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
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'