Religious Odyssey of Ken Wear

How I (Ken Wear) came to my present religious understandings:
a personal discussion from '85 edited and posted 2000

A preacher friend commented that oneís life is imprinted by the lives from which he sprung. It is true that, as my father before me, early in life I questioned the adequacy of the teachings presented in the Sunday Schools I attended. I have felt led on a path of inquiry that re-evaluated many of those teachings.

It seems an oddity that I did not know of Dadís religious quest until after his death but I cannot recall that he ever mentioned it. The notes he took at meetings he attended were the only clues I have and they did not fall into my hands during his life. The Scopes "monkey trial" unfolded a few miles north of his Georgia teaching position, and I cannot know if that influenced his attitude toward the Fundamentalism taught in the Sunday Schools of his childhood. At any rate, he evidently questioned traditional religious teachings and I in my turn questioned them also. (And I learned late in life that few practicing Christians unthinkingly accept the historicity of many presentations.)

However his interpretations of religion and scripture may have been colored, Dad saw to it that each of his four children had reasonable exposure to conventional wisdom -- a choice I myself later made. I attended Sunday School sporadically at churches near the various places we called home; in my mid-teens I made a public profession, was baptized, and was accepted into the fellowship of a Southern Baptist church.4 To view footnote, click here. In my later teens I had not only become regular in attendance, but (possibly because my brother was now a student minister) I became active by teaching a Sunday School class (10-year-old boys). I also helped organize and then operated our church library (since I had been heavily involved in my high school library), and in general tried to give substance to the commitment that is supposed to be part of the faith. All was well in my life.

Like most professing Christians I had not thought there might be more to my Walk With God than I had already undertaken. But one day as I was riding the bus homeward after work I fell into contemplation. The doctrine of Predestination (wherein our every word and deed has been exhaustively mapped out for us by authorities in the spirit world) had troubled me. I have tried unsuccessfully to recall the sequence of thoughts during that bus ride, but there is no question I had an encounter with God on the bus that day in which I recognized that I could use my own mind to discern truth, that notions of Predestination must be moderated to allow the results of the workings of our minds, that God would lead if only we would follow. And I vowed, ever in a search for and in accordance with His guidance, to be of value beyond myself in whatever roles became available to me, teachings of the church notwithstanding, even to the extent of forfeiting the promised niche in Heaven1 (To view footnote, click here.). The outgrowth of that encounter has been my Walk with God.

My life did not change suddenly or drastically, but I became owner of an assurance that followed me thereafter. Opportunities of service have not always been obvious, but I have been led on a journey of intellectual inquiry that has brought me today to a moderately steadfast statement of belief in many areas of religious life and a compatibility of science with religion that is wholly adequate to my limited mind.

I had had discussions with our preacher about doctrinal issues and been quite content to learn what the faith taught -- in fact, tried to learn so I could adopt and believe. But ideas unfold; that chink in the doctrine of predestination led me to question the doctrine of inerrancy -- that the words in the Bible (independent of translation) were without literal or historical error -- and opened the door to exercise of my own mind. There was something liberating in recognizing I could compare conflicting teachings and select what seemed most compatible with my own mind-set, that I could reach for truth on my own. I was thus prepared to study the teachings of science in college (BS in Physics, Georgia Tech, 1955) and fashion an understanding that allowed compatibility of science and religion.2 (To view footnote, click here.)

For one thing, my early questions about how the scripture came into being have been adequately answered: God did not grasp the pen and write, nor did He manipulate the fingers of His authors in violation of their free will. Instead we see devout men sincerely seeking personal accord with God -- to seek and carry out the divine will -- writing from their own experiences in their own vocabulary and style. We thus see each individual author or translator as an imperfect instrument of the Perfect Will.

It was not until years later that I came across this verse from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

i.e., don't call it sin if I do what You dictated as my predestined course.

Another verse has had a profound effect on my quest for knowledge and understanding:

i.e., the end and all between were designed at the beginning. Such an utterly fatalistic denial of personal responsibility! I cannot even contemplate accepting the idea.

The absurd implications of these verses fully and irretrievably convinced me of the correctness of my own free will, which of necessity denies predestination, traditional teachings of the church or the preachings of the most exalted or most lowly of its ministers notwithstanding.

