BEWILDERING QUESTIONS, AMAZING ANSWERS
Sit down before fact as a little child,
Having gathered in the overwhelming historical evidence for the Agreda story, the next direction in which to turn is to science. Is there any possible scientific niche into which Sor Maria’s appearances on the American continent might fit? Are we closer today than say a hundred years ago to understanding the nature of these appearances? If so where in the scientific community might new theories and supporting evidence be found?
In Chapter IV an apparition was seen to resemble the appearance of the person just as a thought-image often resembles the mind that gives it birth. Is there a possibility that consciousness, under certain conditions, is capable of traveling independently of the physical body, and especially of the brain? Can memory function apart from the physical body? Perhaps most important to this inquiry, is it possible to transfer consciousness to another vehicle which may or may not be visible, and in which the physical body is left behind—with or without a residuum of mind, memory, or consciousness? Here the conscious self is the subject; whereas in the case of psychic phenomena, the object of inquiry is the unconscious self. Here, also, the concern is with the total person in the total environment, and with evidence needing to be allowed on its merit and not discounted because it represents a threat to existing beliefs.
When, as often has been the case, new discoveries have brought old assumptions or even “proven” theories into question, the new has been met with a surprisingly unyielding wall of resistance. In the early years of my Agreda research, before I learned to be more cautious, I often was dismayed by the outright, unexamined rejection I encountered concerning anything to do with the paranormal. It was also startling to find such tightly closed minds in both scientifically and religiously inclined persons, some with whom, on subjects other than this, I had much in common.
The truth is that mind and consciousness are still mysteries about which little more is known today than two thousand years ago, although modern surgical procedures have provided data indicating what the mind is not. It used to be thought that if there was such a thing as mind-separate-from-brain, it nevertheless was controlled by the brain, and that it relied on data supplied by the five senses. It was even conjectured that it manufactured “thoughts” in the way that the liver manufactured bile. More recently mind has come to be looked upon as independent of the organism called the brain. But this still doesn’t define it as opposed to brain. It does, however, suggest what metaphysics maintains: that the mind functions in relationship to the soul as the brain does to the body. From a biological point of view, it is extremely difficult to comprehend what is meant by mind, and, although research into memory is gaining ground, the tendency still is to group mind and memory with thoughts and feelings and include all as the sum total of personality. At this point, most experts agree that about all that can be said with certainty is that the nature of the mind is psycho-physical; and that it is a complex network of operations that require an undisclosed operator to keep it functioning.
Even though it may seem slow in coming, strides have been made over the course of the last hundred years in the field of medical research concerning the nature of the brain. Scientific American,1 as early as 1967, reported that when the connection between the two halves of the cerebrum was cut each hemisphere functioned independently and as if it were a complete brain. Moreover, the separation of this double organ appeared to create two independent series of consciousness. This suggests that the brain, or the mind operating through the brain, functions as a hologram. According to the holographic principle, the whole is contained within every piece or part of the whole. This suggests that our human minds are, in turn, parts of a greater Mind and that it is through the vehicle of consciousness that everyone and everything is an inseparable interconnected Whole.
Undoubtedly, the breakthrough discoveries of quantum physics and beyond eventually will overcome the resistance of both science and religion concerning the worlds of matter and spirit—the material and the immaterial—until finally the two will be accepted as interpenetrating. Once the barriers and prejudices that have blocked the way are cleared away, more earnest research into the paranormal can take place.
It even may turn out that such phenomena as teleportation and levitation are akin to some suprasensory means of perception. Some psychologists already insist these phenomena are of a natural order that must be accounted for within the realm of psychology. All in all, in the minds of those who have made a study of such phenomena as teleportation and bilocation (or remote viewing as it is now called), little doubt remains that these phenomena do in fact occur. What isn’t known is how they take place. Hopefully, the known details of the life of Mary of Agreda can help fill in some of the pieces of the puzzle. At least, the facts disclosed in connection with her teleportations suggest the psycho-spiritual ground from which they occurred, while others, such as William A Tiller, for over thirty years Stanford professor in the Department of Materials Science, continue to explore the physical basis of “subtle energy phenomena” which include precognition, telepathy, clairvoyance, dematerialization/materiazation and even levitation, all of which have been attributed to Agreda. In Science and Human Transformation—subtle energies, intentionality and consciousness, Tiller writes:
As to motivation, what is known is that the young nun’s intense desire to save human life, or what was even more important to her—souls—preceded her teleportations. Also revealed is that these always were accomplished in the trance state, but one in which she was sensitive to the physical environment. Moreover, she was able to recall in great detail what occurred during her excursions. The experiences, in addition, were known to have required tremendous energy so as to leave her depleted. Even so, upon returning to her ordinary state of consciousness she felt duly compensated by the sense of love and satisfaction she experienced.
