Looking For A Miracle? It Could Happen!
By Cynthia Logan
Fillan, an Irishman who lived during the eighth century, had an incurable love for writing, which often drew him well into the depths of the night. When he entered the Monastery of Wexford, he was informed by superiors that the use of candles was not permitted after evening hours. Determined to continue his writing, he overcame this restriction by way of a miracle. When the curfew hour approached he simply held up his left hand, which shone like a candle. "Hence," writes Rodney Charles, author of Every Day A Miracle Happens, "Fillan wrote with his right hand, by the light given from his left."
Charles, a Vedic scholar who lectures internationally, is himself no stranger to miracles. As a child, he had transcendent experiences almost daily-experiences which he calls 'abstract.' "I felt very expanded, as if my body had become very diffused and thin, as if I was present in everything that existed. I felt huge, like I was actually bigger than an entire school building, and I had the sensation of being on a never-ending continuum of frictionless motion-like oil flowing down forever." Though these experiences included "very personal" interactions with angelic light beings, Charles doesn't like sharing them, preferring to focus on the "background" experience-the part that's still there after the "flash." "I think," he muses, "that the experiences are there to act as symbols for us to perceive a greater reality-the experience itself shouldn't overshadow someone's vision or spiritual quest." "Experiences," he continues, "have nothing to do with someone's state of consciousness; it can be a fabulous mystical experience, rich in fibre and color in every way, but it may be lacking in integration-the person can turn around and cheat you. Consciousness is a new field for all of us, and that's what fascinates me."
It was the mature, integrated quality demonstrated in the lives of the saints ("they were always my heroes") that interested Charles and drew him to the Vatican's Acta Sanctorum, where he read documented accounts of miracle after miracle-everything from levitation to the manifestation of food from thin air. He cites many such miracles in his book, a daily inspirational tome which is the culmination of thirteen years of research. Well received both by New-Age and traditional Christian communities, Every Day a Miracle Happens is becoming something of a bridge between them. It has, however, had its share of critics, mostly from "fundamentalists of various kinds." Some have reacted to the inclusion of modern day miracles not yet approved from "on high" ("who am I to be canonizing people is, I assume, the rationale," he says). Others object to the narratives about native Americans; still others accuse the author of being the Devil himself. "It usually works to their detriment," notes Charles. "They gather quite a crowd around a book signing table, and people buy the book just to find out what all the hoopla is about."
Brought up a Lutheran, Charles was expelled from church for refusing to cut his hair. At fourteen, he'd spent time every Saturday for two years preparing to be confirmed. "I had my hair long and the Minister told me I'd get it cut or I wouldn't be confirmed," he recalls. "When I mentioned that Jesus had long hair, he yelled and screamed and-quite frankly, he made a complete fool of himself." He told me never to come back, so I left and figured I didn't need to come back."
Instead, he turned inward and, like thousands of other seekers, found himself looking toward the wisdom of the East for spiritual guidance. Crediting his exposure to Buckminster Fuller in the '70's with inspiring his monkish aspirations, Charles "threw away a Fullbright Scholarship" to attend The Academy for the Science of Creative Intelligence in upstate New York. Under the auspices of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the curriculum included meditation and massage techniques, Ayurvedic medicine and yoga therapy. Since it was an all-men's academy, the lifestyle was monasterial, exactly what Charles was looking for.
The experience kindled his passion for the East, and he travelled to India, where he studied Vedic Art, a discipline which serves as a vehicle for the artist's spiritual development. "It's absolutely incredible," raves Charles. "You have to be an aspiring saint to be a Vedic artist; the goal is to become enlightened through art. Everything is done with ritual and a devotional attitude. Brushes are handmade and their acquisition and construction are part of the ritual. A special trap is constructed to ensnare a squirrel, whose tail holds the potential brush hairs. After communicating to the squirrel the need for a small swatch, the artist dips the tail into warm water and gently shaves a few hairs, which are then singly inserted into peacock quills for use in an extremely subtle technique which makes both color and texture seem to appear, fulfill, disappear and reappear in a manner as awesome as creation itself. Another fascinating technique involves production of the saffron color which characterizes much of Indian art. "Traditionally, it is obtained by feeding mango leaves to cows for about ten days, collecting the urine, distilling out the hue and mixing it with gum from the neem tree.
According to Charles, there are few such artists left and, other than an early work by the late Joseph Campbell, no one other than he has taken the time to travel to India, meet the artists and document their tradition. "The genius of authentic Vedic art," says Charles, "is that the artist is consciously integrating his spiritual experience, working in the silence-not just responding to a momentary inspiration. It is the skill of handling consciousness itself that produces the masterpiece." Charles sees the ancient Vedic teachings of India as a pervasive influence worldwide. "Ayurvedic medicine, for example," he says, "underlies the Chinese medical system. I'm even seeing it in the teachings of a Native American Shaman I'm studying with. They have this concept of the three humors of the body, just as they do in Ayurveda."