I have since served in nearly every position within the church except preacher. With time the results of my intellectual inquiry led me to depart more and more from officially espoused doctrine, so that eventually I felt, as a matter of intellectual honesty, I must cease to myself imply advocacy of ideas alien to my own understandings. And since I have found few willing to traverse the same path, I have withdrawn from discussions that may damage another personís cherished system of belief. Religion is, after all, a highly personal thing and each of us must find a faith that is satisfying and fulfilling to himself. I still enjoy a good sermon and singing with the choir those songs that for so long held, and some that still hold, special meanings for me.

My quest for knowledge and understanding has been a life-long adventure. I have studied many religious doctrines and I have pursued understanding of the physical workings of our world. These included efforts to remain abreast of scientific advances as well as some fringes of mysticism (including notions of the continuity of consciousness -- sometimes referred to as 'heaven' or the 'afterlife' or, again, as Karma and reincarnation). (I have the utmost respect for the scientific method and the results of scientific inquiry. While my mind is wholly inadequate to embrace the entirety of scientific interests, this web site includes my responses to a number of prevailing interpretations of science.)

There is another crucial event in my odyssey: a visitation by the spirit of my mother, dead some 50 years at the time: and it has significantly solidified a number of views. I report it in some detail because of its strength in persuading me of aspects of the spirit realm and the reluctance of many people to believe in the reality and truth content of psychic events (a question I had myself wonderingly entertained prior to this event).

The visitation unfolded in this way: I sensed a momentary pressure in the center of my head, about midway between my ears, and there immediately followed a change of that sensation into verbal and video imagery and then expanded to a verbal sequence still (with remarkable rapidity) in the center brain and not related to the ears. The manner in which it was presented, plus the nature of the message, have precluded any other interpretation but that it was what it seemed to be -- a visitation from the realm of those who had departed this life.

The message consisted of three parts, the first being a validation wherein the words "don't feel harshly toward us about . . ." spoken in a soft voice were followed by the unfolding in my mind a sequence of events from early childhood where I was falsely accused of and punished for disagreeable stunts by my older brother, who was the favored child. Events unknown except to me, my brother -- also dead some 35 years -- my mother and possibly my father -- then dead perhaps 15 years. I have been unable to ascertain how else such a chain of thoughts could be induced -- thoughts from my distant past, thoughts that had disappeared from my consciousness -- unless it was indeed a visitation from the spirit realm. (And, no, to advocates of predestination: I don't feel I was set up as a child for this visitation; that would also require that my brother was following, in his suicide, the dictates of his predestined path.)

The second part of the message was simply "We love you." Plural. Present tense.

And the third part of the message was related to the trauma of a broken marriage, which was still so unsettling to me that it had frozen my aspirations for my future. That message: Sometimes bad things happen, but they open the door to opportunities that would otherwise be closed.5 To view footnote, click here.

That visitation served to solidify my view about a Spirit Realm and the continued cognitive existence of spirits there. I searched for alternate explanations of what I had experienced but that validation proved too powerful to refute. And I have embraced the consequences of inquiry into the context in which such a visitation is possible and was imposed upon me. (Other experiences that have served to cement my views appear as a footnote.)3 To view footnote, click here..

I am now a Theist -- one who believes that the Master Intellect has been at play, and continues to be active, in our evolving universe, galaxy, star system, planet and life forms. The degree of His recognition of me as an individual I do not know, but I have access to Him through a continuing connection to spirits subservient to Him. This has been my Walk With God, and it has led me to describe what I call Rational Theism as an outgrowth of my Christian faith.

My Walk With God, while unique to me, has led me through study of the Bible and study of science, into observation and interpretation of the natural world, to exploration of ideas and ideals, to a personal enjoyment of life through love, family, dance, song, excursions, study, and a wide appreciation of nature and people. I can't help thinking how empty, how futile, life would be were the sense of deity absent from my life.

There is an emptiness outside the church because I cannot share ideas with other inquiring minds. But there is also a sense of fulfillment. Although I have felt constrained from aggressively pursuing a denomination known as Rational Theism, I have a hope that in time others will join me in worship of The Most High, but without the baggage of doctrines that the exercise of reason shows to be incompatible and unsustainable (and perhaps fallacious) doctrines. My experiences within the church assure me there are vast legions of worshipers who question their established theology and would consequently embrace teachings that bring together both what their bodily senses tell them must of necessity be true and their hopes for an adequate and complete view of their religious faith. So I have hope that, in future traverses through a physical life on this planet, there will be fellowships who have examined these truths and found a satisfying unity of the whole.

