I was a staunch atheist until I was 19 years old.
When I was in middle school my mom wanted me to go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve so I wrote her an essay about why God isn’t real. As a kid, I went to vacation bible school because 1.) it was free and 2.) most of my friends went too and one morning the pastor was giving a sermon and asked: “Kids, what would you do if a friend told you that they didn’t believe in God?” And with a nearly belligerent amount of audacity I stood up, hand raised, and said: “I don’t believe in God.”
I’ve always been on a quest of knowledge—growing up I had a parent figure who told me I was always wrong, no matter what.
I’ve always been on a quest of truth—I saw, from an early age, that my mom was an alcoholic and despite her red-faced screams claiming that she wasn’t, I knew it was true.
I was on fire for knowledge; I was on fire for truth. Back then, I only had one avenue of finding Truth (capital T)—the normative, exoteric approach—which was materialist science. I failed through high school but on my own l studied—deeply—anything (within that lens) that would help me to understand the world better.
When I was 18, I got really into listening to lectures by Notorious New Atheists because I was living with some people who were “believers” and I was so obnoxious that I decided to find more proof that they were “wrong” to gratify my then completely unchecked ego of knowledge. One night, I was laying in bed, listening to the melodic monotony of some white-male-thinker droning on about “logic” and “rationality” and all of a sudden—everything shifted and like a bag of bricks I was hit with the realization:
“Damn, ALL of THIS is REALLY happening.”
My body was so real, the world around me was so real, the sounds of people in the other room was so real, and I was laying there just witnessing all of it—as if there was some primordial part of me that was separate from my identity that had suddenly taken the reigns.
When I was a kid, this would happen pretty regularly—some might pathologize it and call it dissociation, but I look at is as an early taste of Witness Consciousness. But for some reason that night, it happened, I snapped out of it, and then suddenly I was overtaken with an intense feeling of peace and clarity. I was totally overjoyed…. but I didn’t really understand why. I had never heard of a (not drug induced) non-ordinary state of consciousness before. I look back on that experience now and see that it was the first of many experiences that would begin to chip away at my arrogance, and invite me deeper into the arena of alternative ways of knowing.
Within a few months, I had dropped out of college due to an environmental awakening (which is a separate story) and travelled to Sweden to begin work on an organic farm. This is where the chipping away of my worldview really took its course. I didn’t grow up with a lot of interest or time spent in nature, so my first sight of a seed germinating in a tray had me absolutely captivated—how could something so small have so much latent power? Later, during a walk through the woods, my artistic mind began to notice how everything in the wild is composed so perfectly, the flowers, the ground covers, the shrubs, and the trees—every scene before me constructed by the hand of something that seemed to understand the Golden mean. Years later I would finally be able to describe this phenomena:
Nature arranges Herself in perfect compositions to remind us that we are being done.
It was all too perfect to be random, it was all too interconnected to not be intelligent. I remember sitting in the car with a friend once I had returned to the United States using rudimentary spiritual language to describe that a compost pile revealed to me that reincarnation must be true—I saw with my own eyes that from death comes life, over and over and over again and as I followed that truth I couldn’t shake the feeling that my personality (soul) must take on new life, too, when my fleshy form finally meets the maggots.
Nature—the earth—humbled me, and while my rationalism had been mostly chipped away, I still didn’t have a framework to place all of these experiences into context. By sheer coincidence and blind faith, I began to study biodynamics and Rudolf Steiner by the suggestion of my aunt. Suddenly, I began to understand that there could be different (and entirely valid and incredibly complex) frameworks for explaining reality, and I stepped fully into it. During this time (2012) I found myself in a crisis of materialist faith, writing in my journal about the metaphoric underpinning of Anthroposophical philosophy:
“Where can I begin to tell someone who has studied biology for years that the plant lives in the cosmos and dies in the meadow; That the world is actually dying from the inside out, rather than the outside in; that ape evolved from man, not man evolving from ape. How can I tell someone that what we really need to do is move from an intellectual mind, to an imaginative mind, to an inspired mind, and ultimately an intuitive mind. That we must learn how to deconstruct the world around us, because going through the process of how an object became can expose the consequences of its existence. And ultimately: does language describe reality, or disclose it?”
Even as a young, virile New Atheist—what I was always looking for was coherence: a unified, whole explanation that could explain the unified, whole of reality. My interest in coherence has never faded, and in fact I think find it even more important now than I did then. Because of my philosophical underpinnings with Steiner, when I was (by chance) introduced to the śakta-tantric tradition I am apart of today, I began a seven year journey into a worldview that is completely coherent—all of the parts, when studied and placed together, add up to not only a unified, whole Explaining Story for life, but also a moral framework with which I can engage with life. And ultimately, it is this moral framework that I have found so compelling because the way that we engage with life has grave consequences—sure, maybe you’ve figured out how things work, but what are you going to do with that knowledge? And ultimately: What are you going to serve with that knowledge? We all need to ask ourselves (even the New Atheists)—whose altar are we sacrificing ourselves on, and then, whose bricks are we laying. Because the answer to that question actually has an effect on the entire web of life.
I felt, in the compost heap, amongst the perfectly composed trees, that there was an interconnectedness that I was absolutely indebted to. This interconnectedness brought me my meals, after all. My very existence is hinged on It—and over the years I have come to understand that the religious ideal of service is actually a gesture of gratitude. In service, I say:
Thank You—and this earth who is dying from the inside out (as Steiner says) suddenly quivers, as if trying to correct course.
Thank you nature, for your deliverance of humility—and for sparking me on a path that more accurately reflects my experience than any rational explanation ever could.
Now, I work with individuals who are seeking coherent spiritual frameworks for reality, who crave an Explaining Story apart from what we are told in school, and who want to not only take in these frameworks, but allow the morality of them to help us to engage with life in a way that is transformative to not only us—but the entire web of life. If this inspires you, please review my mentorship page if you'd like to learn more about working with me.