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Updated August 2, 2014

My Journey From Skeptic to Believer

About Russell Boulding

I was born in 1947 on the early crest of the post-World War II baby boom and had the good fortune of washing ashore into a stimulating and loving home environment. My English-born father, was a well-known economist and general systems theorist. I inherited from him a propensity to look at the big picture. My Norwegian-born mother, is a well-known sociologist, futurist and peace activist. I inherited from her an inclination to look for practical ways to make the world a better place. In addition to being brilliant academics and committed activists, my parents were also devout Quakers, spiritual individuals who were completely free of the dogma that often accompanies religious practice. Although I did not inherit their devoutness and I follow no particular spiritual tradition, my parents' example gave me a deep respect for those who follow a spiritual path. The Midwest is where I grew up and call home, but one more parental influence worth noting is that I have always seen myself as a citizen of the world thanks to separate years spent in Japan and Jamaica, and family travels in Mexico, Europe, and Asia during my childhood and adolescence.

All of my life I have been inclined towards a left-brain rational approach to thought and action. I have a BA in geology from Antioch College (1970) and an MS in water resources management from the University of Wisconsin/Madison (1975). From 1977 to 2003 I worked as a free-lance environmental consultant, specializing in environmental problems related to coal mining and contamination of soil and ground water (see The Skeptic's Corner for more about my work as a scientist). I closed my environmental consulting business in September 2003 in order to focus my full energies on the Great Shift manuscript project.

I am blessed to be passionately in love with my wife after more than thirty years of marriage. We live in a passive-solar super-insulated house that we designed and built ourselves, and grow much of our own fresh produce on a 36-acre homestead near Bloomington, Indiana. To the extent that parents can take credit for their children, my wife deserves the lioness' share for providing a rich and loving environment for our four children as they grew up. Nevertheless, though my professional work was often demanding, family relationships were always more important to me than my work.

As a scientist I was always open to the possibility that there was more to reality than could be defined by scientific measurement and mathematics. Until November, 2002, my life was free of direct experiences that gave me any reason to question that what we experience as physical reality is primary. I had never seen (and have yet to see) a ghost or UFO, never experienced ESP or anything else that I interpreted as a "paranormal" happening. I was what I call an open skeptic about such matters. I had encountered enough anecdotal evidence of such phenomena experienced by others that I was open to the idea that there was "something to it," but it takes direct experience to become an open believer. Around Thanksgiving, in 2002, I exsperienced a "spiritual emergency" that shattered my comfortable view of physical reality. For those who are interested, I have included the section from Chapter 2 that says more about this experience.

The personal changes that accompany such an experience can place considerable stress on a marriage. Our experience was no different, but Bonnie served as an essential anchor for me during a time of personal sea change. When things stabilized about a year-and-a-half later, our marital bonds were as strong as ever, my rational faculties as a scientist were intact, and I express gratitude each day for being alive at such an amazing time in Earth history. Daily I ask that my thoughts, words and actions be aligned with Divine Light and Unconditional Love in service of the highest good for humanity, planet Earth, and the Universe. In that spirit I humbly offer this website in support of the Great Shift.

Update August 2, 2014. In Chapter 2 of my Great Shift book I closed the section about my journey from skeptic to believer in a larger multidimensional reality with the following paragraph (entire book section excerpted below).

Aside from an amazing sense of physical health and well-being, my physical sensory perceptions are pretty much what they were before my awakening to the existence of a larger reality. My eyesight is still poor, having required corrective lenses since I was five years old, and my hearing is impaired, with one mostly deaf ear as a result of childhood ear problems. I now recognize that this is not accidental. It has been necessary for me to develop my understanding of the larger reality that lies beyond our physical world primarily through intellect rather than through direct experience. This makes it easier for me to remember what it is like to be on the skeptic's side of the spectrum between skepticism and belief.

