle of the night. To my amazement, a man stood right in the middle of my hotel bedroom."
Muriel opened her mouth wide and raised her eyebrows, mimicking an expression of astonishment.
She continued: "I was shocked to see him standing there in front of me. He was about six feet tall and had a dignified bearing of great authority. He said to me, 'Get down on your knees!'"
Muriel paused, as if to catch her breath. My eyes were firmly glued on her. "He spoke again, very firmly, and said, 'Get down on your knees. I am Jesus Christ, and I am going to heal you.' That is exactly what he said. I was overwhelmed by the force of his presence."
Muriel said she got out of bed and knelt down in front of the mysterious stranger. She described the person who stood before her.
"Jesus was very handsome. He had the decisive quality of a powerful businessman or distinguished politician. Yet he had a certain ease and charisma that was indicative of his divinity and great wisdom. If people think that Jesus is a weedy weakling, they are going to be surprised."
Even though I found Muriel's story amazing, I had no doubts that the event had happened to her just as she described. Having known Muriel for several years, I had developed a very trusting relationship with her.
"He is power-r-r-ful," she expressed forcefully. "He touched my head with his hands. After blessing me, he walked straight through the solid, locked door of my hotel room and disappeared into the corridor."
After the miraculous visit by "Jesus Christ" to Muriel, the Lighted Way began to change considerably, taking on a much more Christian atmosphere.
My entire philosophical orientation seemed to be threatened by these new Bible teachings, and I began to feel uncomfortable. However, I reasoned that Master Jesus was, after all, a senior master in the Hierarchy; it was thus quite in order for us to study what he taught as recorded in the Bible.
From the Bailey books, I recalled that Master Jesus was responsible for the supervision of all Christianity. Respecting his position as one of the great masters, I concluded that perhaps it would be useful to become acquainted with his teachings. They could aptly supplement the metaphysical knowledge I had learned from Djwhal Khul's dissertations.
In one Bible-study class, Muriel lectured on the use of Jesus' name in prayer. Reading from the Bible, Muriel quoted the words of Jesus. "I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:13, 14).
Muriel commented, "In this text from the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his followers to ask for things in his name. The name of Jesus is the greatest name in the universe, and it should always be invoked when praying."
She looked up at the class in seriousness. "When you pray," she said, "you should address your prayers to the Father, just as Jesus had instructed his disciples when he gave them the example of the Lord's Prayer. However, when you ask for things in prayer, ask for them in Jesus' name. It is the most powerful name that can be used for invocation purposes."
Muriel then told us that she had been instructed by "the Father" to purchase a television and watch TV evangelists, especially Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin. "I need to study their preaching techniques. He says that, of Christian preachers, they are the nearest to the New Age. The Father wants me to learn from them in order to enhance my own ministry here at the Lighted Way."
Muriel then urged us to begin watching these TV evangelists as much as possible. Because I regarded television in general to be polluted with evil junk, I had not owned a TV set in years and was thus unacquainted with the preachers Muriel was discussing. But I decided to listen to the recommended preachers on my car radio as often as I could.
Jesus Christ Appears to a Guru.
With the new emphasis on Jesus Christ at the Lighted Way, an intriguing memory surfaced in my mind. I remembered a visit I had made to a Sunday morning church service held by the Self Realization Fellowship (SRF), a Los Angeles based Hindu organization.
The service was held in a beautiful chapel located at the organization's Lake Shrine center, about three miles from the site where I attended metaphysical classes at the Lighted Way. What impressed me the most about the SRF chapel was the six large paintings on the front of the altar depicting the historic gurus most closely connected with the organization. One of the two center pictures was of Jesus Christ. At the time, I wondered why this Hindu sect should so highly esteem Jesus Christ. However, I had not investigated the matter. With the Lighted Way's emphasis now upon the teachings of Jesus Christ, I was inspired to revisit the SRF chapel and ask the monks questions regarding their relationship to Christianity.
Arriving early, I took a seat in the sanctuary. Soon the chapel filled to capacity for the morning service, and an overflow crowd began to congregate in the large garden, where they listened to the service via loudspeakers. The program began with sacred songs. The "pastor"- looking like some kind of monk - wore a traditional red Hindu gown. After a short introduction to the sermon, there was a meditation, followed by the rest of the sermon.
The sermon had a curious flavor - a blend of Hindu and Christian teachings - although the Eastern teachings seemed to predominate. The program closed with a prayer in which all the congregation stood and held their arms straight up in the air.
I later questioned one of the senior monks - a balding, flabby man wearing a red jacket styled like a physician's coat. It appeared that the jacket was a uniform worn by monks of the sect.
