I am a long time spiritual practitioner (and now writer and counselor). One of the most influential spiritual teachers on my own journey has been Stuart Wilde. As you may know, Stuart Wilde passed away in Ireland at the beginning of May. He had a heart attack at the age of 66. It was with sadness that I heard of his passing. So many spiritual seekers of my age (47) and thereabouts have been deeply influenced by him.
There is no question that Stuart Wilde was one of the most influential teachers of modern spirituality, and in particular the new age movement. As a young man I read his books such as Whispering Winds of Change and Miracles. One of my favourite possessions was his tape set (remember tapes?) called Your Infinite Self. There was a kind of boyish wonder contained within those recordings and books. Wilde came across as intelligent, slightly irreverent, witty and very articulate. These inspiring works were written and recorded in Wilde’s early middle age, when he still retained something of the romantic and untamed magic of youth.
But as the years passed something changed within Stuart Wilde, and it became very notable in his books and blog posts. By the late 1990s his writings had taken on a notably pessimistic tone. Where he once wrote charmingly of universal abundance and opportunity, he now penned tales of demonic forces, meddling alien intelligences, government conspiracies and the impending, inevitable end of the world. Some of his blog posts became little more than barely coherent rants – directed at former colleagues, his publisher (Hay House) and others in the new age industry.
Rumours began to spread of Wilde’s alcoholism, drug use, and womanising. Several of his seminars ended with Wilde walking off stage after organisers had criticised him for being inebriated. There were cancellations of entire gigs, some featuring gatherings of angry crowds demanding their money back. That was when the debts began to mount. Suddenly the former salesman was advertising “exclusive” memberships to his secretive mystical group and peddling cure-all “light pens” – all at exorbitant prices.
Many felt deeply disappointed, even disillusioned. Some former followers became angry and bitter.
As time went on, Wilde’s health began to deteriorate. Years of chain-smoking, drinking and drug abuse had taken their toll. It was not a great surprise to many that his passing came early.
Stuart Wilde’s life – and his legacy – provides a cautionary tale for the modern spiritual seeker. There is much to be thankful for, and much to reflect upon with the introspective gaze of the mystic. For in many ways Wilde represents all that is both great and troubled about the modern new age movement and contemporary spirituality in the material age.
Wilde’s early years were almost a perfect advertisement for new age thinking, and in particular the idea of what has come to be known as the Law of Attraction – the idea that we can by conscious intention attract into our lives all that we desire.
It was the early 1980s. Pop music was infused by the plaintive tones of the New Romantics. Even as Duran Duran released music videos shot in exotic locations, singing of being hungry like the wolf, there was a hunger rising within Stuart Wilde. He had cut his teeth as a salesman selling jeans in England. He claimed to be making many thousands of pounds a day and living in a million-dollar apartment. Given his charismatic personality and gift of the gab, the assertion is probably true.
But as time went on, Wilde grew tired of “tick-tock” (as he liked to refer to the world of money-making, the nine-to-five reality of the wage slave – and as far as I can tell, he was never one of those). Wilde grew increasingly fascinated by mysticism, and in particular spiritualism.
Then one day he had simply had enough. He walked out of his lavish London apartment and tossed the keys away. He didn’t even bother to move his stuff out. For two years or so he developed his channelling skills with a spiritualist church. His view of mysticism was heavily influenced by those years, as he openly stated. His life from that point forward was centred upon the visions that came to him on a regular basis.
It was at this time that one of his spiritual teachers told him that he must never travel to Shanghai, for if he did a dark and terrible karmic fate awaited him. Wilde never forgot that prophecy. He refused to venture to exotic Shanghai.
But did Shanghai come to him?
After just a few years steeped in spiritualism Wilde grew restless. He made his move out into the murky yet largely untapped world of modern mysticism.
Stuart Wilde came onto the scene like a breath of fresh air, and his books were an instant success. He wasn’t like other spiritual teachers. In his books he came across as irreverent and very funny, the vernacular more akin to a guy leaning against the bar in an old English pub than that of the robed monks of yore (in Whispering Winds of Change Wild refers to the habit of businessmen in seating themselves in meetings and “polishing their knobs”). It was uplifting and hilarious. No longer was spirituality just for overly-serious and introverted men chanting away over dusty prayer books while rubbing worn beads together. Nor was mystical experience just for the poor and luckless.
Now you could be spiritual, funny, rich, drunk. And get laid.
