I was in the wilderness area of Andhra Pradesh, South India, and a disciple of one of India's most illustrious avatars (a top “guru”), when I received the photos, black and white, that had just come back from a photographer at one of the Indian photo shops. There I stood, looking at a very strange photograph of my own face, wondering if I had not been eclipsed by another presence when the photo was taken. I used a magnifying glass. My shock deepened.
Is that really me? I asked myself incredulously.
My face was grossly distorted—monstrous beyond normal limits. One eye, huge, globular, baleful, was four times the normal size. The other eye, a thin Mandarin slit, resembled the eye of death. The composite picture of both eyes resembled an ancient occult enemy staring up from the photograph. But for the horns missing, it was a powerful likeness to the Goat of Mendes, the Satanhead. I felt this was no accident, whatever the cause of it. A deep chill went through me.
Indeed, the abomination that stared up at me was a supernatural enemy I had encountered many years before. Suddenly my mind leapt back to my childhood ventures into the occult: A ten-year-old Tal Brooke consumed with precocious curiosity about things strange—talking to our London housemaid who also worked for a medium . . . asking my parents for a Ouija board . . . subscribing to a spiritualist newsletter . . . reading books on hypnosis and trying it on people . . . late-night walks through the cemetery . . . blinding people from my roof with a mirror as they went to London’s Holy Trinity Brompton, off Brompton Road . . . endless pranks and misdeeds . . . feeling all the time like an outcast from God . . . making papier-mâché masks of vampires and demons . . . attending horror movies . . . The Trollenberg Terror, The Quatermass Experiment, and dozens of others . . . my parents distant and remote, my family dysfunctional. A deep feeling of uneasiness swept through my soul. I knew that I was caught in an inner war of faith. And what I longed for now more than ever was some kind of spiritual drama to turn my mind’s eye from the eye of the hurricane. I did not like what was happening to me and could not explain it.
As a member of a rootless unchurched atheistic family
living overseas, my occult curiosity was growing by the day, starting with
horror comics before age nine. On Saturdays I would take the double-decker bus
We lived in London not far from Harrods during my boyhood
years and sometimes I thought I detected them in the shadows of
Hidden dramas often accompanied my walk home from my
English school to Knightsbridge when it was already getting dark by 4 PM in the
English winter. Our house, Number 9 Cottage Place, was off Brompton road,
diagonally across from Holy Trinity Brompton. It was owned by an earl and
layered with history and secret corridors, a perfect place for boyish intrigue.
Sometimes the neighbors might glimpse a young boy scaling the rear walls while
wearing a cape cloaking dark ghoulish eyes. Vampires—they had an almost
irresistible fascination to me. Other times neighbors would spot me racing off
on my bike toward the nearby museums or
One of the attractions that the realm of vampires, ghosts and the supernatural held for me as a boy was that it was a welcome alternative to the bleak and boring materialistic naturalism of my parents and their sophisticated, worldly peers—enlightened people who did not need the “God myth.” I found that the drama of the supernatural seemed to offer something beyond “this world.”
We never went to church and rarely spoke of God. If we
entered some church occasionally, it was all about history and architecture,
but never religion. The majesty of
No doubt the fascination I felt was very much what today’s estranged youth feel in their attraction to the alternative world of Harry Potter. Surely there is more than what I see around me, countless kids must be thinking. State run public schools have left generations bankrupt, with depleted knowledge and nothing to believe in.
My early interest in the supernatural can be insightfully
illuminated by an observation made by GK Chesterton regarding the deep inner
void left by atheism: when people cease believing in God, they don’t believe in
nothing, rather, they will believe in anything. Sociologist Rodney Stark, a
Then when I was twelve years old—two years after getting
the Ouija board—I stood at a bookrack and discovered The Case for Bridey
Murphy. I learned a new word: reincarnation. The book unfolded the amazing
story of Murphy going from regressive hypnosis across the great divide to a
previous life as a girl in
By thirteen, I was reading Bram Stoker’s classic,
Dracula, and could not put it down. By then we had just moved from
In the Egyptian city of
When I was fifteen, another supernatural door was pried
open. A friend of mine had a tonsillectomy. After the operation at a hospital
he was left with a most peculiar and vivid memory. He had left his body for a
time. Shooting out in an exuberant rush of energy, he had soared up into a
stratosphere of sublime hues as the pandemonium below vanished almost out of
sight. The “cord” leading to his body would only let him go so high—to the edge
of the earth’s barrier—where he met a spirit that said he had been killed in
By college, I anticipated today’s New Age movement approaching, and felt that I could help turbo charge the process of “consciousness expansion.” Those of us on the mystical frontier had to boost human consciousness up the elevator shaft to its upper limits—‘till it reached “the ocean of being”—nirvana. It was a challenge that made the Orthodox Church on the corner seem dead, irrelevant and boring, as “unbelieving” pastors muttered platitudes to their sleeping flocks. We saw an obsolete faith that had fallen into the trap of worshipping a God outside of itself, when we knew that “divinity was within.”