Can the premise be accepted that Mother Agreda's traveling mind was not violating any known physical laws, but rather was functioning according to laws governing another level of reality? Dr. Tiller would differentiate between the structure of positive space/time and its electromagnetic field, and negative space/time and its magnetoelectric field. His theoretic model recognizes the first field as applying to physical or positive space/time—the reality we have come to think of as ordinary. The second field he terms “etheric” or negative space/time. Writing in 1987, he suggests it is “time to begin serious investigation of the etheric and to develop an etheric material science to balance our present, physical, material science.” He explains why:
Tiller is only one of a number of scientists who are daring to redefine the nature of mind and who are venturing into a realm until now considered esoteric. Among the rise of other voices echoing similar ideas is Michael Talbot who, in his Mysticism and the New Physics, writes:
Perhaps when scientific establishment at large realizes that the puzzles encountered in psychic phenomena are already part of the very fabric of science, serious research efforts can begin.4
An earlier voice was that of Dr. Raynor C. Johnson, Master of Queens College at the University of Melbourne and both a physicist and a philosopher. He held that consciousness was extra-spatial—was not in space at all—and yet could be transferred from one place to another by a process which seemed to be a temporary withdrawal from the physical organism.5 He noted that he was not aware of any scientific evidence that would prove consciousness cannot act independently of the physical organism. Certainly his claim is substantiated by the Agreda’s teleportations; while in the East stories abound about holy persons capable of being in two places at once. But then, as mentioned earlier, from ancient times Eastern belief systems have held the visible body as only one of multiple “bodies” of varying densities and visibility.
From the alternative medical perspective of Dr Gerber, the physical body and the etheric body are understood as “locked into a fixed space/time reference,” and hence limited to temporal reality. But beyond these two are the more subtle bodies which exist at non-physical, non-temporal levels. Gerber maintains that higher, subtle-energy bodies serve as vehicles for a consciousness that is mobile. Considering that astral projection is another term for bi-location or teleportation, the following is remarkably relevant to the Agreda story.
Astral projection may be viewed as the transfer of consciousness from the hard-neuronal wiring and fixed time-frame of the physical brain’s waking [or ordinary] reality into the astral vehicle of consciousness. . . . [In which case the] physical body is able to function quite well without the direction of the conscious mind due to the unique evolutionary development of our autonomic nervous system, a type of sophisticated auto-pilot.6
As for the question of the capacity of memory to function away from the body, in her transports to the New World Agreda’s memory performed so extraordinarily well that after each journey she was able to record a wealth of detail about then-unknown American territories and Native American tribes, and with such accuracy that none of her facts have ever been proven false. This would seem to affirm what some physiologists hold: that memory is part of the mind and more of the nature of psyche than soma. Admittedly, the quality of memory in Agreda’s case is unique, whereas more often, and as documented in the “remote viewing” studies at Stanford Research Institute, it can be as fleeting as the memory of dreams.
Addressing the unsolved problem of memory and the common assumption that it is stored inside the brain, biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s suggests we think of memory not as contained by the brain but as a morphic or organizing field for which the brain serves as a channel receiving and tuning device—similar to a TV set. His term “morphic” (Greek morphe—form) refers to organizing fields containing the pattern, order or structure of things. He understands morphic fields as “a general process that happens throughout the whole of nature.”7
Field theory is familiar territory for physicists as well, but also something mystics of all ages have understood as the all-pervasive presence of the divine, and which they access through prayer, meditation and contemplation.
If in just the last several decades reasonable explanations have been forthcoming to explain how consciousness may travel apart from the physical body, there is still the matter of Mary’s motivation to do so. Important to the equation is the impossibility of her otherwise accomplishing what her soul so intensely desired. And so she found a way to overcome the limitations. Again it is Sheldrake who suggests the limitations or laws of nature--(he prefers the term “habits of nature”)--are subject to creative alteration. He also maintains that “creativity essentially involves the appearance of new patterns or new forms or new structures,” or what he calls “new morphic fields.”
In overcoming the confines of her convent life, Agreda demonstrated what can be done when desire, in combination with motivation, are sufficiently pure and intense. But would her feats have been possible to such a marked degree without the third, spiritual component of her life?
