Pearl Orthodox Christian Publishing

THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE
by Veronica Hughes

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Back Cover of The Pearl of Great Price

Life is truly a remarkable experience and gift. Travel with me through my journey to find The Pearl of Great Price, that treasure of spirituality, which I sold all to obtain. The first part of my book, My Labyrinth, begins with the description of my family' search for a better life in America, and the rich spiritual and cultural heritage I inherited from my descendants. My journey continues, taking me away from that heritage, God and the Catholic Church into the seeming serenity and release from suffering offered by Eastern religions and the New Age.

Eventually I begin to realize that majority of my seeking was in reaction to or avoidance of something, especially the Catholic Church, even Christianity in general, which is true for many seekers in our modern times.

Unbeknownst to me, I was truly not choosing my path in life. Instead, my unconscious beliefs and my reactions to life, religion and God directed the choices of my soul and ultimately smothered my spirit. In Part Two of my book, The Battle for my Soul, I explain how I finally learned to trust others; eventually I could choose to be with God and the Church, responding to the love I found there, rather than my fears.

The third part of my book, My Conversion, gives readers an in depth window into the process of conversion and the teachings of ancient Christianity while validating aspects of my former seeking. How profoundly God finds ways into our hearts through all the challenging events that befall us! I hope that my story will encourage you in your spiritual searching. As St. Matthew tells us, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Check out this wonderful video review of Veronica's book by David Withun released 12/28/11

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWbnkCOkh1A&feature=digest_fri


Passages for The Pearl of Great Price

From Part I, Chapter 6

As a budding channel, I envisioned myself as a conduit through which healing energies and thoughts from higher planes and enlightened beings flowed. Nothing seemed strange anymore; my aunt's tea leaf and card readings, my experiences with Becky and her guides and the visitations of Muktananda all seemed to lead to my work with Michael. I felt quite at home in my new role as psychic healer and channel. 

I did know enough, however, to have concerns about demonic energies and negative forces, and Michael assured us that the techniques taught to us during our sessions protected us and guaranteed us interaction with only positive spiritual activity. Michael also promised me that I was discerning enough to recognize the difference between good and evil, and I believed what I was told. I also felt proud of my accomplishments. Following the directions we were given, and teaching them to others, I felt I had moved up the enlightenment ladder of success. It never occurred to me that my rapid assent might have a dark side.

As always, I based my beliefs on my feelings and emotions. During our sessions, I experienced sensations that felt extraordinary, intense and real. Previously, I had trusted Becky and my guru during his visitations, and I still craved the intimacy I felt with my guides when I entered into a meditative trance state. In turn, I wanted to share this spiritual plane with my clients. Over time, my massage work became more meditative and less physical. Listening to beautiful music, practicing yogic breathing and going into semi-hypnotic trances transported my clients and me into another world, one where I believed we were finding healing and transformation of soul and body.  

Convinced that I was experiencing personal transformation and transcendence, I began to believe that with the help of my guides and my meditations, I could transform my negative ego and evolve to a higher state of being, both in this life and the next. I believed that achieving these higher states of being would eventually allow me and others to leave our earthly lives and transcend to even higher states of being that did not require a body. I could become a guide there, so my thinking went, living as they did, and helping others to acquire higher states of being.

Because of my abilities to enter the spiritual realm, people would sometimes ask me to clear their houses of ghosts and negative entities and energies. Several of us might gather in a house where the inhabitants believed that haunted spirits or bad energy dwelled. We would enter into a trancelike channeling state to learn about the history of the house and its otherworldly, unwelcome guests. If past violence or tragedy had marked the houses, we were able to perceive the souls, still trapped between the planes of existence. We would let them speak "through" us, telling their stories. Often, their stories and the lives of the current owners of the house seemed connected in some way. In our work, we endeavored to encourage the trapped souls to move on, so that the owners of the house could be at peace. I felt excited by these encounters, almost as if I were part of a Hollywood movie plot.

Being a channel and a healer opened up a whole new world to me, one where I felt safe, successful and intimately connected with others. I had finally found my niche. When I failed in my goals to become a French teacher and I dropped out of college, it had been a real blow. I had always been a good student who wanted to learn and succeed, and I resented what had happened to me in college. As a child, I used to gather younger children together and teach them. From a very early age, I had wanted to become a teacher, and I idolized some of my teachers in grade school. Our school principal was a compassionate, but tough, young nun, and an excellent instructor. A few times when I broke the rules, my punishment was to be with her after school. At first I was terrified, but her manner was so calm and clear that I accepted my punishment almost eagerly.  She would ask me to write out some sort of repentant statement 300 times while she chaperoned me; I groaned, of course, but I secretly loved being in her presence and I learned a great deal during my quiet time with her. My secret hope was that when I grew up, I would be like her. 

My high school French teacher, Mrs. Gavin, was dynamic, traditional, strict and structured. She knew how to bring out the best in her students. I loved her and looked forward to each of her classes. With her encouragement, I chose French as my major in college, hoping to follow her example. My English teacher, Mr. Farley, encouraged me to write and I became the editor of our high school paper. Both he and my piano teacher were revolutionary and progressive, and they encouraged me to think for myself. My first yoga teacher, Mara Diamond, left a positive impression on me as well. 