I recently reread this, written nine years ago, and was struck by how little things have changed for me in some ways, and how different they are in others. At age 67 I am blessed with robust overall physical health, but poor eyesight and hearing remain. This sentence, however, I would change: It has been necessary for me to develop my understanding of the larger reality that lies beyond our physical world primarily through intellect rather than through direct experience.

I can't really pinpoint when the internal shift occurred for me, but now my heart has become my primary organ of perception with my intellect/mind working through it. It takes ongoing attention to stay in this expansive energetic space. It is possible for every person alive today who hasn't made this shift to make it.

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Excerpt from Chapter 2 of The Great Shift Book

2.2.3 My Journey from Skeptic to Believer.

For as long as I can remember my experience of reality was rooted in the five senses. I obtain tactile pleasure from the feel of soil between my fingers, visual aesthetic pleasure from the color of soil and rocks, and the texture of landscape patterns. I experience a joy that is hard to express in combining those sensory inputs with my knowledge as an earth scientist to deduce what has probably happened in the past to shape the present physical environment and figure out harmonious rather than exploitative ways for humans to work with it. Occasional transcendent experiences during Quaker meeting for worship and while alone in nature gave me fleeting glimpses of something that seemed to lie beyond my sensory perception. However, these were too brief, infrequent and abstract in nature to give me reason or motivation to believe that my sensory experience of reality was primary.

Over the years I kept encountering information that suggested the existence of a spirit realm that was able to interact with the physical realm. I use the term spirit realm because the most notable characteristic of this realm is that it seems to be inhabited by disincarnate, sentient Beings. This information came from a variety of sources, a few friends who matter-of-factly described encounters with ghosts, a large body of ethnographic evidence that indigenous peoples encounter human and animal spirits as a normal part of their existence, and several independent accounts of inexplicable malfunctioning of camera equipment when trying to document sacred ceremonies involving such spirits.

Mainstream scientists readily dismiss such "spirit" and related paranormal phenomena as arising from imagination, fantasy, self-delusion, or fraud. In the information I encountered suggestive of a spirit realm I found none of these rational explanations convincing. I could see no motivation for fraud, had my own direct experiences with fantasy and imagination, and have observed self-delusion in others (its harder to see in oneself). None of the explanations seemed to fit the particular information I had encountered. At the same time, this other realm was outside my own experience, and my scientific frame of reference had no way to explain it. Since I couldn't explain it or dismiss it, I maintained a worldview in which my experience and scientific understanding of physical reality was primary, but I acknowledged the possibility of a spirit realm.

In my discussion of the experimenter-expectation effect in the study of paranormal phenomena (Section 3.1.2), I describe some experiments performed by Marilyn Schlitz and and Richard Weisman that gave me the first glimmering of the possibility of integrating my worldview based on material reality and whatever might lie "beyond." In terms of the skeptic-believer spectrum, I would say that the experiments by Schlitz and Weisman moved me on the skeptic's side right up to the line separating the skeptic from believer. At this point I should say that everything I have described up to this point was happening more as background to my day-to-day life. The question of the existence of a spirit realm was one of mild rather than burning interest. In other words, when I remember what my life was like before my paradigm-shattering experience, I see subtle predispositions, but I can say with certainty that I was not seeking such an experience.

In November, 2002, all was right in my immediate world as far as I was concerned. Our children were grown and on their own and my wife and I were enjoying being empty nesters. I had an ideal part-time consulting arrangement with Argonne National Laboratory that paid well and gave me great freedom to pursue interesting research, while leaving much free time to work out-of-doors on our 36-acre homestead near Bloomington, Indiana. In August of that year I became aware of Machaelle Small Wright's procedures for gardening with nature spirits (see Section 3.6.3) when preparing for a lecture I gave to an organic gardening class. Whilst my left-brain rational self scoffed, I became fascinated by the procedures that she had developed that allow anyone to communicate and work with nature's nonmaterial intelligences. This led me to her book MAP: The Co-Creative White Brotherhood Medical Assistance Program which allows any person to obtain a team of spirit Beings that is focused on all aspects of their personal health (see Section 14.6.1). As the rational part of my mind asked "why am I doing this," I decided to give MAP (Medical Assistance Program) a try. One's MAP team, consisting of what might more accurately (from my current perspective) be described as higher dimensional Beings, is determined after lying quietly for an hour-long "scanning" session. Machaelle Small Wright reports that when she does workshops with individuals who have MAP teams, about half have visual and/or auditory perception of their teams (perceived via high sense perception--see Section 3.6.3) and half have no clear sensory perception of their teams.