Should you have an inclination to inquire into the beliefs I currently espouse, you will find various essays at this web site, the contents of which you may access by clicking here.
Or my present understanding of myself in the universe is presented in My Reality, which you may access by clicking here.
My presentation of Rational Theism, which I encourage you to consider, may be accessed by clicking here.
Should you wish to share a description of your own religious odyssey and your resulting convictions, you may e-mail me using the Subject -- I read your Odyssey -- exactly as you see it here (to pass my spam filter) and click here for the e-mail form.
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Names of persons mentioned in the above (in order of mention):
Preacher: Tom Hersey (using pseudonym Ted Aycht)
Father: Millard Michael Wear
Brother: Vernon LeVator Wear
Mother: Miriam Minnie Wear ne Haynes
Dear friend: Marguerite Brescia Pelot (mentioned below)

Comment added 5-8-07: I ran across something written over 35 years ago when I undertook a religiously-oriented newsletter, At Issue, many years before my search for prior lives experiences or the visitation from my dead mother. Let me quote:

Either THERE IS or THERE IS NOT; one must be true, the other can't. I am persuaded there is something beyond death. I am persuaded, not by arguments or proof about the nature of that time or place, but by the nature of the here and now.

If there were no hereafter or eternal reward or afterlife, life here must be likened to a Can of Worms. I remember as a child watching larvae of houseflies in nearly-devoured garbage, each crawling endlessly over, under, and around each other in search of whatever the body required, each mindless of any existence other than its own or any moment beyond the present; I close my eyes and I can still see the nasty mess these creatures knew as life. And how different is man's life on earth, if there be nothing beyond death, from such a Can of Worms.

If there be nothing beyond gratifying one's self, then what purpose to sacrifice unselfishly for family and children, to live by an ethical code that respects other people and their things, to cooperate as a people in furthering common objectives, or to carry out any action that looks to tomorrow or to others for its reward -- what purpose these things that bring meaning and warmth and spiritual peace into our lives?

I sometimes experience rank cynicism when it seems that, incident by incident, to each person truth seems to be whatever most efficiently advances his causes, with recollections and interpretations of events adjusted to that purpose. And I sometimes experience an idealistic surge and recognize that in each of us there is a sense of essential fairness and unfairness, a trained conscience that makes us wince at sharp dealings, feel remorse during the commission of shameless or hurtful acts, or feel guilt for another who fails to give needed aid. And that conscience has roots in something outside ourselves, in something beyond man; it is more than ethic, more than "do unto others . . .," more than its own reward. Rank cynicism notwithstanding, I know that behind his facade of sophisticated selfness each of us has a spark of the Divine, a hope that "It will be worth it all when . . ."

Footnote 1:
From the standpoint of a teaching that, after death, we are at once reconstituted in physical form in a perpetual state of bliss (Heaven), which was my understanding of what I heard from the pulpit, this seems a heavy price to pay for seeking and pursuing God's Will. In retrospect that seems a part of my compact with God, but, in the light of my later understanding of the Spirit Realm, it was simply an altered emphasis in my role as a member of the faith.

Incidentally (5-8-07) I have, since that day, had the sense that, as long as I walk with Him, He walks with me. It is an exercise of free will. This has been my Walk With God.

It has also been true that often, when a problem haunted me and I could not reach a solution, a short session in prayer to God outlining the problem resulted in a solution that appeared superior to any of the suggestions I had entertained before praying.

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Footnote 2:
Paragraph added December 2004.
I have recently begun to refer to a religion that is compatible with science (or a science that is compatible with religion) as Rational Theism. But I will forthrightly proclaim this caveat: Who am I to question the validity of the mystical experience, of the extraordinary communications, or the truth content of the message? I, who claim a visitation from his mother, dead some 50 years at the time? Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son, Isaac, when God provided a ram as a substitute. Moses saw God on Mt. Sinai and received the Ten Commandments. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was visited by the angel Gabriel to announce the supernatural nature of her pregnancy. Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Son (special representative) of God. Muhammad was visited by an angel (later identified as Gabriel) in the cave north of Mecca. Bab revealed a new Holy Book. Joseph Smith was visited by the angel Monroni, who showed him the plates of gold inscribed with the words of wisdom and provided special glasses to allow translation. There were no witnesses; there was no physical artifact seen by others; we rely on the veracity and motivation of the claimant. As Jesus of Nazareth said, "By their fruits you shall know them."

