All week I have been vexed by a memory, from a past long forgotten. Two words appear on the marquee of the theater of my mind, words that defined my existence and shaped my formative years, yet I paid them no mind at the time. But subsequently haunted me like a daemon that was my genius; however, also my undoing. Two words that had I applied critical thinking could have changed the course and trajectory of my life. Two words if scrutinized could have been my salvation and the solution to the tenuous state of my mental health. Two words that I scoffed at when considered and disbelieved when I did, but two words until now were my undoing. These two words – Magical Thinking.

Years ago, during the dark times, I was sent to a vocational psychologist for a battery of tests. The outcome a confirmation of my diagnosis of being manic depressive, or more accurate Bi-Polar 1/depressive. In the Drs. report there was a comment regarding my magical thinking or superstitiousness. That term – magical thinking – has always stuck with me. Like a splinter in my mind, this term has at times caused me irritation and discomfort, especially in moments of doubt. Yes, I saw ghosts and heard voices, but I now know that this term can be applied to religiosity and the notion that a person is – Spiritual. For that is what I considered myself. I would never say the S word aloud. Just as I never spoke the word God aloud, not because I felt it was a sin or that I would rot in hell for all eternity, but because consciously I thought it was nonsensical, yet subconsciously I was a true believer.

The only truth is one that you can prove. The fact that I was suffering from delusions and was mentally unstable was a fact and irrefutable. It was an affectation of a diseased mind. The disease was the result of the faith virus.

Faith – the belief without evidence was my malady.

I lacked security and was afraid of my own shadow. It is no wonder I sought and found meaning where there was none. Because finding it in the world of matter and in the realm of nature was just too terrifying. To be able to see through the chimera that I created would have taken a great deal of courage and personal responsibility. That is hard for anyone, especially if that person is full of self-loathing and believes he deserves the hell he has created.

I had bought into the martyr complex, and why not, it was a sanctioned and pious form of belief. We are meant to suffer and die. Magical thinking was my reality, it was my excuse and my reason for being me, me I was destined and ordained to be.

I felt special. I communed with the dead. I could (I believed) see into the future and heal the sick. However, I was already dead. At least in my awareness of the material world, I sought redemption in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways.

I believed in and studied archaic, esoteric literature and philosophies. I felt and thought that there was a divine mind, and a higher power. As reticent as I was to use the word god, god is what I believed in and searched for. I sought Gnosis, direct knowledge of and direct experience of and with the deity. I guess after some thought I was a Deist, perhaps a Pantheist, I thought everything was good and I wanted to be everything to and with God.

I believed that everything was a manifestation or expression of deity, a higher power, but I had no evidence, no empirical data, just my faith.. I believed that if I had faith and suspended believe in all other matters, that I would be lead to my higher purpose, my special purpose.

I had faith. I ardently studied seeking answers to all of life’s questions. Who am I? Why am I here? What am I meant to do? I ached and thirsted for answers, but all I discovered was more questions. I found bliss in the process, but hell in the outcome.

I studied esoterica, the occult, mythology, Abrahamic religion- old testament, new testament, Torah, Talmud, Midrash, Eastern Religion – Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Jainism, pseudo-science, magic, paganism, neo-paganism, Native American philosophy, Nag Hamadi, Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnostic Gospels, Alchemy, Numerology, Astrology, Alchemy, Hermeticism, Kabbalah, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, etc.. Contemplating the nature of the cosmos in ones’ belly button as I did was mind expanding and at times masturbatory. Looking back I realize what a colossal waste of time it all was. If anything I am well versed, know the language, and able to engage anyone in any faith or belief and debate them why this is all Delusion and mass psychosis. And, I will for I now know my calling or purpose. If there is a GOD- he has sent me here to dissuade his creations of his existence. Game on!

I fell down a rabbit hole, through a black hole, tumbled over rainbows and communed with shadows, yet I was empty. I was the void. I was the vacuum that nature abhorred. I had deluded myself that I was healed from mental illness and I felt special for that and empowered and ready to help my fellow man. But, in actuality, this cure was worse than the disease, worse than the crippling depression, worse than the glorious flights of mania because I felt sterile and impotent. If I was a godlike or divinely inspired, I could not create anything; not even chaos.

