Some select passages from An Infinity of Gods:
Ray: How did you wind up studying with Yogananda?
Shelly: When I went out to California, there were two teachers who taught Kriya Yoga–style techniques. There was Yogananda, and there was also an Egyptian teacher [Hamid Bey], and I went out there to see both of them. I was actually more interested in the Egyptian, since most of my studying had been in the direction of the Egyptian schools rather than the Hindu schools. But he happened to be in Buffalo at the time, on a tour of the United States. So I went to Yogananda.
When I spoke to Yogananda about the Egyptian, he said, “I won’t lie to you; that Egyptian teaches the same thing that I do. But he does not call it Kriya Yoga. And he claims it came from Egypt. Yet he gets the same results.”
But I found there was one key difference between the two systems. Yogananda said that in order to join his group, I had to take an oath of celibacy. “Under those conditions, I can’t join your organization,” I told him, “because I’ve seen the woman I’m going to marry. I know what she looks like, I know she has been married, and I know she has a son. I even know what he looks like.” I told him, “I’m not going to take an oath and then go out and then not fulfill that oath.” So I said, “I guess I’ll head over and find that Egyptian, and wait until he comes back.”
And Yogananda said, “Now wait, don’t be so fast. This is unusual, but I will ask the lineage to see if they’ll make an exception. So come back in three days and we’ll see whether they will accept you, or whether you’ll have to join the Egyptian.”
So in three days I came back and asked, “What did the lineage have to say?” You see, whether I studied with Yogananda or anyone else, it didn’t matter to me, because I knew what I wanted to learn, and I was going to search until I found someone to teach it to me. Yogananda said, “The lineage has made an exception in your case” —that is, as long as I remained celibate until I met my wife. That was no problem. So I took that oath with the idea that I’d be free from it after I met my wife.
Shelly: I don’t ever think of myself by my name, I don’t ever call myself by any name. So I have no reference to myself in that respect. And I always refer to myself in the third person, you know. I call myself “he.” I guess most people refer to themselves as “I” or something.
Ray: I know I do. Well, there you go . . .
Shelly: It’s always as though I’m observing myself, and that I am something different maybe. I got that from Yogananda—always watching what you’re doing like you’re an actor on the stage playing a part.
Ray: Why did God create us in the first place?
Shelly: First of all, God did not create you, spiritually. Because if you had a beginning, you of necessity had an end. So you always were. Now, you are in the image of God, and like unto God. But this does not mean he created you. You are self-conscious awareness, like God is self-conscious awareness.
You are a self-existent one. You always were, you always will be, you cannot be destroyed.
I was twenty-six during the following exchange, and had just begun trying my hand at writing the year before. At the time I was swept up in the enthusiasm of the ideas and subjects I was exploring, impatient to get my work out into the world—rough and undeveloped as it was at that point. Shelly saw the impatience—and egotism—of that, and questioned me about it.
Shelly: Why do you feel rushed?
Ray: I don’t want to see this work just fall by the wayside.
Shelly: Why do you worry about that?
Ray: (pause) Because I’d like it to be read by people. I think it has something to offer.
Shelly: You see, I don’t care what anybody thinks about what I say.
Ray: Well, that’s my own neurosis, I guess . . .
Shelly: I know. (laughs) You see, I figure I have an eternity to do what I want to do—a whole eternity. So I feel no rush whatsoever. That I’m not going to live long enough to do it in this life doesn’t bother me in the slightest . . . I don’t care at all! (laughs loudly) In fact, truly, I’ve said most of the things I wanted to say in this life. It’s there on tapes, if somebody wants to listen to them. Besides, if I don’t do it or say it, somebody else will.
Ray: Is that really true, though? If I didn’t write a certain book or paint a certain painting, would somebody else have done it?
Shelly: If it was important, yes.
Ray: If it was important?
Shelly: Yes. When the time comes for an invention, haven’t you noticed how it’s invented all over the world simultaneously?
Ray: But those inventions are different from one another.
Shelly: Oh, no they’re not.
Ray: I’ve never seen two paintings that looked the same.
Shelly: Maybe not exactly the same, no. But they’re still portraying the same ideas. Otherwise why would a nation limit somebody so that they couldn’t paint a certain idea or theme? Like in Russia, artists are restricted, they’re allowed to paint certain ideas and not others. (This conversation took place in 1978, before the collapse of the Soviet Union.) Writers as well. So there are all different kinds of systems of painting, all different forms of artwork. And there’s always someone to express it.