Strangely, this philosophy appealed greatly to men. Here was a man speaking a man’s language while talking about the “warrior-sage”. And let’s face it, much of spirituality was – and is – largely emasculated. Even the patriarchal religions tend to suppress the male energy and especially male sexuality. The Pope does not come across as terribly sexy or macho. The Dalai Lama doesn’t do leather.
In some of his gatherings Wilde would order the women out of the room. He didn’t trust them.
What’s more, Stuart Wilde talked up the life of the “fringe dwellers”, those disenchanted folks who despise the worker-day world of tick-tock. And there are plenty of those.
Like many in the new age movement, Wilde spoke of connecting with a higher self and a realm of infinite possibilities. And like those same new age teachings the focus came to rest upon that one elusive thing that there is never enough of.
Money is nothing but a reflection of your inner state of mind, said Wilde. The universe is infinite, and we can have whatever we want (money included) – as long as we develop the right mindset, see through the bullshit of society, and stop giving our power away to a system that is trying the enslave us.
Wilde loved The Matrix. He watched it scores of times.
Stuart Wilde tapped into the energy of his times. He tapped our hearts and souls. He was something of a marketing genius in that respect. He told people what they wanted to hear. He was a man of his era.
But as with so many geniuses, there was hubris.
It wasn’t that Wilde didn’t value self-discipline. He’d said quite plainly that spiritual discipline was necessary, especially in the early stages of spiritual development. He spoke of his rituals: fasting on nothing but broth for days at a time, and carrying stones from one point of a courtyard to another, then back again. The purpose was to quieten the mind – just as many monastic traditions have taught throughout ages past.
But the self-disciplines were not so necessary after a certain period, Wilde said. This was a point that was taken to the extreme. For Stuart Wilde’s capacity for physical and mental self-discipline waned over the years.
I only ever saw Stuart Wilde in public once, as a young man in 1993. At this time he came to Australia with several other big-name new age speakers like Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra. There were tens of thousands of people there with me that day. To be honest, I don’t remember that much about his talk. But I do recall that he was quite overweight, with an Englishman’s classic beer belly. And the other thing that I recall vividly was that at the end of his hour-long talk he moved theatrically to the front of the stage and fell to his knees – quite literally. He implored his listeners to be humble before the wisdom of the universe.
So it was that a big part of Stuart Wilde’s teachings right across the years was about recognising the ego, and dealing with the shadow side of the mind – the darkness within. There is much evil in the world, and it is up to each of us to acknowledge that potential within ourselves, and to quieten the ego. He was particularly harsh when speaking of the world of money and the greed that permeates business and politics. Those who had the cash and power wanted to keep it to themselves. Now it was time for the fringe-dwellers to take their share of that power and money.
But something happened to Stuart Wilde as the 1990s drifted towards the 2000s; and by most objective measures, it was not something good. His drinking seemed to get out of control. One wealthy friend and disciple states that he became “an alcoholic by any normal standards”. His liking for drugs became well known. He had an alleged fondness for ecstasy. In his later years he took groups to South America on ayahuasca tours. Just how much of the brew Stuart Wilde himself partook of is unclear. But he did take some. According to one unverified account, after one ayahuasca trip Wilde became hysterical and began to run about sobbing that he was a spiritual fraud. On another one of his Amazon excursions his group was held up by armed bandits while drugged out. One woman allegedly was robbed of US$10 000.
What are we to make of all this? There are those on the internet who have railed against Wilde as a demonic force, a lecherous, womanising, drunken junkie who exploited the unsuspecting and needy for his own selfish and lustful purposes. Yet many of his supporters say he never claimed to be a guru, or to be perfect. He gave to humanity far more than he took.
My position lies somewhere in between.
As a long-time spiritual practitioner and spiritual counselor, I can see clearly where Stuart Wilde went wrong with his teachings. As I have mentioned, my spiritual journey has involved a lot of work with the shadow, and I was taught how to peer into souls and see the hidden depths within men (and women). Yes, I’m the kind of guy that others like to steer clear of at parties.
The greatest limitation of Stuart Wilde’s approach to spiritual development is that he made visionary states the focus of his knowledge. Being a “seer” myself, I can understand why he did this. Just like Wilde, for years I spent much of my life paying careful attention to dreams and visions. And I had some pretty profound and powerful ones. But dreams and visions are highly problematic. They can be heavily distorted by the ego, by other minds and also by discarnate entities – something that Stuart Wilde never fully explained to his audience (although he was very aware of the fact).
