SC Skillman
   Home      About Sheila      Have you yourself ever joined any groups like the one Craig runs in Mystical Circles?

Have you ever joined any groups like "The Wheel of Love" yourself, or sat at the feet of a guru?

Yes; in the past I did occasionally live a life somewhat akin to that of  a 'spiritual gypsy'. I went from door to door (metaphorically) with sprigs of heather and pegs, gathering whatever charms and potions the gurus had promised me...

My experiences of hunting in 'Guru Land' led me from the insights of the late Laurens Van Der Post and the inspirational writings of the late Dr Raynor Johnson via a mystical mountain in the Himalayas (Mount Neelkanth near Badrinath) to a dream yoga course in Brisbane Forest Park.

I lived in Bayswater in London for eight years and during my time there I attended courses and lectures at the Theosophical Society in Gloucester Place, and investigated spiritualism at the Spiritualist Association in Belgrave Square and at the White Eagle Lodge, Kensington. I also became a member of the Centre for Spiritual & Psychological Studies which met at the Royal Overseas League, St James’s Street and spent a weekend with the group at Hawkwood College near Stroud in Gloucestershire. I additionally studied the teachings of Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh at his Body Centre in Belsize Park and at his Hertfordshire branch Medina Rajneesh. In both places I experienced Dynamic Meditation and his own brand of group therapy.

While working at Queen Mary College, University of London, in the Mile End Road, I went regularly to chanting and meditation sessions held at the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order based in Bethnal Green, and lunched daily at their vegetarian restaurant. During a weekend Buddhist retreat in a school on the south east coast of England, I was told, 'If you’ve been searching all your life but have never found what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.'

I lived in Brisbane, Australia, for four years and during that time I went to classes in human potential and personal growth at the Relaxation Centre of Queensland run by the charismatic Lionel Fifield.  Elsewhere in Brisbane, I also tried the isolation tank, and past life visualisation using crystals.

My most quirky New Age experience was in Australia, walking backwards through the rainforest as part of a residential Dream Yoga weekend held at Cosmos Lodge, Mount Nebo, Brisbane Forest Park.  It was on this occasion that the course leader, a dream interpretation guru called Greg, spoke the memorable words: 'If you master the art of lucid dreaming, death will be a breeze.' He also stated,'Knowledge is like a Mars Bar – a little of it is wonderful but too much of it won’t do you any good at all.'
But 'the past is another country; they do things differently there' (with acknowledgement to Scott Fitzgerald in his novel 'The Great Gatsby'). I am now a Christian; even so, all the experiences I've described above have enriched me, and I wouldn't want to have missed any of them. 

And as a postscript, more recently, my work in a local community mental health team in Leamington Spa enabled me to consolidate my experience in the rich and fertile fields of bizarre phone calls with clients. This experience has also had some useful input into my novel Mystical Circles.

What’s the appeal of some of these spiritual groups and mystical circles?

In the words of Theo, one of my characters: I believe people want to experience the spiritual reality here on earth in their own bodies… they want to say, not 'I believe' but 'I know.' That was certainly how I felt when I was trying out these groups. And these longings are now acknowledged in Christian circles as in the book "Earthed: Christian Perspectives on Nature Connection" which seeks to bridge the gap between Christianity and Paganism.