Fritz Fehrer (real name) was trained in chemistry, mathematics, materials science, and counseling psychology, and has a Ph.D. in materials science from Stanford. His experience occurred in 1977 when he was 34. He has now left the engineering profession and is a graduate student at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, working on his second Ph.D.
The circumstances leading up to his experience and subsequent life changes are common to many successful people in our culture: a very rich, fulfilling life by ordinary cultural standards, but an ultimate feeling of shallowness when it’s realized that something vital is missing, that there should be something deeper in life. It was people like this who helped trigger the birth of humanistic and then transpersonal psychology.
(If I may confess to a little editorial bias, Dr. Fehrer is personally known to me as I am on his Ph.D. committee, and I regard the dissertation research he is doing, on using awareness type training procedures for anger control, as quite innovative and important.)
Jesus said, “Follow me”
I was at a week-long seminar with about 10 participants and six staff of the Creative Initiation Foundation in Ben Lomond, California.
One day we were confronted with a proposition, something like, “Do you accept God as the sole (or was it soul?) authority in the universe?” We had about a half hour to an hour to work with this by ourselves.
I remember having a struggle with it because so many adults that I had known when I was young claimed to believe in God, and I felt that they were less truth-seeking and less kind in how they treated others than I was. These people seemed incongruent with the belief I had that to really have God in your life was to be truth-seeking and loving, perhaps like the Jesus I had been exposed to in Sunday school. So the word “God” had a charge on it and was redolent of hypocrisy.
As I pondered this question, the image that came to my mind was that I was on a large plateau of life experiences. I had had many experiences that I had thought would be fulfilling. I had gotten a good education at private universities, a BS from Tufts and a Ph.D. from Stanford; I had worked overseas and had traveled around the world, I was an expert skier, I had played on championship baseball and football teams, I was an avid backpacker, I was very big and very strong and in excellent physical shape, I had had several long term relationships with beautiful women, I always had more money than I needed, I had partaken of the 60’s revolution with sex, drugs, and rock and roll as well as protest movements, and so on. Yet at some deep level I, or some deep part of me, knew that I did not feel deeply fulfilled, although I had done many of the things that I had been led to believe from our culture that would lead to happiness. So in terms of my metaphor, I felt that I had pretty much covered the plateau of our culture, and came up empty at some deep level.
It felt like the realm of God was another plateau that was separated from the one I was on by a very deep chasm. I began to realize that I was being called on to leap over onto that plateau … with absolutely no “hold-back” or reservation. The thought of “So this is what a leap of faith is all about” came to me. A major problem or hesitation for me was my earlier experience during my youth of people who claimed to believe in God, yet did not live in any special way. I thought that the “God plateau” was inhabited by hypocrites, and the truth-seeking part of me did not want any part of that, and did not want to go there. From my life experience of so-called religious people and my scientific and engineering training, I had come to disregard religious and spiritual people as those who simply could not comprehend the concept of infinity.
Then the thought came to me that if there was nothing of value on the “God plateau,” I do have the integrity to “jump back.” Then the fear arose in me that perhaps everyone who was there went through the same process as I did, i.e. wanted to preserve their integrity, but there was something there that was somehow intoxicating and they lost their integrity and became hypocrites. So I was confronted with the fear of losing my own integrity. Then I had a sense of who I am, my deepest core sense of who I am, i.e. a truth seeker for whom truth is the most important value that I hold. I would preserve my sense of integrity, and if the “God plateau” did not have to do with God, i.e. noble values and beings like truth, beauty, justice, compassion, kindness, etc., I would leap back. So after these considerations, I, in my mind, took the leap of faith.
After this contemplation time, one at a time, we were asked to publicly address the question/proposition. I described my experience and then said to the group, “Yes, without reservation I believe in God as the sole authority in the universe.”
When everyone was finished sharing their experience, we did a long meditation, about a half hour. During that meditation I heard the unmistakable voice of Jesus, who said, “Follow me.” I knew it was the voice of Jesus at the first syllable, “fol.” It was so clear. It was like having stereo headphones inside my head, just interior from my ears. This voice was so clear and real, more real than the voices I normally hear. This voice had simultaneously two aspects. It was the most loving, caring, compassionate voice that I have ever heard. I felt totally loved. And it was the most grounded voice of authority that I have ever heard, authority grounded in the source of the universe.
After the meditation I knew from the depths of my being that there is indeed a God.
Contributor’s Comments on the Experience
Even though I experienced this in 1977, this is the first time I have written it down. It is as clear to me today as it was soon after it happened.
It was indeed a leap of faith. In retrospect, I was opening to the spiritual dimension for the first time in my life. Doing it publicly, i.e. with other people, seems to have been important. Subsequently I read that Jung called Jesus an archetype of the Higher Self. The voice “embodied” a perfect blending of positive masculine and positive feminine.
At times when I think of what I am doing with my life, having left the “whole catastrophe” of a career in Silicon Valley, non-fulfilling marriage, mortgage etc., to pursue another Ph.D. (this one in transpersonal psychology), sometimes I feel fear of lack of financial security. Often at these times, I remember the voice, “Follow me,” and remember that I am doing what I am being called to do from my inner depth.