The Seeker and the Psychic

McNamara, Sean. Renegade Mystic: The Pursuit of Spiritual Freedom through Consciousness Exploration, second edition. Mind Possible, 2021

Part autobiography, part psychic handbook, Renegade Mystic has two purposes: one is to demystify gurudom and shed light on some of the unfortunate dynamics that unfold in many a spiritual community; the other goal, instead, is to document the path of psychical development.

In the first half of the book, McNamara relates his experiences as a member of a Tibetan Buddhist sangha, thus providing a much-needed analysis of not just the limitations intrinsic to embracing a tradition, but also the harms that spiritual teachers often inflict upon their followers. Some of the gurus McNamara encountered would lure their students into sexual relations; others, instead, were psychologically abusive and overly concerned with the material aspects of running their community.

Based on twenty years of experience, McNamara’s testimonial is courageous and deserves close attention. All too often do spiritual leaders get away with unconscionable behaviors towards their followers under the pretext that the guru knows best. As McNamara surmises, if disciples were willing to open their eyes, they would realize that many leaders not only crave the blind devotion they receive from their followers, but they are also more concerned with maintaining a viable stream of revenues than they are with the actual spiritual health of their communities. Ensnaring followers in a maze of rituals, deities, mantras, and beliefs is just a way for gurus to keep their disciples captive.

Besides, how effective these practices really are is anybody’s guess: after all, McNamara asks, how many members of spiritual communities end up becoming self-realized? Not many, is his answer—and this consideration gives you pause.

The question that originally guided McNamara to his Tibetan Buddhist sangha was a very basic, and quite relatable one: “what happens after death?” In the twenty years he spent as a member of more than one spiritual community, he never received a convincing reply. The answer came later, when he began experimenting with out of body experiences.

Cast against this backdrop of spiritual disillusionment, the transition to the second half of the book has the quality of a discovery. Somehow, one day McNamara came across William Buhlman’s Adventures Beyond the Body: How to Experience Out-of-Body Travel. He began practicing the techniques, and his very first out of body experience took away his fear of death once and for all—a goal that twenty years of formal Tantrik meditations had failed to achieve.

What follows is an excursus into McNamara’s psychic experiments and his development in the fields of astral travel, telekinesis, mediumship, ET encounters, and remote viewing–all of which he tackles methodically and with considerable success. Driven by an experience hunger to which many readers will certainly relate, this part of the book has a much faster pace. While still autobiographic, this section of the book is interspersed with useful insights; furthermore, it is followed by a list of OBE guidelines and techniques. Some of these are well-known; others, however, are original—and, I must say, quite effective.  

In conclusion: Renegade Mystic makes a compelling case for tackling existential questions through independent investigation and first-hand experimentation. While spiritual pursuits and the development of extrasensory skills are often conceptualized as separate domains, the book successfully speaks to both the seeker and the psychic—because, as McNamara convincingly argues, you can be both.

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