My experience during the scanning session blew my conception of reality apart. Although I had no visual or auditory perceptions of any higher dimensional Beings, my body began moving in strange ways that left no doubt in my mind that I was being worked on by something outside of myself that lay beyond my perception. Words don't seem adequate to describe what it felt like to relinquish conscious control of my body and observe it moving in complex ways and into contorted positions that I could not imagine in my wildest dreams. I can only say that I knew with a certainty that came from the core of my being that I was exerting neither conscious or subconscious control of the way my body was moving (although I quickly determined that I could reestablish control at any time). Even though I had no sensory perception of what might be causing the movements, the whole premise of MAP is that the work is done by higher dimensional Beings, so I had some frame of reference for understanding my experience.

My experience with MAP was not typical (everyone else I know with a MAP team found their scanning and subsequent sessions to be a quiet, gentle experience). What seems to be different in my case was that when I opened the scanning session I blurted out without forethought "I'm ready, take me as far and as fast as you can." Be careful what you ask for, you might actually get it. John Mack in his studies of individuals who have had scary extra-terrestrial experiences (see Section B5.3 for my analysis of the meaning of these experiences) uses the term "ontological shock" to describe what happens when they can no longer deny that what they have undergone is in some way real (Mack, 1999:52). The ontological shock of my MAP experience began what transpersonal psychologists call a "spiritual emergency," which I discussed in Section 1.4.1. In my case, I asked for it. I do not recommend it to the timid or faint-hearted.

Although my early experiences were completely outside my frame of reference, I decided to see where it would take me. From the outset I decided to use my training as a scientist to try to develop a rational framework for understanding what I was experiencing, described later in this chapter. The next few months were at times exhilarating and terrifying. The first sense of direct connection with nonmaterial realms can be pretty heady stuff and early on I went through a delusional stage where I thought what was happening to me was much more powerful and significant than it actually was. From my present perspective I went through a period of severe ego-filtration, and I recognize now that without having experienced it myself it would be harder for me to recognize it in others.

I find it intriguing that when I look back on the occasions when my experiences were most disturbing, it was my rational mind that pulled me back from the abyss. I would stop and reevaluate my perception of what had happened in light of the framework that I was slowly developing to understand what I was experiencing. What helped me through the initial tumultuous months was the knowledge that I had willingly opened myself up to these experiences, and a deep trust that the higher dimensional Beings who were guiding my process would do nothing to harm me. Many who experience the kind of awakening I am describing begin to manifest psychic abilities, but I have received only brief direct perceptions of the larger reality that lies beyond our physical senses. I have never seen a UFO, when the phone rings I am invariably wrong when I try to guess who is calling, and my premonitions never seen to pan out. I have had to rely primarily on the rational approach I developed for understanding the larger reality, and feedback and information from others who have come into my life who are able to speak from direct experience.

Aside from an amazing sense of physical health and well-being, my physical sensory perceptions are pretty much what they were before my awakening to the existence of a larger reality. My eyesight is still poor, having required corrective lenses since I was five years old, and my hearing is impaired, with one mostly deaf ear as a result of childhood ear problems. I now recognize that this is not accidental. It has been necessary for me to develop my understanding of the larger reality that lies beyond our physical world primarily through intellect rather than through direct experience. This makes it easier for me to remember what it is like to be on the skeptic's side of the spectrum between skepticism and belief.

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