"You know, New Age stuff is getting to be big business." A woman seated to my right is looking at me and tapping a small brochure in her hand. We've been talking for several minutes now in a meeting room of the Holiday Inn. Chairs on all sides of us are gradually filling with soft-spoken, smiling people, almost a hundred of them. We've each paid ten dollars to see "Starship V: Universal Harmonic Integration Team." If that doesn't tell you much, they're also known as the Extra Terrestrial Walk-Ins. Still not clear? How about "aliens who've taken over human bodies"? According to the woman on my right, this whole idea started with a book by Ruth Montgomery, Aliens Among Us, which claims that beings from other planets can enter our bodies and live with us. Evidently there's a guy in Sweden who thinks that Einstein is living inside him.
When everyone is seated, an attractive woman named Nancy Brown comes forward and welcomes us, promising, "It's going to be an exciting evening." Down in front is a platform with four chairs where two men and two women, all dressed in white, have taken their seats.
"Here is Starship V. Arkturas. Alura. Arganon. Aeisha."
There's applause and a great deal of smiling and nodding. It's my first chance to really look at "The A-Team," as they're called in a current New Age publication. Arkturas, with his thick body, solid face, and full head of graying hair, resembles a high school wrestling coach; Arganon, taller and thin, exudes a confident, comfortable air. The women seem to have more personality. Aeisha, with her long reddish hair and deep-set eyes, has a calmness, as if part of her is perpetually staring into a candle buried somewhere deep in her head. Alura is blond and perky, a little like a high-strung Barbie doll; she will do most of the talking tonight.
Three of them sit down, while Alura remains standing to address the assembled: "Before we start I just want to tell you that I'm not too happy with this seating arrangement, but I want to know how you feel about it." The audience is enthusiastic, and there's much rustling of purses and jackets as Alura adds, "I want to know how you think we should sit."
Immediately voices start calling out with ideas. How about we sit on the floor? yells one person. Why don't we sit in a circle? Why don't we sit in concentric circles? (How about we sit in a pyramid, I think to myself.) But all that really happens is that we move our chairs, politely, chaotically, toward the front.
Now the lights are turned down, the other three members stand up with Alura, and all hold hands. She tells us we are going to assist in the divine expression. Silence spreads through the room, then suddenly a humming fills the space, as if the four extraterrestrials are singing the overtones of some soundless, universal note. It's almost beautiful: Aeisha is singing a high, clear pitch, while Arkturas keeps a steady bass. I can't distinguish Alura, but it's Arganon whose tone is making the most impact on me. It's what I would imagine a manic-depressive foghorn to sound like. With his voice swooping up and down like a drunken bird, I keep expecting myself to levitate at any moment. In a few minutes the howling comes to an end and the lights are raised.
Alura stands up and launches into a long talk. She wants to make it clear that she's not an alien from a spaceship. On the other hand, she doesn't originate from this planet. Her task is to release certain karmic patterns. "We've come to share," she tells us, her hand sweeping the platform to include the other three, "no expectations, no judgments. We unconditionally love you."
The audience murmurs; Arganon stands up and says we're going to do a guided meditation. Anyone can participate, but if you choose not to, please don't interfere with others. The lights go down again, and Arganon announces solemnly: "We are going to the 12th dimension."
Hang on to your seats. I think sadly of a friend who was to accompany me tonight, but at the last minute decided to go to a concert instead. Poor guy, he's only going to Poplar Creek; I'm going to the 12th dimension. Soon Arganon's voice comes drifting in telling us to relax, take deep breaths. This continues for about 15 or 20 minutes. Gathering our different selves. Bringing our perfect selves into the light. Saying yes to our wholeness. I look around and see that only a handful of people haven't joined in. Onstage, Aeisha, who hasn't said a word all evening, is walking around making bizarre signs with her hands, as if she were trying to unravel a ball of invisible string. Arganon says that we are now in the 12th dimension, that this is the density we've been looking for.
After everyone comes back to earth, a question and answer period begins. One man raises his hand and wants to know how many planets are inhabited. Alura's annoyance shows immediately. "I get these questions all the time. Can you make yourself invisible, Alura? Can you fly, Alura?" Behind me a man yells out, "How many spaceships can dance on the head of a pin?" But the first man is not easily dissuaded. He keeps asking Alura "Who are you?"
Alura looks at the audience as if to say "Do you believe this guy?" then in exasperation looks to Arganon, who launches into a baffling explanation involving the depths of the ocean. Things are getting tense as Alura breaks in.
"I'm going to stop this right now. I don't like this energy. I'm really angry, really pissed. I'm not angry at you [pointing to the man], I'm angry at this energy. I want to clear this energy."
As the audience vigorously agrees, the man stands up and says, "I can help clear this energy. I'm leaving."
Somebody yells "Good." People are talking among themselves, then Alura's voice begins to cut through the confusion. ". . . some people just want to know everything, they won't accept any kind of answer. I mean, that guy was being an asshole!"
A wave of shock spreads through the assembly. I wonder if this is an example of unconditional love. Alura immediately covers herself and apologizes, and an intense exchange takes place between her and the audience, leaving me impressed with how earthly even aliens can get in their self-justifications. Almost back in control of things, Alura begins to laugh.
"He walked out," she says, shaking her head in amusement. "He's a walk-out!"
The audience roars. Finally, someone says we're spending too much time on this. Everyone agrees, so Alura counts to four, claps her hands, and poof, the bad feelings are gone! People are getting up, talking among themselves. I ask a well-dressed woman with crystals around her neck if this is a break.
"It's hard to tell," she answers calmly, "you have to use your intuition."
I wander around the room and out into the corridor, where I'm surprised to find the dissident member of the audience holding court near the stairway. I can't get close enough to hear exactly what he's saying, but it's something about how anybody could stand up there and claim whatever they wanted. "How do we know," he says, "what space we're in, what dimension this is?" Walking past him are a young couple who look like they've spent a productive night at Bennigan's. They waver slightly as they go by, and the woman turns to stare as they wait for an elevator. When it finally comes she turns to her mate and, as the door closes, says in that half-shouting, half-whispering voice that only drunks seem to have: "What dimension is this? I thought we were at the Holiday Inn!"