Since early childhood Mary had experienced the helping presence of spiritual beings, and in her journeys across an ocean and a continent she insisted she was accompanied by the archangel Michael on one side and St Francis--the father of her order—on the other. It seems likely that she understood them as having as much or more to do with her mission as herself. Undoubtedly, she also understood that in matters of human concern spiritual powers or beings stand ready to help but need human cooperation to do so. To a large degree, but not altogether, our age has lost its imagination for “the vast spiritual Hierarchy which silently works to uplift the human condition.”8 Here again, though, from the sad historic perspective of the America’s tribal peoples, it would seem higher purposes would have been better served if Mary and others who truly cared for them could have prevented the destruction of their lives and their way of life. But is compassion, even in seemingly hopeless or inevitable situations, ever lost?
Even though we are beginning to conceive of plausible explanations for some paranormal occurrences, mysteries still abound. And if this is true for us, imagine how baffling it was for Benavides to make sense of the “facts” as presented to him. For instance, if when Agreda’s spiritual body was in New Spain, how was her denser, physical body able to function as abbess of the convent? The dilemma was not just a matter of her being in two places at once but of functioning in two roles simultaneously. But perhaps the question, when viewed from the Tiller’s model of positive-negative space/time, isn’t even valid. What if in the Greater Reality in which Agreda was functioning in a higher frequency or spiritual body the limitations of space and time didn’t apply? In other words, is it possible to function in two different but simultaneous space/time continuums? If so, could she have attended her duties as abbess uninterruptedly, except perhaps for the time she was actually known to have been in trance? Clearly, what was science fiction a decade or so ago is now the subject of serious quantum physics theory which includes parallel universes and multi-dimensional “strings” of simultaneous realities. Certainly ours is not a time for closed minds but to “be prepared to give up every preconceived notion.”
Telepathic communication is still another unsolved mystery. In communicating with the Jumanos were they receptive individually or as a unit? No wonder Benavides chose to explain the incident in question by saying, "God endowed Mother Agreda with the gift of bilocation," and assume her communication as incidental to this. However, in Mary’s omniverse, telepathic communication could be understood as dependent upon pathos—on her inner, empathic, feeling connection to the Jumanos—literally her ability “to feel at a distance.”
Since bilocation allows the personality to be in two or more places at once, it evades another question that begs to be answered: Which, then, in the case of Mary Agreda, was the real self? Was the "I" the personality who instructed the Native Americans, or did the self-identifying “I” remain at the convent? From the answers the abbess gave she seemed to have felt that the "I" was in America: An angel, she told Benavides, must have taken her place at the convent.9
Out there with “quarks” and “black holes” some scientific circles as well as Star Trek fans find the notion of “simultaneous” or “parallel” universes plausible. Standing as we do at the brink of drastically changing world views, Agreda’s life is a challenge to remain open-minded.
The information that was gathered during Agreda’s lifetime concerning her visitations to the North American continent came from three sources: First, there was what the Native Americans related to the friars; second, there was what she personally told Benavides and her confessor about her experiences and which Benavides recorded in his Memorials; and third, there was the way her associates at the convent explained her ecstasies with their accompanying levitations. From these three points of view a fairly complete picture of what took place and in what sequence can be pieced together.
To recapitulate: An earlier chapter saw how the doubts and fears of the teenage nun externalized into full-blown apparitions and were seen and heard and even felt. These early hauntings and apparitions in her novitiate year revealed that such phenomena were both psychical and physical, and although seemingly joined together their subjective psychic nature was more subtle than their objective, externalized appearances. Here understanding is needed as to how unconscious thoughts can take on such a semblance of form as to manifest to the senses. Such understanding then can be applied to how her mind, memory and consciousness might have functioned in her transports. Nevertheless, again and again it comes down to this: she was able to do what she did because of who she was.
Part of the explanation must be that few, while so young, had the disposition, motivation, or even circumstances that enabled them to follow so rigorous a discipline of prayer and meditation. Her spiritual formation had begun so young that by her late teens she already had attained a spiritual plane higher than ordinarily reached in a lifetime. What seems important is that by remaining close to the Source of creativity, the young Mary was able to emerge from the disturbances of her adolescence stage, when subconscious fears and doubts had taken the form of abhorrent apparitions, and arrive at a higher, supraconscious state where she was receptive to the beatific visions that would illuminate and guide her life.
It is more than coincidence that Mary Agreda's amazing feats of transportation always followed prayer? This is not to suggest that all such experiences are necessarily of a religious nature, but rather to point up the importance of attunement, of being at one with God and thus at one with all others. It must be admitted that teleportations are accomplished by the non-religious as well as by the religious, and by those who though psychically gifted lack the total surrender or altruism of a saint. Yet in all instances the personality must be able to use the vital force within. In Mary Agreda's case, she developed this inner force through prayer.