It is well known in the Buddhist traditions that the psychic realms can be a distraction from genuine spiritual wisdom. I have had many thousands of visions, including premonitions and visitations from spiritual guides, projections from other minds, and interactions with what appear to be angelic and alien intelligences. I have learned a great deal from these. Still, I came to realise that visionary states can ensnare the mind in distraction and delusion if one is not careful.
Stuart Wilde had many addictions, and his most harmful was his addiction to the psychic.
Think about it. How does any vision – no matter how grand, no matter how profound the revelation contained – have the capacity to transform your consciousness? Your mind? Your life? The answer is, I’m afraid, very little. If God him/herself appeared to you in a vision and told you the secrets of life, the universe and everything, I doubt it would make that much difference to your overall state of well-being, nor to your level of spiritual development. For after the vision faded, after the guide, the angel, the god or God had departed, you would still left with… this moment in all its terrifying emptiness. You would still remain adrift upon the ocean of the mind in its state of separation.
And nobody but you can come to terms with the nothingness that lies at the heart of all fear.
There is no saviour.
What I have come to understand over the years is that the psychic realm is a trap. It tends to ensnare the mind in another level of seeking – seeking the next bit of guidance, the next epiphany, the next grand revelation. But how many revelations do you really need to finally get it? To finally arrive at wherever your spiritual journey is taking you?
It took me many years, but I finally got the answer. It is this. There is no future experience, no future state, no future revelation which can free you from the fundamental terror of possessing a singular mind. The essence of any genuine spiritual journey must be the final understanding that the journey is an illusion. It is only when the mind is brought into silence, into full presence within this moment, in the here and now, that you will ever be truly free.
Enlightenment happens here and now, or never.
Why then do so many people seek spiritual liberation in books, in teachings, in gurus, and in spiritual guidance from another realm? The reason is that at a deep level the mind does not want to be here. It does not want to accept the mundane world of now. And the main reason for that is because within the psyche of most of us there is a great deal of trapped pain. Our painful pasts follow us around like so many lost puppies. We attempt to divert our attention from the hurt by setting up future goals that require fulfilling – or by going on a spiritual journey. The goal to become enlightened in the future is not so different from the goal of getting laid, becoming the CEO or making your first million.
When you stop and bring the mind into presence one of the first things you will notice is that it is very, very uncomfortable. The second thing you will notice is that as you release control, painful feelings will begin to surface. These are all those painful memories that exist within you, the feelings that have never been allowed full expression. They contain splintered elements of your childhood and perhaps past lives. They also contain ancestral energies, projections of consciousness which have been passed down from generation to generation. You will also find projections from your culture, your race, the civilisation in which your mind is embedded.
If this all sounds like it might be too much to bear, well it is – at least all at once. But the presence process is self-regulating, thanks to processes that are far beyond your conscious control. When you commit to relax fully and allow all that lies within you to surface, each day will bring forth something new – and all in perfect timing. Some emotional energies will spontaneously move through you. Other soul issues will be triggered by life events and the dramas you unconsciously get yourself into with other people. The true Sage realises these things, and assumes responsibility for whatever he/she experiences within him/herself, or within his/her life.
All that is perfect for your spiritual evolution will be attracted to you. The key here is that what is attracted occurs not so much according to your conscious will, but according to divine timing. You attract not what you want, but what you are. This is the truth about the Law of Attraction that so many in the new age movement refuse to acknowledge.
I do not believe that Stuart Wilde understood this fully.
Yet Stuart Wilde’s life was perfect in its own right. It was divine perfection; and all of us who were drawn to it in whatever way have come to learn and grow from his example. It is just that certain lessons have been somewhat unintended!
I believe that the greatest gift that Stuart Wilde left us is not to take the spiritual journey too seriously. We should have fun, laugh, and play. We should indulge ourselves in a little joy and playfulness from time to time.
Just be aware of that old saying. Everything in moderation.
Stuart Wilde also taught us to question the norms of our society. Don’t blindly buy what they want to sell you.
Societal laws are not the same as spiritual laws. Still, if you break societal laws and conventions you are going to piss quite a few people off.
Stuart Wilde was the quintessential baby boomer, railing against society and authority while pushing the envelope as far as it could be pushed. And like more than a few people of his generation, in the end Stuart Wilde failed to grasp that life has limits. The physical body has limits too. Smoking, drinking and taking drugs to excess damages your physical system. More importantly; when imbalanced these things stop us from feeling what is within us, and we then discontent from the body. In turn, if we are not grounded in the body, we cannot be fully present. Stuart Wilde admitted as much, confessing at one time that he knew “nothing about the three lower chakras”.
