I am by nature a sceptic and extremely suspicious of those who claim they have, or can, see angels and auras and have visions.
If I had not met Michal Levin in the early 80s as a journalist researching an article on Vietnamese refugees I would not have given this book a second glance. But she had impressed with her dedication to detail, her passion for accuracy, in short, her commitment to truth and her faith in logic and the intellect.
I have every reason, therefore, to believe her when she describes her extraordinary inner life. This slice of autobiography - it covers ten years from 1987 - she describes as that of an `unwilling intuitive'. It is easy to understand her scepticism and her self-doubt. She did not seek her visions, she does not consider herself in any way `special' and she has been reluctant to carry out the things she has been told to do.
Alongside the story of her inner growth is that of another growth, a tumour, an acoustic neuroma, that evaded diagnosis by both orthodox and alternative practitioners. Then her inner voice told her to return to Cape Town, her birthplace. It was staff at the Groote Schuur hospital who finally, and only just in time, identified the problem. She was soon in the US for major surgery. Might not a 6 cm tumour pressing on the brain have been the cause of Michal's visions? Possibly. But does that make them any different from those brought on by meditation, fasting and other `spiritual', practices? Only by their fruits can our inner inspirations, our intuitions, be known. Michal's have resulted in a life of counselling, healing and teaching, and have informed these activities with an insight and understanding that is profound and persuasive.
People will come, she is told, and they do. She will know what to say when she sees them, and she does. It calls to mind Jesus' reaasurance of his disciples about not worrying what to say when arrested and put on trial. The words will be given you.
In my own work, especially in the appointment and management of staff, I have found intuition to be a most reliable guide. But when you are on the interviewing panel how do you convey this to the other members? Not everyone is in touch with, or trusts, their own intuition; some mistake desire or prejudice for it. How, in the end, do you know you are not fooling yourself?
Michal Levin was sceptical and reluctant but she received encouragement and initiation. The Christ figure anoints her with wine and oil. A week later she links hands with the Christ and the Buddha `and there is a tremendous sensation of energy flow.' And here is a message that is suprapersonal: Christ and the Buddha come from the same place and have the same will.
To bring to a spiritual land those who are swimming in the sea of materialism is no mean task, one that is hindered by those who insist on focusing on differences, on what makes their group or sect special, instead of on the vision of glory, the light and the love, that Buddhists and Christians have as a common heritage. When we travel with what unites us there is indeed a tremendous energy flow.
We must focus on those things that unite us, not those, such as creeds, that divide us and put dampers on the spirit. The end is in the means. That is why true spirituality will always be marked by a commitment to nonviolence (and always remembering George Fox's reply to William Penn, when asked for how long he should wear a sword: `Wear it as long as thou canst.' Interior conviction, not empty conformity.)
Michal sums up her journey: `I have known the other side, the unused side of the brain, like the darker side of the moon. Or perhaps I have travelled beyond the brain. Into space, to another domain, one without location on the four co-ordinates. Known nothing and everything, of myself and others too. Learnt to experience and love God and man in all guises; stroked death's face, then turned back to life by way of the surgeon's knife: to place myself at the service of the forces I seek constantly to accept and understand, in my heart.'
And then a sample of her teaching: ...it's this constant ability to put yourself in the other's shoes that I think is the essence of understanding, of living as a community, of the sense of all beings as one, of our links with others, of the unity of the whole. Of morality and ultimately finality. Cruelty is only possible because of the inability to empathise. External belief structures that separate `us' from `them' undermine that ability to put yourself in the other's shoes.'
A privilege, for which I am grateful, to be encouraged to walk, for a little distance, in Michal's shoes.