"Do you believe in the devil?" I asked.
The monk produced a Bible and read several passages to me. I was impressed with his detailed knowledge of the Scriptures. We had an interesting discussion. He recommended I purchase Autobiography of a Yogi written by Paramahansa Yogananda, the founder of the organization.
From the book, I learned that Yogananda had been born in India and trained in a Hindu ashram for several years prior to his emigration to America. Yogananda had been sent to the United States by his guru to establish a monastery in the West for the dissemination of Hindu teachings to Westerners. In response to a prophetic dream, Yogananda selected a mansion in Los Angeles as the site for his monastic center.
Near the end of the book, I came across a passage that answered my question about why SRF had such a high regard for Jesus Christ.
One of the happiest periods of my life was spent in dictating, for Self Realization Magazine, my interpretation of part of the New Testament. Fervently I implored Christ to guide me in divining the true meaning of his words, many of which have been grievously misunderstood for twenty centuries.
I was impressed with Yogananda's enthusiasm for the New Testament scriptures. I continued reading his narrative in earnest.
One night while I was engaged in silent prayer, my sitting room in the Encinitas hermitage became filled with an opal-blue light. I beheld the radiant form of the blessed Lord Jesus. A young man, he seemed, of about twenty-five, with a sparse beard and moustache; his long black hair, parted in the middle, was haloed by a shimmering gold. His eyes were eternally wondrous; as I gazed, they were infinitely changing. With each divine transition in their expression, I intuitively understood the wisdom conveyed. In his glorious gaze I felt the power that upholds the myriad worlds. A Holy Grail appeared at his mouth; it came down to my lips and then returned to Jesus. After a few moments he uttered beautiful words, so personal in their nature that I keep them in my heart.
In my thinking at the time, I began to appreciate what appeared to be a wonderful connection between the various religions of the world; Jesus had appeared to Hindus, such as Yogananda, as well to Christians, such as Reverend Hagin. I perceived that all of the different religions were really just part of an emerging divine wholeness, and it was the goal of the New Age to integrate all these diversities of theological thought into one harmonious religion.
The New Age ideal seemed a beautiful concept: to have unity in diversity so as to reveal the fullness of God and produce a society of loving understanding and mutual interdependence. This would be the New Age of love, light, and joy - the kingdom of heaven on earth.
The Kenneth Copeland Convention.
Muriel seemed to mention Kenneth Copeland's name almost every time we had a Bible-study class. From the radio broadcasts I heard, this renowned evangelist from Fort Worth, Texas, certainly seemed a very good preacher. However, I remained skeptical about Muriel's assertion that he was inclining toward some of the rudimentary New Age ideas. His programs sounded like 100 percent biblical preaching to me.
While listening to one of Copeland's radio broadcasts, an announcement attracted my attention to an event called the West Coast Believer's Voice of Victory Convention. It was to be held shortly in the Anaheim Convention Center and would feature preaching by Copeland and his leading staff members. I thought that it might be a good idea to attend this event and hear Copeland in person. Perhaps I might discover something about this preacher that I had failed to appreciate while listening to his radio broadcasts.
"Have you registered, sir?" asked the uniformed doorman as I entered the foyer of the convention center's main building. I could already hear singing and shouts of hallelujah coming from inside the arena.
I brushed past him saying, "No, but I am not going to stay long. Thank you."
I didn't want to be bothered with any registration, for I did not plan to stay around long and be bored by some old-fashioned Bible preacher. I was checking Copeland out, mostly in deference to Muriel.
The huge indoor arena contained about 6,000 worshipers. Some of the people wept; others uttered unintelligible words which I guessed must be the tongues. Some people prayed, some busily looked up Bible texts, others munched on popcorn or gulped down soda drinks as if they were at a baseball game. I had never seen anything like it.
Looking around the arena for a place to sit, I noticed the upper-level rows were empty. "I better sit up there, away from these noisy Christians," I said to myself. "Otherwise some weird emotional energy might rub off on me." Djwhal Khul taught that emotional energy was not good for someone on the metaphysical path.
Reaching my seat, I watched the proceedings as a detached spectator. A man was singing from the platform. At the end of the song, he started to speak. I realized that it was Kenneth Copeland himself and admitted that he certainly was a gifted artist.
After a short reading from the Bible, Copeland then proceeded with his sermon. He seemed to be an excellent speaker, but, unfortunately, his subject matter was the same old Christian stuff I had heard preached as a youth. He was talking about how to prevent the devil from stealing the joy felt by the Christian.