It is really grinding on me that all this time, after all these years, I have devoted so much to study and research trying desperately to manifest and create a better life for my daughter and myself by leading a moral life, sacrificing so much when in reality all of it was smoke and echoes. The entire time seeking guidance that never came from a deity that does not exist. What a fool I have been. All the mystical experiences that I thought or felt that I had that were transcendent and gifts showing me the way were delusions. I believed that by believing that perhaps I may be deserving of special favor from a super ghost in the sky. What a bunch of nonsense. I duped myself. I betrayed myself and now here I am..

The ironic thing is that I never felt comfortable using the word god and never accepted Jesus the Christ as my lord and personal savior, but believed in an even larger, broader and deeper meaning of a divine mind or Holy Spirit that encompassed everything. I guess I can take solace in the fact that even though I was delusional my belief system was kind, positive and inclusive.

What has brought me out of the darkness of belief, faith, and delusion and into the pure and clear light of reason and rationality is discovering Stoic philosophy. I stumbled across the handbook of Epictetus at the library. Another time wandering around a bookstore with little money in my pocket I found a small volume which I could afford – Meditations – by Marcus Aurelius; the Stoic Roman emperor. After falling deep into the Stoic of well of wisdom I discovered the letters of Seneca. Stoicism and its basic tenet – Some things are within our control, and some things are not, was simple and to the point, but it was like a spark in an arid pine barren which lit a fire of insurrection in my mind that lead me out of the wilderness of delusion. Before I was a path that I had followed to a degree, that lay beneath all the lies and falsehoods, wanting to do my best to help myself and humanity. Stoicism cleared the way and pointed me to my next be discovery – Humanism.

Once again I discovered a book at the library by happenstance – Good without God, by Greg Epstein. Epstein is the Humanist Chaplin at Harvard. He has degrees and has studied theology, so he knows what he is talking when he writes about morality and ethics and the virtues of living a secular life. He referred to it numerous times throughout his book as a – life stance. He writing was eloquent and kind and always putting the welfare of people and humanity before beliefs and dogma. At the library, I also found a humanist bible entitled – The Good Book, by A.C. Grayling. The first section on nature was one of the most beautiful things I ever read. I wept as I realized the true power and majesty of the natural world.

I spent and committed so much time to search for answers in ancient literature that I never really looked up and around me to all that the material world had to offer. My quest to be the best spiritual warrior that I could be held sway and kept me ignorant to the possibility of what could be in the present. Gone was my wonder of science and nature and my curiosity of – What If? I had become complacent and a lazy skeptic. I know now, sure as shooting at the stars, I was deep in victim mode and I believed the lie that we are meant to suffer. This pilgrim was pinned down by inertia and I was not making any progress. My brother one day during a phone conversation told me that the reasons for my difficulties were due to my – unwillingness to change. I was fit to be tied. Before I hung up on him I had already structured my excuse and my argument why his statement was unfair and lacked credibility. “I was an Alchemist. I am all about transformation and transmutation”. On some level, I knew I was full of shit. I wanted to change, but I was working from a context and a worldview that was pure fantasy and held no relevance to the world of reality in which I needed to maneuver. The framework and foundation where I was trying to build a life for myself were all based on a lie. The lie – unless I submit to a higher power that governs my behavior, successes, and morality I am at risk. Pascal’s Wager posits the idea that even if you do not believe in god, you should behave and show observance as if you did; on the off chance that you are wrong. In essence hedge your bet, how pathetic.

I have read and studied every story of the Holy Grail. I have tried to find divinity in the bloodline of the characters of these tales, hoping against all odds, to discover clues that might shed some light onto why there is so much religious significance attached to them. Were Jesus and Mary Magdalene husband and wife? If so, is the story true that after he was crucified she sailed to France with a child in her womb? And, if this is the case, does the royal bloodline stem from her and her supposed daughter Sara as the story goes or is that just more fantasy? What is fact and what is fiction? The lines are blurred… Chivalry and the roving minstrels of that age, were they singing the praises of the sacred feminine of where they just entertainers spreading the news of the day? Reading the fiction of Dan Brown only confused me further and caused me a great degree of consternation.