Of course, each one of us likes to think that we’re very important, and without us it wouldn’t have taken place. This is especially true of politicians. They figure that the world can’t get along without them. But history has proven again and again the world gets along quite well without them. In fact, it probably would have gotten along better if they hadn’t existed. But the politician doesn’t think so! He thinks about how important he is.
Now the more important a person thinks he is, the shorter his life span is, according to statistics. An astronomer is someone who realizes how unimportant he or she is, because they see the vastness of the universe and realize how totally insignificant anything he may discover or do really is. Astronomers are among the longest-lived profession out there, I understand. That's likely because the astronomer realizes his or her true unimportance in all of existence.
In this next exchange I was talking with Shelly about the afterlife. Just before I turned on the recorder he had been explaining how most people drift into a semi-dreamlike state once they’ve settled onto the other side. This section starts with him describing Yogananda’s encounter with a female disciple in the astral shortly after she had died.
Shelly: Yogananda told me that when one of his disciples was dying, she made him promise he could come and see that she was all right over there. Now, he had a little difficulty finding her, since it’s not very easy finding someone over there, and when he found her, he called out to her—several times, in fact. In her semi-dreamlike state she was tending a garden, but she looked up at him, and thanked him for coming. Of course when he came, she woke up just a little bit more, but then she went back to her semi-sleep stage and continued gardening. You see, we gravitate to those things over there which suit us, in other words. Another example would be a man who worked hard all his life. He might just sit and rock back and forth in his rocker, because his idea of heaven would be not having to go to work. See?
So they’re in a semi-dreamlike state, and like a broken record they run over the important events in their life. Eventually the sum total of their life experience causes them to desire to be reincarnated again. And they are drawn—instinctively, you might say—to the new body which is contiguous with their nature, so that their astrological code and their genetic code is a representation of their natures and expresses their particular level of balanced self-conscious awareness. So that they don’t feel like a fish out of water, see? As it is, we are all a little bit alone in this world anyhow, we feel just a little bit like we’re a fish out of water. This is basically a lonely place. You’re born alone and you die alone; it doesn’t matter how many people are around you.
Shelly: In the lower planes, you’re so controlled by desires that you haven’t got any real freedom at all. Your animalistic nature is in complete domination of your awareness.
Ray: Are we talking here about the first and second planes—the Saturn and Jupiter planes?
Shelly: Yes. And the third, the Martian plane. Those three run you almost completely. And on the fifth plane, the individual—if they’re in the higher part of the fifth plane—might not reincarnate at all, unless they want to. Or there might be a long period between reincarnations before a desire comes back to balance out factors within his or her nature.
But if you go up above that to the sixth or the seventh planes, they no longer even look like humanoids.
Ray: They’re like balls of light?
Shelly: Yeah, they’re balls of light. And if you speak about the Earth to them, they’re not even interested in what’s going on down here. (laughs) So these beings won’t reincarnate any more, unless they choose to come back perhaps as a great teacher, or as an avatar, or something like that.
Ray: Do they do that?
Shelly: Oh yeah, they’ll do that. You see, this is an act of unselfish love which helps them advance further. Because they’re still in the Yetziratic [astral] world and they want to go into the world of Briah [the world of Christ consciousness-. But they haven’t advanced that far yet.
Ray: Now, I thought that the sixth plane was a state equivalent to Samadhi, and that when you reach the sixth . . .
Shelly: No, it’s not exactly Samadhi yet. Samadhi is related to the world of Briah. And when you’re in the sixth or seventh plane, you’re closer to Samadhi—a lot closer—and you may be spend more time in Samadhi. But you’re still in the Yetziratic world, you’re in the world of Ida, Yetzirah, the astral, just the same. Like, here in this world, you can get an avatar, or one of high spiritual unfoldment, and they maybe will spend a certain amount of time in Samadhi—but they’re still in the Pingalic world, they’ve still got a physical body!
Shelly: Most of what we call “love” doesn’t even involve one chakra, but often just one part of one chakra. It’s the Martian chakra functioning on the Idic (feminine) side, and its natural inclination is Scorpio, which is about sex. This is not a very good system to base your entire life or relationship upon! But a lot of relationships are based upon that one factor, yet it’s just a twelfth of the whole system. And we’re going to alter everything else in our life because of one-twelfth of our life? That’s foolishness. Ideally, you should have at least four chakras functioning in your relationship.
But even if there is only one chakra functioning, the best way to be happy is through controlled awareness. In other words, everyone has their foibles, and none of us is perfect. If we were perfect, we couldn’t even be existing in these bodies, and if you’re in Samadhi, you’re not even functioning in these bodies. You have to be in a state of imbalance to even be aware of what’s going on here.