Finally, I want to address an issue that many long-time Stuart Wilde fans became confused about – the darkness. The darkness includes the malevolent entities which Wilde maintained lurk just beyond the conscious awareness of most human beings. I wish I could reassure you that these things are just Wilde’s projections and delusions generated by drugs or an over-enthusiasm with the visionary state.
Unfortunately, being a visionary mystic myself, I cannot.
In his later years Stuart Wilde wrote and said much about the darkness – ghouls, alien interference, etc. Yet as far as I know, Stuart Wilde did not realise that – generally speaking – if you ground your mind in the present moment and within the body your consciousness field becomes largely impervious to external interference.
This is where an awareness of the body becomes essential. If you develop the right relationship with your ego (including judgments), and deal with the wounds of the inner child (which are embedded within the emotional body), the darkness has little power over you.
Further, by allowing the shadow to speak you can lessen the influence of the darkness over you. Ultimately all low density consciousness fields are connected either to the shame and pain of the body or to the ego’s lust for control and power. So the key to personal empowerment and stability within your consciousness field is to regularly check upon your wounded child – and your ego. Befriending your shadow will teach you more about spiritual empowerment than a million visions from “the aluna”, “the morph” or whatever you want to call it. I’m very intuitive myself, but have learned to tone it down and live in presence. As soon as you go into the psychic, it is all too easy get lost in the mind and ego.
My final take on all this.
What ultimately drags us into the darkness and ego – whether it be Stuart Wilde’s darkness, my darkness, or anyone else’s – is judgment. When we are angry and judgmental, it is our pain that is speaking. And our anger is not “us”. It is our past.
As the years went by, Stuart Wilde became increasingly angry and judgmental. One of Stuart Wilde’s final creative acts is a video which is still accessible on YouTube. It is a song entitled “God rot our king”. It is little more than an extended rant about Obama. Wilde increasingly talked about how dark people are, and how they are rotting from the inside. The irony of this should be apparent to anyone who is honest enough to look at Wilde’s life objectively. Ultimately, he could not rise above the darkness that he so reviled in humanity.
And yet, I loved him.
True it is a torn love, much like the love for a damaged woman; that dark temptress whom your mother and your friends warned you to stay well clear of.
But you couldn’t resist.
And when that time arrives to finally acknowledge the terrible truth… to tear yourself away from the object of your addiction… it does hurt so.
I mourn his passing.
Stuart Wilde’s life represents the new age taken as far as it can go. He obtained the wealth, the attention, the fame that so many law of attraction teachings promise.
And we found that it was not enough. There was no lasting peace in it. No lasting love.
The visions. The money. The drugs. The alcohol. And the women. All were not enough.
There is but one thing that can ever fill the void of our existential aloneness, and that is to be simply, fundamentally, eternally present.
To be here now.
There is no glamour in that. It is not sexy. It is quintessentially powerful, but you can’t wield power with it. It is too simple to sell. How do you sell presence? It is like selling air.
Okay, so Eckhart Tolle pulled it off. Fair enough.
But even as we recognise his human frailties, let us not condemn Stuart Wilde in his moment of passing. Let us simply be grateful for the lessons taught, even those that were not consciously intended.
Over the years I have had many visions of Stuart Wilde. Somehow – although I never shook his hand – our lives seemed inextricably interconnected. In my own life I have lived as a modern mystic, traveling through many countries and living and working throughout the Asia-Pacific region. I have been a spiritual teacher of much more subdued influence. And like Wilde I have encountered the darkness within and about me; the temptress of money, power and sex prostituting itself before me more often than I care to confess. My choices have not always been those I would care to publicly confess.
I wonder what choices I would have made had I been granted the money, power and fame that Stuart Wilde was?
What about you?
Stuart Wilde never did venture to Shanghai. But I did. I lived and worked in the greater China region for a dozen years, sampling many of the graces and vices of the exotic Far East. I often thought of Wilde’s mystical teacher’s advice that he should not travel to Shanghai. In retrospect I cannot help but wondering if “Shanghai” was a metaphor for something else, as the often cryptic world of spiritual guidance can muddle the literal and the symbolic. In the 1920s Shanghai was one of the world’s great centres of hedonism – with its rampant materialism, unbridled sexual energy and opium-induced drug culture. Was ”Shanghai” a literal warning – or a metaphor for the pull of that most alluring and exotic of temptresses, the human ego?
Rest in peace, Stuart Wilde, teacher to us all.