In speculating on the problem of energy by which human transportation is accomplished, Dr. Fodor noted:
As the unborn lives in a watery universe of its own, in which gravitation is partly annulled, levitation is a near parallel to the floating of the fetus in the amniotic fluid, while transportation is a sudden magical re-attainment of the fetal state.10
He also noted that energy is subservient to the life force, and pointed to the “mitogenic force” of so frail a form as a mushroom when it lifts and splits the block of marble blocking its access to light and air.
From Agreda the supposition can be drawn that the energy for teleportation is freed in trance, and when freed it is able to counteract gravity. So it would seem that in the trance state the weight of the body is of no consequence. But let us not loose sight of the tentativeness of this and other assumptions drawn in an effort to understand how Agreda did what she did. In science the world is still too close to the firm line drawn between matter and spirit, however, today’s speculation may lead to tomorrow’s acceptance of the inseparable interconnection between the two.
Prayer could be another explanation of how Sister Mary was able to establish paranormal contact with the Native Americans. For her, God was not only the Creator of her soul, but also the Creator of the Universe thorough whom she was able to establish the oneness necessary for telepathic affinity with whomever she desired to reach. It was not as much a matter of kinship with the Native Americans, but of them being an extension of her. She reached them through that deepest stratum of the unconscious where individuals are no longer separate but where all are one. Jung refers to this "suprapersonal” level as the collective unconscious. He held that it is on this level that the totality of all psychic phenomena which lack the quality of consciousness is met. On this layer of the psyche, the young nun had no need to overcome time or space in order to place herself on the scene of her missionary activity; nor had she need for verbal communication with those whom she wished to communicate. Perhaps her explanation that communication transpired with the assistance of the angels is to be taken more literally than metaphorically, at least considering the perspective put forth by Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake in their book The Physics of Angels—Exploring the Realm Where Science and Spirit Meet. Here Fox, a creation spirituality theologian, and Sheldrake, the morphic resonance biologist, write:
Both the new cosmology and the old angelology raise significant questions about the existence and role of consciousness at levels beyond the human.11
They are discussing Aquinas’ understanding of “how angels move from place to place,” and the parallels of his views to quantum and relativity theories.
Angels are quantized; you get a whole angel or none at all; they move as units of action. The only way you can detect their presence is through action; they are quanta of action. And although when they act in one place and then move to another, from our point of view time elapses while they are moving, from the point of view of the angel this movement is instantaneous; no time elapses. This is just like Einstein’s description of the movement of a photon of light.12
So whether speaking in terms of the paranormal or collective unconscious, or in the physicists’ language of light, or quanta of action, Agreda's understanding of having traveled in the company of angels adds up to a journey by which she reached her destination moving from place to place at the speed of thought or light. And about the Native American’s familiarity with supramental forms of communication, Fox notes that
. . . there’s no doubt that previous civilizations that we call indigenous knew much more than we do about communication over large distances without technology. It’s there too in the lore of some of our Western saints who were psychics.13
For Mary each separate ecstasy was a mystical experience; each preceded by prayer and usually Communion. Interestingly enough, Jung defines mystics as people who have a particularly vivid experience of the processes of the collective unconscious. "Mystical experience," he states, "is experience of archetypes,"14 making no distinction between mystical visionary and archetypal forms.
As a young woman Mary was unable to explain the paranormal phenomena she experienced, but later, in her Mystical City of God, she would write a paragraph that showed she had come to understand faith as the key that unlocked the gate of the cloistered walls and made it possible for her to live in a multidimensional world without walls:
Faith enables the understanding of man, since it directs in the darkness of his natural ignorance not to stray from the way, and elevates him above himself so that he sees and understands with infallible certainty what is far above his powers and assures him of it no less than if he saw it clearly before him. He is thus free from the gross and vile narrow-mindedness of those who will believe only what they can experience by their own limited, natural powers, not considering that the soul, as long as it lives in the prison of this corruptible body, is very much circumscribed and limited in its sphere of action by the knowledge drawn by the coarse activity of the senses.15
Bringing these many perplexing questions and startling speculations to a close, the next chapter investigates the concept of nested dimensions of consciousness or “bodies” of differing vibrational frequencies, and the circumstances under which mind, memory and consciousness may don and transcend the physical body’s limitations. In the field of paranormal psychology, an explanation of the phenomenon sometimes goes by the name of OBE, or out-of-body experiences and attempts to understand how such can take form without necessarily affecting matter. As Jung wrote in his Memories, Dreams, Reflections, "I have never been inclined to think that our senses were capable of perceiving all forms of being."16 The statement resembles the words of Agreda herself.