So look at your partner; you see what their faults are—and you love them anyhow. When you first fall in love with them, you only see their good qualities, but gradually you begin to see those things which annoy you. It might be how they use their toothbrush or the way they eat their food. But don’t look at the things that annoy you! Look at the things that please you in their personality. If two people can do that with each other, they can have a rather decent life together. In other words, be tolerant, have a great deal of tolerance towards one another.
Along with his own experiences with psychic phenomena, Shelly entertained a long-term interest in scientifically investigating those abilities. That sometimes included testing human mediums as well as analyzing scientific devices alleged to involve paranormal energies. The following exchanges from our conversation reflect some diverse viewpoints on the subject, occasionally from a skeptical perspective.
Ray: You’ve made a clear distinction between psychic abilities and spiritual development. Yet you’ve utilized psychic skills yourself.
Shelly: Yes, I have used psychic abilities.
Ray: Would you care to give an example?
Shelly: All right. Many years ago my sister was in the hospital, and had been operated on. They told me I’d better come down there to the hospital, because she was not responding, and they didn’t know how long she would live.
Now there happened to be a young boy who had a crush on my sister, although my sister didn’t feel the same way towards him. But I’d used him in some of my experiments before, with his permission, and I was able to take the forces out of his body. So I said, “Will you come down to the hospital? They say my sister is dying, and she needs some energy, and I’d like to use the energy in your body to help.” He was only too glad to help. After all, he was giving, and he was in love with my sister, so he was ideal.
So I went down to the hospital and I asked how she was doing, and they shook their heads, because they thought she was dying. I went in and she was pale, and it was very difficult to feel any pulse. So I closed the door so the doctors couldn’t come in and interfere with what I was doing. (laughs) They had knowledge of what I could do before that, so they weren’t going to interfere with me. So I hypnotized my sister, even though she was deep under a condition like that, and I took J—, and had him hold both of her hands, and I took the energy out of him and poured it into my sister until her cheeks became rosy red again. Then I woke her up and put her into a natural sleep.
I then opened up the hospital room door and left, where the doctors were waiting. They came in and said, “We don’t know what you did, but she seems OK now.” And they looked at him, the young boy, and said, “What happened to him?” I said, “That’s where I got the energy to make her like she is.”
Ray: This runs in your family, apparently?
Shelly: Yes. But my sister and I have most of it. My grandmother was very highly sensitive. But she was very conscious of it, and never used it except to know how many people were coming for dinner, so she could get more plates out and say, “I’m always prepared.” And there was always the correct number of plates out. Things like that.
But she was sort of afraid of it. She was a Pennsylvania Dutch woman, and she did not want to have any of these “devil’s powers.” See, I was born with pointed ears, and my mother rolled and rubbed them until she broke one of my ears. I sat in her lap until I was seven years of age, getting my ears rolled and rubbed off. She didn’t want to take me down into the Pennsylvania Dutch country and have those people think she had consorted with the devil, because I had demon’s ears! Ever since then, my ears have been very sensitive and I’d rather not have them touched.
Shelly: All you’re really doing when you’re dealing in magic is you’re taking basic energy and modulating it, you’re directing it. That’s true whether you’re making a talisman, you’re working magic, or you’re modulating the future. But remember: a little bit of magic goes an awful long way.
Ray: For better or worse . . .
Shelly: Right. And usually it’s for worse.
Ray: Why? Because it gets out of hand?
Shelly: That’s right. And you’re not wise enough. You don’t know enough. How do you know what the end results of the magic will be? Are you wise enough to know all that? This is why the wise man tells the magician to leave magic alone, and why it became forbidden by the churches. Because it gives you an advantage over the other individual, and should not be used. It really shouldn’t be used.
Ray: Can a person really transcend the difficult aspects in their horoscope?
Shelly: I’ll explain it like this. Yogananda’s secretary was a good astrologer, and she wrote for astrology magazines. But Yogananda told her she was too enslaved by it. So he said to her, “Pick out the worst possible aspect for me to do something, and I will do it just to show you that I can transcend the planetary energies.” So she gave him just such a time.
He wanted to bring a church made out of redwood that he liked down to Hollywood. This was a big project, and he needed money to do it, so he put out fliers to everybody, and the money came in. They moved the church from its original spot; but a telegram came in saying that the trailer had broken loose and crashed into some farmer’s yard. That led to legal problems, as well as damage to the crops.
As a result, Yogananda needed more money, and sent out another flier. He had hoped to get the church into place by Easter—and he did so, but by the skin of his teeth. He finally had it set up so that people could go into it. And by then, all the adverse aspects had finally passed. He said, “You see, you can transcend your horoscope. But not without difficulty!” (laughs)