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Footnote 3 added Oct. 2005
Two other experiences (plus prior lives) that I now interpret as psychic events:

(1) A recollection from childhood which, for reasons unexplainable, remained within my memory: I had pneumonia at 5 or 6 and I recall looking down from a corner of the room at the ceiling and seeing a small figure abed and a woman bending over that figure in prayer. Years later, upon hearing the concept of out-of-body experiences, I realized what I had observed was seeing myself in that bed with my mother praying. I can adequately describe the house and room: This was New Hampshire in the winter; that room was heated by a wood-burning stove and was, as was common at the time, the only room in the house that was heated (other than incidental heating from the kitchen stove).

(2) My older brother, who was my hero and idol, died prematurely as a young adult when I was about 20. His death was terribly distressing to me (Why?, why?, why?) and my mind was a jumble. But at his funeral, as I rounded a corner in the church's sidewalk, I had the distinct impression of my brother saying to me "In time you will understand." That was immensely soothing and provided the spark that returned my mind to functionality.

5-30-09 About noon, having cleared away the debris of a late breakfast and the accumulation from past meals from the kitchen sink, I was standing between sink and dining table reflecting on what project I should undertake next. Without preparation or warning a sense came over me of the presence of the spirit of a very dear friend -- no words or specific thoughts, simply the sense of her presence; that sense persisted for about an hour and a half, until I reminded her (in my thoughts) of her reunion with her late son, who died nearly a year ago. Oddly, the sense of her presence ceased immediately. About 6:30 I learned she had died about noon. ( 5-31 The sense of her presence returned in the evening and was still present this morning but is now crowded from my mind by composing this report of the event.)

I am hard-pressed to explain events such as these as resulting from evolution-driven characteristics of our species. I have become aware (Scientific American, May '09) of recognition of such phenomena by scientific interests and efforts at explanation in terms of evolution -- Darwinian and its derivatives -- but, of course, research is based entirely on anecdotal events such as I have presented here. There is surely more to the context in which we live than chance rearrangements of DNA that contribute to our survival; evolution does not offer an adequate explanation. But the addition of a Spirit Realm to our mix of ideas does present an explanation.

6-29-09 Let me describe more fully the sensations experienced during my friend's spirit's presence. I have another friend who tells me she can willfully empty her mind so all conscious thought is arrested, this in order to go to sleep. I am not so blessed but, unless my mind is focused on a specific task, a multitude of thoughts cascade through my mind, apparently competing for attention. On this occasion I was standing still -- inert -- with thoughts of possible direction for mental focus flowing through my mind when the sense of her spirit's presence came upon me and absorbed my attention to the exclusion of all else. I am not accustomed to such events and made no effort to erase that sensation but let it linger for a considerable time. I have no recollection this morning what I did physically during that interval; it is as though muscular activity was held in abeyance. But the sense of her spirit's presence persisted until I formed the thought that she could now visit her late son, at which instant the sense of her spirit's presence ceased. I marveled at how her spirit commanded and dominated my attention and then so suddenly was no longer there. It was hours later that I learned of her death, and later in the evening when the sense of her spirit's presence returned.

7-20-09 I have realized I did not set the stage for that visitation from my mother. There was within Mensa a Special Interest Group (SIG) that we called the Parapsychology SIG. Curiosity had driven me to join for a year. As I sat on the sofa reading the current issue of our monthly newsletter, when I had finished reading a brief description of an event another member had experienced, I felt the pressure within my head as I have described it. After that visitation I went back to the newsletter to try to identify which item had preceded my visitation; I could not; there was nothing in the whole newsletter that produced any recollection of what I had read just before that experience.

Prior Lives Recall:
Some 25 years ago there was a central location in Atlanta that was headquarters for people of mystic bent. There was offered a course of six sessions on prior life recall -- as it turned out using a relaxation technique rather than hypnosis. (I should point out that, under the relaxation technique, your instructor is your guide and you proceed as directed although what you experience is from what appears to be a prior life; under hypnosis there can be guide-client exchanges so the prior life experience proceeds in keeping with the client's purpose in seeking help of the hypnotist.) I had four prior life experiences, with our instructor was our guide for the first two, during this course. They unfolded in this way:

1. Our instructor explained that most people experience a prior life in ancient Egypt, so she proceeded to get us relaxed and guided us into an experience. I did not experience any imagery at all as she proceeded until she suggested we visit our grave site, at which time I visualized a marble sepulcher with a broken, half-opened door, alongside a waterway a short distance from but connected to a large structure by an intervening patio and smoothed sand. I interpreted my response to our instructor's patter that I had not lived in ancient Egypt; my connection with Egypt had been involvement by my spirit with the person whose body had laid in that tomb.