Now my burning purpose, to finish the process of
enlightenment, meant going to
Getting off the plane I soon became immersed in the vast
The Figure in the Blood Red Robe, A Psychic Vampire
When I met this powerful figure in the blood-red robe, he literally embraced me in a private interview. He revealed that he had watched over me since my childhood and had drawn me from halfway around the world—confirming an earlier mystical experience of mine as a “foretaste” from him (a “prasad,” a gift). As I moved into Baba’s enchanted realm I began to see and experience things that seemed to obliterate all Western conceptions of reality. I believed I had finally found the ultimate truth to existence and was under one who was in full “God Consciousness.”
In less than a year I was helping oversee the Western contingent under Sai Baba as I became his right-hand man. I even joined Baba onstage at his massive ashram, Prasanthi Nilayam, to speak before crowds of thousands. I was a close disciple of great promise, envied by many, but it meant an unwavering walk and passing every “test.” I seemed to have an unstoppable faith.
Then two elderly Christian missionaries crossed my path. At first I was off-handedly blunt with their “narrow” vision of reality, their “meager” intellectual grasp of the big picture. But Ivan and Winnona Carroll had a depth of character, an invisible source of love that I had never seen before. They were humble, pure and reverent souls. The light within them was very different from the light that was in us, and I knew it.
The Carrolls had a deep burden for me. Occasionally I went over to their house for a meal or to stay the night. Unknown to me they had prayer groups all over South India praying for me—not for my enlightenment—but for my salvation.
After two years on the fast track under
But a still, quiet voice kept nagging me that I was committing the ultimate blasphemy.
After I spent two years in
Yet in reality, I was nothing more than a captive soul in need of real transformation. As scales fell from my eyes, in time, I began to see that Baba’s outward divinity concealed a demonic presence, a psychic vampire, a soul eater. It was eating away at my soul—and the only authority on earth that fully explained it—was the Bible.
I had fallen into an ancient trap, indeed, the oldest lie
in creation: “You shall be as God” (Genesis 3:5). Satan’s historic ploy was
right there in
Hope on the Horizon
In a hotel room in
I recalled that Bible verse uttered by the Carrolls, “For there is no other name under heaven and earth by which we may be saved.” That did it. I acknowledged Jesus Christ as the only true God-man ever to walk the earth (see John 1:1-3; 14). I then asked Him to FORGIVE MY SINS, AND BE MY LORD AND SAVIOR. Literally in seconds I emerged changed on the most fundamental level of my being. A weight left me that I cannot describe.
When my eyes met those of the Carrolls a few days later, we were “one in Christ” and I knew the greatest miracle of all—salvation—had taken place in my life. I have not been the same since. I also realized that I had fallen for the oldest deception in existence—“you shall be as God”—attired as the New Age promise.
Now it seems my boyhood dilemma has expanded over ever
widening circles within the culture-at-large. Atheism is the governing
worldview of a secularized
On the other hand, people can wake up when things get too intense. That’s been my hope. I think there could be a new wave of Spirit-led soldiers coming out of this dark terrain, which was the case in my own life when, broken and reduced to nothing in a South Indian hotel room, at the end of a long sojourn through the occult wilderness, I gazed up at the light and truth of Jesus Christ, and it changed my life. I was ready, and nothing else could have gotten through to me. A strong-willed rebel by nature, I needed a shock wave, and it happened. There must be those who, robbed by the darkness, will emerge into Heaven’s light. Darkness cannot tolerate such brilliance, for Jesus Christ is the Light of the World (see John 8:12).
Tal Brooke is the currently President of
Spiritual Counterfeits Project, Inc., (www.scp-inc.org), a Berkeley-based
research organization. He has authored nine books, including One World and
Avatar of Night, and his work has been recognized in Marquis Who’s Who in the
World, Who’s Who in America. A graduate of the