I wondered why Muriel regarded him as especially inspired by "God" and as having a level of consciousness that inclined toward some of the New Age ideas. I certainly couldn't see it and decided that Muriel was probably mistaken. But to be fair, I would listen a little longer.
I sat waiting for some new, extrabiblical information. I waited and waited. All I heard was old-fashioned sermonizing with a lot of Bible texts thrown in. After half an hour, I was getting rather bored.
I thought to myself, I am glad I came. Now I have proved to myself that this evangelist is not to be taken seriously, after all, even if Muriel is so impressed. In no way could this Bible pusher's knowledge be compared with the vast and intricate metaphysical teachings of Djwhal Khul. It seemed to me that Muriel herself had far more knowledge concerning divine matters than even the most gifted Christian big shots.
Even though I became increasingly bored and felt like walking out and going home, a strange force operating within me seemed to prompt me to stay in my seat. So I sat there and tried to be interested in what the man was saying.
Eventually the boredom became too much for me, and I jumped out of my seat and walked down the flights of stairs. On my way home I thought, "Well, that's the last of him. Back to my Alice Bailey books and Muriel's commentaries on the Bible."
In my morning meditation the next day, I received a surprising direction. "Tonight, go back to the Kenneth Copeland convention," the inner voice of conscience advised.
"Hmmm," I said to myself.
I decided to do what I was told. Perhaps the masters wanted me to meet someone there; perhaps Copeland would teach me something after all; perhaps I needed an additional dose of boredom to be absolutely convinced once and for all that the big-time Bible preachers really didn't know that much.
In the early evening, I returned to the convention and sat in the same isolated location as before. Surprisingly, I quite enjoyed the singing, even lifting up my hands at one point. Then Copeland started preaching. I was disappointed again; he just preached more Bible stuff. The more he rapped, the more bored I became.
Finally, I decided to meditate. Pulling myself forward to the edge of the seat, I straightened my back and began the usual occult visualizations, incantations, and invocations. After about twenty minutes, I closed the meditation by visualizing "Christ energy" filling the arena.
After the meditation, I was impressed to stay until the end of the evening's program. Eventually Copeland finished, and I returned home, convinced that this was my last visit.
This was not to be. The following morning in my meditation, I was shocked to be told that I should again attend the convention in the evening after work. I recalled the old proverb "Ours is not to question why; ours is but to do or die."
After work, I drove the thirty miles to the convention and went straight to my "usual" seat.
As Copeland was preaching, suddenly something he said riveted my attention. A chill ran up my spine as I involuntarily slid to the edge of my seat to focus on his words.
I heard him describe how he had recently been given a vision from God. I heard Copeland say that God had told him that Jesus would soon begin to appear in a physical form in the churches. Jesus, perhaps accompanied by his angels, would be seen walking down the aisles and then would disappear. This would occur in several churches with increasing frequency.
The statement I heard was like dynamite in my ears. Wow, I thought, this is interesting. Muriel had predicted exactly the same thing. She had recently told us at the Lighted Way that we could expect Jesus to appear during our church service.
In fact, I recalled that Muriel had also made a very similar prediction about four years previously. On that occasion, the prediction concerned the masters of the Hierarchy. The Hierarchy had informed Muriel that certain senior masters, such as Saint Germain, Koot Hoomi, or Djwhal Khul, would materialize themselves in a physical form and be seen in the Lighted Way, perhaps sitting quietly for a few minutes in one of the seats during our Sunday morning metaphysical church service.
The appearance of the masters was to be part of the "externalization of the Hierarchy." This is supposedly a process in which the members of the Hierarchy appear in visual, physical form in the world in order to promote the New Age teachings in a more dynamic manner than before.
As I sat at the convention, I concluded that Muriel was correct in her assessment of Kenneth Copeland as a preacher inspired by Master Jesus. It appeared he was at least expressing some New Age ideas. I recalled that on an earlier radio broadcast, Ken Copeland claimed it was possible to receive "revelation knowledge" directly from God through the power of the Holy Spirit. It certainly appeared he had received special knowledge.
I started to get excited; perhaps the Hierarchy really were working through some of the Christian evangelists, after all, just as Muriel claimed. Feeling much more accommodating toward Christian believers, I wondered whether other preachers were being directly influenced by the Hierarchy, even if the preachers themselves were not consciously aware of the source of their inspiration.
At the end of the meeting, I left the arena and drove home along the freeway with the words and music from the final song merrily playing in my mind:
Then sings my soul,
My Savior God to Thee,
How great Thou art,
How great Thou art!
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