Satan or Seizures at Gregynog

Satan or Seizures at Gregynog

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(Originally published November 2005)

 

On Thursday Monika and I went to the this beautiful old house in the Welsh countryside called Gregynog. Our religious studies department had a conference there called “Is the East More Spiritual Than the West?” Not only was the conference good, and the break just what I needed, but the location was absolutely amazing.

 

It took 2 hours to drive up there and we had perfect weather the entire way. Hardly a cloud in the sky and the moors were alive with color. The house sets on 750 acres of rolling hills and woodlands and our room was huge. I shared a room with Monika and a Muslim girl from Brisbane. She lives in the building next to us. The gardens around the house were beautiful. Monika and I walked around after lunch and got some pictures, but it was early the next morning when I went out alone and the frost was on the ground when I got the best experiences. It was frigid, but peaceful and I was out there by myself. Gave me a lot of time to reflect and unwind. I like being outside.

Gregynog

I did my lecture on grand mal epilepsy vs demonic possession and I thought it went well. I was afraid that I would spark a debate on the whole religion vs. science thing but it didn’t happen. I’m temporarily calling my dissertation “Satan or Seizures?” I kind of like it… I’ve been interested in this for a long time and since coming to Wales I have figured out that it’s the negative aspects of religious experience that interest me more than the positive. When we went to the Near Death Experience seminar he only briefly touched on people who have had scary NDEs. The rest of it was about bright lights, feelings of love, and feeling yourself looking down on your body.

I don’t think you can do an unbiased study until you compare those experiences with the negative ones. What about the people who see demons, feel fire, and don’t get a light at the end of the tunnel? And what about the atheists, agnostics, and people of other religions beside Christianity? Do they see the same things? Yet another big question: If an atheist comes close to dying and sees a light and feels peaceful yet still doesn’t believe in God afterwards, does it still count as a religious experience? You can’t throw it out just because they’re an atheist. Well, that’s why we’re trying to change it from religious experience to spiritual experience. Anyway, enough talk on that. That’s why I am more interested in the negative. We assume that a religious experience is a positive thing, but for some people it’s not that at all and they seem to get left out in the cold.

People had some really good questions afterwards and I took some notes for my research. I used Annelise Michel as my case study and when we went to tea after the lecture people were asking me some good questions about her as well. It really is a fascinating story. They made a movie out of it called “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” late last summer and it was pretty good.

Gregynog

I was able to talk to Mom while I was at the conference and that was good. I wish that there was a phone here in Lampeter where she could call me. Monika and I agree that’s the biggest problem-lack of communication with the United States. It’s basically email or nothing.

I can’t wait to see Mom. This won’t have been the longest I’ve gone without seeing her, but it will still be a long time. I don’t get to talk to her nearly as much as I want to. I always tell her everything, too, so it’s strange that things happen here and I haven’t been able to share yet. We’ll really have to catch up when we meet.

I couldn’t’ believe how good the food at the conference was, too. I was expecting regular conference fare, but this was almost downright gourmet. I still had fish n chips for dinner though. I hadn’t had any in over a week. I’ve been trying to cut back. It’s hard when your town has at least five really good pubs that feature them as their main fare.

frost

We went to bed really early. Without any TV or books there wasn’t a lot to do. I think I was asleep by 10. I didn’t sleep well though. I had nightmares. I think I even cried out in my sleep. That’s embarrassing to be in a room with other people and to cry from a nightmare. Can’t recall what it was about though. Maybe the bed was too good. I’m used to sleeping on something that resembles a board with a pillow and my body probably didn’t know how to react to something so good.
When I wasn’t sitting in on lectures, or giving my own, I enjoyed just rambling around the mansion and through the gardens on my own. The early morning frost, the pink glow of sunset covering everything-lots of good time for thinking. I don’t mind being on my own. I have lots of things running through my mind these days and I guess I needed a break to let them ruminate.

I’ve decided to call off my engagement. That’s all I want to say about that right now. Maybe I’ll post more on it later. It’s not that I’ve met someone else or that I’m not in love, because I’m still in love, I’m just not sure that I am with him for the right reasons. I love our “story”; I love our past and our history. I’m just not sure that’s the kind of love that I need. When you’ve been with someone for almost 20 years, they become such a fixture in your life that it’s easy to forget why you’re still with them. I need to step back and reevaluate and decide if this is something that is best for me.

Gregynog helped me do this.

We had an interesting experience on the drive back. I was supposed to get my hair done to get the blue out (Nicky tried to dye it, bless her heart) and we would have made it back in time for my appointment had the bus not broken down in Abarareon. Of course, as soon as we came to a grinding halt, my stomach lurched and rumbled. I knew I didn’t have much time. The rich food and stress must have wreaked havoc on me.

Welsh countryside

Naturally, there were no businesses around, only houses. It looked like we were gong to be stuck for awhile and I started getting nervous. I knew I couldn’t hold it back to Lampeter, even though we were only about 15 minutes away.

So, Monika and another lady on the bus ran around and knocked on every door until they found someone home that would let me use their bathroom. I was mortified, but I had to go. When you have to go, you have to go. And I had to go twice. Luckily, a guy driving by later saw our bus broken down and offered to drive three of us to Lampeter. Monika, Sara (who lives downstairs), and I went back with him. I missed my appointment though. Damn. Oh well. The blue seems to be fading.

Monika and Hesiryo
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