I have immersed myself in ritual magic, Thelema, goddess worship, Paganism, Druidry, Wicca, Celtic Christianity, and exploring the possibility that I could intervene and control the laws of nature. Sadly, I could not.

I have delved into Anthroposophy – the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and joined his Anthroposophical Society, as well as becoming familiar with his Waldorf educational method. I have read at length the books of Madame Blavatsky and her fellow contributors of Theosophy.

I have read and tried to understand the symbolic and allegorical stories of the Rosicrucian. Where they affiliated with the Knights Templar and later the Freemasons? As a young man, I packed a bag and was ready to head off to Nova Scotia to investigate a site that was believed to house the Templar treasures. I was sure that the Grail and other relics could be found there, and I was the one that would unearth them and at last get some answers. Magical Thinking comes in all guises and permeates many a domain. Thankfully, my father dissuaded me from going… I have been greatly influenced by the writings and theories of the New Thought movement. Which I found by reading Napoleon Hill’s – Think and Grow Rich; odd right? The power of the mind can overcome many an obstacle, but reading Sam Harris’ book “Free Will” has made it clear to me that our life is a series of thoughts, memories, and experiences and to create or achieve anything is built on these as a foundation, if you will, or steps to achieve anything or attain any goal. In the miscellaneous category, I have spent an inordinate amount of time, energy and resources on – books, retreats, seminars, symposiums, lectures, therapies, regressions, readings, consultations… you get the idea…

It has been a long exhausting, agonizing strange trip into the unknown, falling down rabbit holes within black holes and vortexes of pseudo-reality searching for the truth, when the Truth was right under my nose, as they say, the whole time, but that’s Okay. Lesson learned.

Now, I begin the journey back to sanity, back to reality and home to reason and rationality. Now, I am a Skeptic; where every shadow is home to doubt. Where everything will be questioned, observed, and researched. Hypotheses will be made. Experiments will be performed. I will share my ideas and conclusions with sensible people and ask for feedback. My writing will be peered reviewed. I have a new purpose in life. It is not to save souls, but to convert the true believers to doubters. I will help humanity by changing minds. Not to my way of thinking, but to think in its self. I will help people to see the world in a new light. A light where they are capable of changing their own minds. Evidence will not help the uninitiated. If I am able to dispel their belief in a higher power, in divinity, dare I say it – in god, they will still suffer from the belief virus that supernatural, or paranormal events, characters and the like are possible. Critical thinking must is applied to everything under, above, and beyond the sun and cosmos. I have come too far in my life and my journey not to use what I have learned, even the nonsense stuff, to help my fellow humans. The power that I have is that I have traveled the border land between rationality and nonsense and I now know the difference. Two hours ago, I dug a hole in the backyard and threw all of the books, statues, amulets, candles, incense, oils, pictures, icons, prayer mats, etc… All of it in and covered it with lime and refilled the hole. It was beneath a full moon at midnight. Before I would have seemed some significance and connection to it, but now, nothing. I just couldn’t sleep and I could not stand to look at it any longer.

I have now changed my belief system and now it is time to change my life. I have ceased to cherish my opinions. I question my beliefs. I have released my convictions, and now I am free. I have found freedom. It is being a Freethinker and secularist. The world at large is beyond my control, but my thoughts about all things, especially about and of the world are now within my control. And, the awareness and the knowledge and the difference between the two is the freedom that I have longed for all these years. If there ever was a heaven it is in this moment. From this moment forth, I am a devout nonbeliever. I am a skeptic and will demand nothing but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me, Richard Dawkins.

There is no all-powerful, creator deity. If there ever was, he is now a dead astronaut. So it is written, so let it be told.

Jeff Turnbull