Comment: An audience with the alien

I HAVE been talking to an extraterrestrial entity. His name is Omar. And he is not best pleased with me.

Let me begin by saying that I went to meet him with an open mind. You may find that hard to believe. But in trying to discover what people believe - and what attracts them to it - you have to do a bit of suspending of your own disbelief.

After all, what would you say to a religion centred around the teachings of a bloke who sat around in a cave and did nothing? Or one based on a book dictated to one man by an angel in a dream? Or one that maintains that God was born in a stable, was killed and then rose from the dead? But the fact is that these faiths - Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity - are judged by non-adherents by different criteria, such as what beneficial impact they have upon the lives of believers, and on the rest of the world.

So, when I found the leaflet about Omar in an alternative "healing centre" in Brighton, full of New Age crystals, books and American videos, I decided to discount the fact that he was an extraterrestrial and see what fruits he bore. I went along to make contact with him.

You have to take this stuff seriously. Even in the Seventies, when Hinnell's authoritative Handbook of Living Religions was published, the rise in what was then called "psychic" and "magical" new religions was estimated to be 104 times higher than the popularity of more mainstream "new" religions, such as Mormonism.

In the two decades since then, the New Age movement has grown exponentially to become a significant feature of the Western world's spiritual life. Today, as much as 25 per cent of the adult population is said to have explored its ideas in some way.

When I rang up to make an appointment with Catherine, the "channel" through whom Omar communicates with the world, her minder, Clive, sounded rather fierce. Omar was not a doctor, he said; he would not tell me about my health, or my job, or my love life. Just my spiritual growth. Right, I said. And I should come along with a list of spiritual questions, said Clive, because Omar only answered questions. Right, I said.

I jotted a few down on the train on the way there. You know the sort of thing: How do I achieve inner peace? Should we strive for knowledge or detachment? Why is there suffering in the world? What is evil? What happens at the end of this life? What must I do to gain eternal life? And so forth.

This, however, was not what Omar wanted. I arrived at the Brighton healing- centre to be ushered upstairs, past a rickety wooden gate and into the presence of Catherine. She was a woman of most enormous girth, wearing a gigantic floral skirt, who sat on a bed surrounded by cushions. The room smelt faintly of urine.

She was in a bad mood to start with. Someone had chipped the 17th-century green glass globe which she used to channel Omar. Disgruntled, she held it in one hand as she closed her eyes and started to twitch her pudgy arms, before - her soft-toned voice suddenly husky with extraterrestriality - swiftly announcing his arrival with the words: "Omar Ready."

"How do I stay focused upon what is important?" I asked, starting with an easy one. "Bring matters to attention," Omar began portentously, before moving on to reveal what was, for a resident of an outer dimension, an admirable grasp of colloquial English. He advised me to get in contact with my Higher Self, and when I asked what its requirements were he told me that there were no requirements - only hope or desire. I did not need communion with others to do this, Omar said, only a focus on inner self.

I was beginning to get the picture. This seemed familiar New Age turf. The enlightenment and harmony being ushered in by the Age of Aquarius seems singularly focused on desire rather than the discipline required by the established religions. Monism, relativism and individual autonomy are where we are all heading in our quest for greater knowledge and a new consciousness.

Would the Higher Self continue after death? But when I asked that, Omar began to go ungrammatical and even more impenetrable. I don't quite follow, I said; are you saying there is life after death, or not? The fat lady twitched her am-dram shudder once more. She opened her eyes. "He has broken the connection," she said in her ordinary voice. "He did not like the questions. They are too outside, not from inside. Call for Clive. These are not the kind of questions that people usually ask."

So what kind of questions did other people usually ask, I wondered. She muttered at me, but nothing coherent. Back came Clive, a burly, balding chap with wispy hair at the sides and straggly sideburns. They sent me from the room. I was not spiritual enough for channelling, they told me when they called me back. It was too advanced. I would be better starting with a reading from Benedict.

He was summoned. Yes, the unshaven, fine-featured epicene Benedict said, when I told him my questions; these indicated the wrong kind of spirituality. If I came back in half an hour he would do me a reading.

But when I returned, Benedict had gone off the idea and palmed me off with Chris, a Tarot reader, whose cards told me that I was not spiritual, but a practical chap who would be best sticking to that, as I could make a lot of money.

I finally admitted defeat and left the centre. At a nearby baker's I bought a lump of bread pudding and a cup of coffee, and went down to the pebbly beach. There, gazing into the heavy-laden, grey sea, a practical chap, I sat down and ate and drank them.

Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

Arts and Entertainment

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans has been confirmed as the new host of Top Gear
Arts and Entertainment
Top of the class: Iggy Azalea and the catchy ‘Fancy’
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?