Accessing Higher Forces, Part 2 of 3


by Barry Michels

On January 17, 1994, exactly one year to the day after I dreamed of being in an earthquake on my son’s birthday, the costliest earthquake in U.S. history struck Los Angeles in the early hours before dawn. The building that housed my office collapsed. Everything in it was pulverized.


The earthquake destroyed my office, but that was the least of the damage. It also destroyed my belief system.

To paraphrase Hamlet, it suddenly seemed that there were more things in heaven and earth than my philosophy had ever dreamed of. Here were the facts: two heart-opening events had occurred, the first on January 17, 1992, (the day my son was born) and the second on January 17, 1993, (when I had the earthquake dream). Now, on January 17, 1994, an actual earthquake had ripped through Los Angeles.

My rational background would have led me to the smug conclusion that these events were purely coincidental. But now, rationalism felt like a toxic substance my body was rejecting. In fact, I suspected the earthquake would turn out to be as much of a gift as the first two events had.

Meanwhile, my life went on. I secured temporary office space and worked to bring some sense of normality back to my practice. But I couldn’t let go of the idea that the last few years of my life had been guided by some cosmic intelligence. It had pushed me to quit law, gotten me to become a psychotherapist, and arranged for me to meet Phil. Then, it entered my life more directly, choreographing the birth of my son and a life-changing dream exactly a year apart.

But those events were subtle compared to what had happened now. It was as if this higher intelligence—determined to drive a stake through my rationalism—had anticipated a major disaster and used it as the final weapon.

It had worked. I could never rely on rationalism again.


As I considered the alternatives, it was clear they were even worse. On the one hand, there was organized religion, which had always struck me as dogmatic and authoritarian. As a Jew, I’d always wondered why I should accept the commandment never to mix meat and milk (as I wondered about equally inexplicable customs in other religions). The answer always seemed to come down to “you should believe these things because we tell you to” (or because “it is writ- ten”). These responses seemed to imply that I wasn’t supposed to think for myself.

On the other hand, there was the New Age mysticism that, in Southern California, was as ubiquitous as movie-star sightings. It certainly allowed for free thinking and offered plenty of experiences (real or not). But it was also as unrelentingly sunny and without substance as Los Angeles, the city that spawned it. Visualize what you want to be doing in five years, and presto—it will happen! Every problem could be solved by happy talk. But what if there were painful, even horrible problems that couldn’t be solved? New Age philosophy had no answer except to blame the sufferer. “Your negative thoughts gave you cancer,” one patient of mine was told by her New Age friends. Something had to be missing from a philosophy that found no meaning or purpose in adversity; and if it couldn’t handle everyday adversity, how could it possibly deal with true evil—like the pogroms and death camps that had killed so many of my relatives.

I was at a dead end. I loved my new life as a psychotherapist—the ability to have a positive impact on people’s lives was personally more fulfilling than anything I’d ever done. But this was about more than my personal fulfillment; it seemed to be about the nature of reality. My rationalism looked like a squashed bug, a part of my past I’d left in the rearview mirror. The problem was that I couldn’t move forward. The two paths I saw in front of me were unacceptable.


When all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put you back together again, the universal human reaction is . . . dread. For weeks, I felt like my heart was pounding out of my chest. Only because I didn’t know what else to do, I turned to Phil. But this time I didn’t approach him as an enthusiastic student; I came as a drowning man.

“Do you feel like everything you’ve ever believed was wrong?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Congratulations,” he said warmly. “You’ve been introduced to the spirituality of the future.”

Weirdly, this made sense to me. What he meant was that new ideas cannot enter until old, rigid ones are shattered. This affirmed what I’d intuited about the earthquake, that it was the climax in a sequence of events designed to sweep aside my old belief system.

But what would I replace it with? Suspicious and hopeful at the same time, I demanded he explain this “new spirituality” on the spot. This was completely out of character for me, but I couldn’t help it: I had the feeling this was going to be a life-changing conversation. I turned out to be right.

Phil explained that there exists a “spiritual system” that connects every human being to the universe. Logical objections lit up my mind like a pinball machine, but before I could say anything, Phil whipped out a three-by-five-inch index card and began to draw a strange picture—all the while continuing to talk. What he said distracted me from my doubts and I kept my mouth shut.

We’ve all been taught physical evolution, Phil said. In this model, evolution is driven by random genetic changes that give us a better chance of survival. The universe has no particular goal for us; in fact, it doesn’t even know we exist. This model does a good job of explaining physical evolution. But there’s another kind of evolution—best called “spiritual evolution”—that has to do with the development of the inner self. The inner self can evolve only by choosing to gain access to higher forces.

I began to object and was interrupted by a sharp crack—like somebody had fired a pistol. I jumped, but it was the sound of Phil slapping the index card on the desk like a gambler who’s drawn an inside straight.

“See this? Inner evolution is driven by this system,” he said, referring to the picture on the card. “Just get inside the system. When you’re in there, you’ll experience something so strong it’ll wash away your doubts.”

This did not satisfy my skepticism. Nothing was going to wash that away. But Phil saw the arguments forming in my mind and declared abruptly, “No more debate. Study the card and get inside the system. If you still need an explanation, we’ll talk later.”

There was no arguing with him. He was adamant. My task was simple: participate in the system and experience what he called “higher forces.” It was all spelled out in the following diagram:

An explanation of Higher Forces

An explanation of Higher Forces


The figure on the left is faced with a life problem; it might be an illness, a job loss, or even the inner confusion I was going through. As the first thick arrow indicates, the problem is sent down by the force that governs evolution (which you can call God, Higher Power, etc.). Then the person uses tools to resolve the problem, illustrated by the steps. The steps lead upward to an expanded level of existence where the person now has access to higher forces, allowing them to do things they’ve never done before. This reveals the hidden purpose of the entire spiritual system: to enable us to become creators. In the picture, creatorship is represented by the sun inside the figure on the far right.

The drawing reveals an amazing secret: both the problem and the higher forces that solve it come from the same source—the Force of Evolution. These two elements are part of one system, designed to transform you into a creator. But there’s a third ingredient, and it’s one the universe cannot supply. That ingredient is your free will; specifically, your will to use tools. The choice—evolve or stay the same—is yours. The universe is so respectful of human freedom that it refuses to compel you to evolve against your will.

All of this sounded great, but none of it silenced the objections screaming in my head.

The story continues in Part 3.

Jenn Brown