For many, September 11, 2001 marks a turning point that may well rival the beginning of the Christian Era – the distinction between BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini, or year of our Lord), or more politically correct these days, BCE (before the Common Era) and CE (the Common Era) – in measuring the march of human history.
I shouldn’t be surprised if our children’s children expand their view of history to include BNE and ANE (Before and After 9/11) as new markers, thereby memorializing our current wave of worldwide madness with its own category. At no time am I more reminded of the fallout of that dark day in American history than when I travel across the country. Agents of the Transportation Security Administration are instructed to screen every passenger as a potential terrorist. Luggage is searched, dogs sniff at people waiting in queues to present their photo IDs and boarding passes, and bottles of water are confiscated lest they contain incendiary materials.
The majority of those subjected to these indignities find solace in believing this is the price of keeping our land and our airspace safe. Perhaps this is so. I don’t so much resent being subjected to this heightened level of distrust and scrutiny as I mourn our loss of innocence. As of that fateful Tuesday morning in September of 2001, the world was redirected onto a new course and life was forever changed. Now both of our feet are firmly planted in the first decade of the ANE era.
But these are minor inconveniences compared to the less visible consequences of living in today’s world. My speaking engagements connect me to thousands of people who share my concern for helping humanity. These exquisite beings profoundly desire to make a difference on this planet. To do so, they are reaching out to every possible source promising to help speed them on their journey.
The result is open season within the Body, Mind, Spirit (BMS) community. I am told by those claiming to be experts in such things that the previously accepted term, “New Age,” is now passé – it’s so yesterday, so BNE. Eager souls, willing to trust all who claim to offer wisdom, purpose, or direction, are prime pickings for the sudden rash of gurus, masters, writers and speakers (myself very much included), channelers, and other avatar-wannabees that have magically appeared like mushrooms after the rain.
Here’s the truth (at least, as I see it): The majority of us are little different from hawkers at a Middle Eastern bazaar, enticing passing shoppers to enter our stalls and sample our wares. We’ve set up shop right alongside Amway representatives, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and purveyors of the latest miracle breakthrough in nutritional technology. We shamelessly rub shoulders with our main competitors, the religious fundamentalists, who seek to capture the very same hearts and minds we wish to turn to the light. Fanned by the flames of urgency, we’ve made ourselves believe that we are running out of time as the shift, rapture, restraining governmental agency, or ecological end of the world rapidly descends upon us. As for those who listen to us, reason has long ago given way to emotional panic as lambs no longer needing to be led, flock to our spiritual abattoirs.
I see them every time I talk: a sea of eyes focused on me, ears attuned, hearts opened in the expectation that I will reveal the missing piece that might give direction in the coming storm. Each day I renew my vows not to succumb to the temptation of pretending to know anything. I am no more and no less than anyone who comes to hear me speak. The distinction between us is an illusion. If I am to serve purely, my most honest action is simply to hold up a mirror so we can all see ourselves from different points of view. This helps us realize that, despite our previous beliefs to the contrary, we have a range of possible paths lying before us. The challenge is in choosing the right one.
Here is where one has to distinguish between judgment and discernment. While these two words appear to have similar meanings, the energetic difference between them is diametric: one implies prejudice, the other suggests open curiosity. Judgment presupposes a hierarchy of correctness: one object or action is better than another. For example, I prefer strawberry ice cream to pistachio; therefore I judge it to be better. On the other hand, if you blindfolded me and offered me two unidentified kinds of ice cream, I have to simply discern the difference between the two flavors without necessarily have to judge one as better than the other.
So it is when one reads a book, attends a class, sits at the feet of a master, or listens to the wisdom of a channeled entity purporting to be a being of light from a higher dimension. The best advice I can offer is to consider the possibility that the entire BMS movement has been infiltrated by charlatans seeking to lead you far from your intended path. Here, discernment is your main ally. Consider the adage attributed to English novelist and poet Dinah Mulock Craik: “Believe nothing you hear, and only half of what you think you see,” or Virgil’s immortal words in the Aeneid concerning the Trojan Horse ruse that ultimately led to the downfall of Troy: “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”
Above all, discern the flow of energy. To my way of seeing things, each of our journeys requires that we become increasingly self-referential and self-empowered. We need to eschew any teaching that seeks to restrict alternatives, dictate courses of action, or take our power in exchange for a promise of enlightenment, salvation, or inclusion. So the next time you receive a new piece of information, I invite you to subject it to a new measure of scrutiny: “Does this empower me or does it limit my options?” If you want to know what any person, institution, or belief system is really about, simply look at the wake it has left behind as it has traveled through time. Has it left people empowered, or is there a litter of destruction, debris, and disenfranchisement scattered along the route?
It appears that the wake of the ANE era itself is already marked by a high body count. Our once-sacred liberties are being swept away like sand castles by the tidal surges of national security. We live in a fear-engendered time; clearly the age of innocence is no longer at hand. This background swell of uncertainty provides a feeding frenzy for those who have set up shop in the bazaar. All are promising untold treasures if you only follow their way. A new temptation is revealed at every turn, offering whatever you ask in exchange for your power.
Unlike the simple choice between strawberry and pistachio, you can select from among hundreds of flavors – most of which you have yet to sample. Try to choose as wisely as you can.
Jean-Claude Gerard Koven is a writer and speaker based in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. He was a featured weekly columnist for the UPI (United Press International) Religion and Spirituality Forum and is the author of Going Deeper: How to Make Sense of Your Life When Your Life Makes No Sense, recipient of both the Allbooks Reviews Editor’s Choice Award and the USABookNews.com Award for the Best Metaphysical Book of the Year.
©2004 – 2021. Jean-Claude Gerard Koven / All Rights Reserved.