As a child, I was indoctrinated into fundamentalist Christianity which taught me that I was sinful and unclean by nature, and that if I didn't believe that Jesus died as a sacrifice to make me acceptable to God, I would be damned to hell for all eternity. When I later came to doubt the existence of such a punitive God, I began to see Jesus as simply a "good man" who died for his beliefs. However, during my subsequent spiritual journey in search of inner peace (described in detail in my book, Kundalini and the Morning Star), Jesus gradually took on vitally important new meaning for me. Early on in my active journey, as I was struggling to deal with panic attacks, I dreamed that I was swimming in a dense fog, and could see nothing but a faint light in the distance. Beside me was someone, whom I didn't recognize, trying to guide me to the light. I later came to accept that this dream personage was Jesus. Not long after, as I was questioning the validity of the Bible, I opened the New Testament at random, as a sort of test, and read the first words I saw - the words of Jesus: "Take up your cross daily, and follow me". When I then started researching the real Jesus, and discovered the "Gnostic Gospels", in particular the Gospel of Thomas, I was excited to learn that the salvation offered by Jesus involved an inner journey rather than simply a belief in sacrificial death. I am not saying that Jesus did not willingly die on the cross, but I am saying that his death was not a prerequisite for our becoming acceptable to God. As a result of his own spiritual journey, Jesus understood that salvation lay in uncovering the true self that is denied in childhood as a result of various untruths we are taught and outright abuse to which we are subjected, either in this or a past life. We who later suffer from mental illness were denied our birthright in childhood, which is unconditional love that fosters self-love. Coming to grips with the devastating consequences to my own psyche was a long and painful process. Indeed, I had already been struggling for many years (with difficult times thankfully interspersed with healing events bringing periods of relative calm and tranquility) when, at perhaps my lowest point, the spirit of Jesus intervened in a completely unexpected manner (as described in my book). As a result, I can now proclaim that Jesus is my savior. I love him and consider myself to be his disciple.
Our visit to Canada to see our new granddaughter came to an end, and my wife and I returned to our home in Europe. Not long after, I became depressed once again. Thankfully, the episode did not last long (a matter of a few days), but it was very intense. I had little appetite, and had difficulty sleeping. I decided to spend nights in a separate upper floor bedroom so that I would not disturb my wife. As has been typical, my thoughts about myself were extremely critical. Finally, the pain became so difficult to bear that I wondered how much more I could endure. However, I desperately did not want to cause my wife any further hurt. I lay in bed and prayed fervently to Jesus to quell my angst, not for my sake, but for my wife's. Toward morning, I fell asleep, and dreamed that a cat told me that she was secretly pregnant, and that she was going to give me one of her kittens. When I awoke, I was relieved to find that I had slept a bit (without medication), and I was reassured by the dream (a kitten represents the playful innocence and goodness of the divine feminine). Later that morning, as I thought about the previous night, I felt very deeply the pain my wife would experience should I ever die prematurely - it was as if I were inside her mind. I realized that my desire not to hurt my wife was far stronger than my ego's residual self-loathing. This was a very important insight. It proved to me that I was capable of true, unselfish love. It meant that I was "good". Acknowledging my innate goodness was an emotional release, and I felt so much better about myself. That evening, I found myself thinking about my little sister, who had committed suicide in 1986. I thought I had long ago plumbed the depths of my grief, but I was wrong. I grieved deeply for my loss, and I also grieved deeply for how she must have suffered prior to taking her own life. Allowing oneself to grieve the loss of a loved one, especially when the circumstances are tragic, feels painful, but it is actually a healing act of self-love. That night I dreamed that I rescued a cat from falling off of a very high ledge. Afterward, the cat lay contentedly on its back in my hands, purring away - another reassuring dream.
My wife and I traveled to Canada to spend several weeks visiting with our beautiful new granddaughter. Staring into her completely innocent eyes triggered something, and I became depressed and could not sleep. Similar to my previous experiences, my depression was largely driven by obsessive negative thinking about myself. However, my previous experiences had also taught me that these "bad" thoughts had no basis in ultimate reality. I knew they were simply the product of an ego that had been deeply wounded in childhood, and that in God's eyes I was as innocent and as lovable as my dear granddaughter. I knew that I would always be as God had made me. Acknowledging the truth of my own absolute innocence rapidly lifted my depression, and I was able to enjoy the final two weeks of our stay in Canada.
Similar to what I experienced during past depressive episodes, this particular episode also brought an unexpected gift. In the midst of the pain, I had a profound realization of the truth of Jesus' words when he said "The kingdom of heaven is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it". I did see it, briefly, and it was magnificent.
Robert Keith's work focuses on the healing of mental illness, particularly where such illness has been fostered by fundamentalist religion. He and his wife have raised four children. As a family, they were always open about Robert’s own struggles and their individual spiritual journeys. Robert is now semi-retired but continues to offer spiritual counseling.