Now married to Vedic art co-worker Nandini Badhwar, Charles recently became a father. "Birth," he says, is the greatest miracle of all-it's beyond my comprehension. The number of natural forces that have to come together to create an ear here, a fingernail there- is absolutely astounding."
More astounding yet is the story of Saint Fursey of Ireland: "When King Edfind discovered his daughter had married a Christian, he was enraged and ordered her burned at the stake-he himself overseeing the sentence. When she was led to the fire, the voice of an infant suddenly sprang from her womb. With a loud voice and intelligible words, the unborn prince declared that no flames would ever harm his mother. The King was deeply shaken, but ordered the execution to continue. When the fires were ignited, a torrential downpour extinguished the flames, saturating the logs and everyone present. Saint Fursey was canonized shortly after 648 A.D. and is celebrated as the greatest spiritual visionary of Ireland.
Though some of the entries in his book are "probably overembellisments by zealous devotees," Charles claims that "the vast majority of them are unquestionable."
Considered an expert in the field of miracles and angelology, Charles describes miracles as "simply laws of nature, not yet discovered, that apply when the human spirit or consciousness interacts with the spirit or consciousness of its creator-that fundamental organizing power that keeps planets rotating within their elliptical orbits, the same intelligence that keeps atoms bombarding in exact predictable paths." Miracles, according to him, are just extensions of our own human potential; those who experience seeming miracles are tapping into that potential in the same way musicians create symphonies in their minds or mathematicians grasp concepts that are beyond the rest of us. Charles has a theory that miracle workers have integrated their nervous systems completely with the mind and, "since the mind is unlimited, they are able to incorporate the miraculous, which is outside the structure and limitations of the body." Indeed, many of the accounts related in his book claim incorruptibility of the body, such as that of Saint Catherine Laoure, whose undecayed body may be seen today in the motherhouse chapel of the Sisters of Charity in Paris, France.
The soft-spoken, forty-six year old Canadian, who looks like a cross between Romeo and Saint Francis, feels that people are becoming more receptive to the idea that miracles can truly happen. He recalls sitting next to a man drinking beer at a sports event, who asked what he did for a living. "Rather sheepishly, I told him I was writing a book on miracles, expecting him to sort of nod and turn to the person on the other side of him. Instead, he said, 'Oh, yeah. I had a miracle happen to me.' Then he told me about being in a car accident during which he saw and heard an angelic being, who carried him through the broken window of his car." Charles adamantly believes there is no one for whom a miracle is out of reach. "If we believe otherwise," he says, "it is due to the illusion that simplicity and innocence are lost."
Charles, who once spent two hours on his knees battling with the concept of prayer (why, he wondered, should he pray if God already knew what he wanted?) believes the innocence and openness of childhood can be regained for adults through various techniques, including fasting and prayer. His own diet is vegetarian and his spiritual disciplines include daily yoga postures and transcendental meditation. He doesn't think the current generation is in any more danger of spiritual impoverishment than those living in simpler times. "Negativity has always been with us," he says. "The great spiritual teachers have said it will always be with us. If the consciousness is stable, the soul will weed out the negativity and take what's good."
This positive outlook extends into global affairs. Charles, who has traveled around the world eight times lecturing on how the mind and body function to accommodate supernormal phenomena, continues to divide his time between Canada, India and the United States. He feels "the angels are with us" and doesn't see doomsday approaching. "I don't think the changes we're making will be as dramatic as some have predicted," he says, thoughtfully. "I think that once the shift occurs we're going to see some highly technical societies with and without spiritual evolvement and some highly evolved societies that have little technological advancement, such as aboriginal communities, intermingled amongst developed nations."
Evolution and development are topics about which Charles has definite opinions. "Individuals don't evolve, populations do," he says, paraphrasing a concept from his high school biology textbook. "As we refine ourselves, we become mutants of sorts; when higher capabilities become more common, the population shifts to accommodate the changes and we call it evolution."
Charles' work has evolved to include an art business in Fairfield, Iowa, which he runs with his wife. They have co-authored The Land of Love, Art and Genius, a book documenting the techniques of Vedic art in the Indian desert. He is also collaborating with author Anna Jordan on a book about flying saints, tentatively titled, Lighter Than Air. Meanwhile, he continues to walk the path of self-refinement, aspiring to become more like his beloved heroes, developing the qualities and abilities they have demonstrated throughout history. Though he sees everything as a miracle of sorts, he's "pretty impressed" with saints who fly. "It's been done, and I intend to do it," he says.