2. We were led through a darkened tunnel into the light. Upon emerging I saw just ahead and to the left a ladder of light consisting of a central shaft and short projections of light staggered like the spikes in a telephone pole. Our guide instructed us to turn right and to look at our hands and feet and to examine our surroundings. There were age spots on my hands and I was wearing knickers and strange-looking shoes similar to pictures of what the Pilgrims wore. It was a dirt road and led around to the left, where I saw an old house whose thatched roof was sagging on the front corner nearest me. I went in; the house had been abandoned long before; it was a two-room house with dirt floor and a beam separating its two rooms. To the right, in what had apparently been a kitchen, there was a single window in the far wall and underneath was a structure of wood for food preparation. The other room, apparently a bedroom without windows, was empty. At this point I saw that ladder of light outside an opening that must have been the back door. I ceased to follow our guide, went out the door and commenced to ascend the ladder of light. I soon found myself inside a structure amidst creatures similar to those depicted in the movie Encounters of the Third Kind. I was soon in an otherwise empty cubicle making a verbal report on my visit, although I have no recollection whatever of the content of my report. About then our guide ended her instruction and we exchanged impressions of our experiences, each marveling at his own experience. The imagery I experienced is still vivid in my memory even after these many years.

3. My next prior life experience was revealing, but in a different way. I awoke abed and looked down to see ham-sized legs and large arms protruding from a bright green coverlet. I went from there into the kitchen, with its huge pots, animals heaped on tables and large fireplaces in the wall to the right. I was evidently well placed politically, but people kept their distance. My guide asked what learning experience this prior life held, and I answered quickly and easily as though I had been rehearsing it: "Might as well be king of the dung heap." What a far-reaching statement! I have since relished that response because of its immensely rewarding insight: the suggestion that, no matter how high or low your estate, it is a life in a physical body having sensory apparatus at a specific time in history, has meaning and your place in it is a source of experiences that add to your accumulation.

4. My fourth prior lives experience placed me among American Indians as one of them. Images were not vivid and I have no recollection of dress (although it was outdoors) or situation (although there were vague figures in the images).

I have not pursued further prior lives experiences. I leave it to you to make of these accountings what you will. I should make the single observation that prior lives recall is in exquisite detail.

In later years I have been able to put these events into a consistent context that logically requires that life in its totality is more complex than a simple Earth-bound evolution-derived animal existence admits. I have described that context in my presentation of Rational Theism.

11-19-08: I have reflected on my heart attack and the sequence (described in my book Love to Live and Live to Love) wherein I felt I had died momentarily. I have realized that, in contrast to the oblivion of sleep, I was fully aware of the peace that briefly overtook me; I was not asleep.

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Footnote 4 added June, 2008
The Southern Baptist Church, as a denomination, has changed since then. At the time it taught religious conservatism, that is, it leaned toward but did not emphasize an absolutist interpretation of the Bible, where each word is taken as physically, literally and historically true and is an expression of what God Himself wishes to appear on those pages. Some years later the Fundamentalist wing of the church came into ascendancy with the absolutist teaching that the Bible is, literally, the Word of God, that each word is physically and hisorically true. (So the Creation story of Genesis 1 and the descriptions of Noah's flood are accurate presentations of physical fact.) During those intervening years I had moved several times to follow my career path and had served in every position except preacher in the churches I attended. I also studied science and began to recognize that the Bible is essentially the works of devout men seeking to serve God, that many stories are allegorical, and that the necessity to explain events often led to supernatural explanations due to a primitive understanding of science (which is the basis for many people, who question the supernatural, debunking all Biblical text). I spent hundreds of hours in the quest for consistency between science and the presentations in the Bible, with some success (as is evident from several pages at this web site), before I recognized and understood the allegorical aspect of the Biblical text.

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Footnote 5 added July, 2008
Whether or not anticipated by that visit, I undertook computer science, learned four computer languages, wrote a book to introduce beginners to computers (not published due to timeliness because MicroSoft had repeatedly promised -- and delayed -- introduction of a new control system and publishers were concerned they could not recover their investment), edited two newsletters (one of religious content, the other an opinion exchange), wrote the book Live to Live and Live to Love: Making Longevity Worthwhile -- now available ( or contact me -- and developed this web site. It is unlikely I would have done any of these things had I remained in my marriage and it is unlikely I would have survived this long without the changes I made in diet and life style. I alluded to answered prayer in the web page Rational Theism; it was only after developing this web site that the answer to prayer changed from that ominous and tiresome "You know what you must do."

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