I truly desired to influence others the way my teachers had influenced me. Starting with EST, I had been able to pursue an educational career again, but in a non-traditional manner. Indeed, the new things I was learning seemed so much more important to me than what I could have learned in college. The opportunity to become a teacher finally occurred when several of my channeling peers encouraged me to begin teaching others to channel. Thrilled, I struggled through my first year with little mentoring or instruction. Even though I was winging it, I loved it! I offered my classes for a reduced price, inviting my students to have patience with me and make each class a learning experience. Starting from ground zero, I put together a curriculum over the course of several years and began creating a handbook. As a channel and teacher, I always wanted to encourage healing, intimacy and learning. My students and I experienced a deep form of bonding, quite similar to my experiences with my guru and Becky. Many of my students became my close friends as we shared spurts of creativity and spiritual insights together. Whenever I learned something new, I'd tell my students about it, and together, we felt we were discovering hidden mysteries of the universe.

I was finally someone. My clients loved me. I felt special and needed. I even secretly believed that my soul had matured and become so enlightened that I had risen above earthly suffering. Sometimes I felt as if I were walking three feet above the ground. When troubled, I would meditate or talk with my guides. With the next level of spiritual development knocking at my door, I fully expected to be a major player in the New Age. Spiritualism, I believed, would surpass religion and render it obsolete...

From Part II, Chapter 4

"Go ahead," I sniffed. "I'll listen now. What I'm listening to in my head is destroying me, and I fear it will destroy all that I hold precious. I see in you what I do not have in myself. You have inner peace. Please help me."

My dear husband replied, "Forgive me for saying this, but you are spiritually arrogant and do not know the first thing about prayer or how to be in a real relationship with God. I can only say this to you based on my own experience of the cost of my form of arrogance. You need humility, prayer and Christ to get you out of the mess you're in. You know I've been where you are now." His words went straight to my heart. In his own kind way, my husband was saying I was a spiritually arrogant hypocrite! I had built a very good case maintaining that priests, nuns and others were hypocrites... but, me?

For years, I had felt hard-hearted towards Christ like the Jewish elders and people of Christ's time. His presence sent shock waves through the Jewish community. Even though they'd been waiting for the promised Messiah, they wanted Him to liberate them from the Romans and from oppression at the hands of other nations. Many expected a worldly warrior king. Yet Christ said that He and those that seek to follow Him are not of this fallen world (John 16: 18-19). He came to free people from their egos and negative passions, not to take on the current political establishment, which was a deep disappointment to those seeking a worldly liberator.

I, too, had been seeking liberation from my worldly suffering. Bitter and angry, disappointed with the Church, I grew to hate what I had loved as a child. I turned away from Christ and the Church to the New Age and Eastern Religions. In a moment of truth, I had to admit Greg was right — I was spiritually arrogant and a hypocrite. What I witnessed in Auschwitz caused me to doubt my New Age beliefs. My eyes were newly opened to the essential value of Christian teachings on good and evil.

Greg continued, "How can you claim to be 'spiritual' while negating the importance of God?"  "What do you mean?" I said. "I believe in God!"  Greg continued, "You believe in God when it's convenient for you and on your terms, but you have a rather one-sided relationship. You want to have your cake and eat it, too. How can you have time to be with God when you spend all your time talking and praying to your "guides and ascended masters"? Do you truly know who you are praying with and to?"

Greg went on, "Based on your state of mind lately, would you finally be willing to reconsider the possibility that you're being misled in your meditations and thoughts?"

How many times over the last few years had Greg tried to have this conversation with me? How did I always respond? I'd get angry and defensive. Me misled? How could I, a master channel, who had foolproof methods for screening out demonic forces, be misled? I was right and he was wrong. How could he think that what I was doing was not good for me? Such grief I caused him!

Yet, out of my suffering the last few months, I was finally able to hear what he was saying. Although I didn't want to admit it publicly, I had been asking myself the same question from time to time. Could I truly be listening to the wrong voices? I decided to test the theory. Right then and there, I prayed an exorcism prayer, "In the name of Jesus Christ, Satan be gone." To my utter shock, I saw a small red devil by my right shoulder, horns, tail and all, run away! Horrified, I screamed and told Greg what I had just seen. 

Greg replied, "Perhaps now you might consider what I have been saying? Perhaps you're experiencing a form of demonic attack?" I started feeling dizzy and sick. I thought back to Auschwitz, where I had witnessed the cost and consequences of following a false ideology. In a flash of insight, I saw the connection between the evil of Auschwitz and my activities. Had I delved too deeply into the occult?

I could no longer be casual about good or evil. I was being asked to choose. In reality, my conscience had been pleading with me for months to wake up to the contradictions and denials of my life. 

I needed God! The longing for Him had always been present in my seeking, but on this day I woke up. My turning point meant choosing to believe in the goodness of God and choosing to commune with Him. I had to begin to learn how to distinguish good from evil, true from false. Greg asked me, "Perhaps you're lacking the proper tools to truly discern evil from good?" I had to admit, with some relief, that he was right. I had arrived at the center of my labyrinth; the "something missing" was actually a Someone.

No wonder my meditations stopped working for me! No wonder I felt as though I were in a void following my departure from church! I needed to experience what my life would be like if I continued living it my way—hell, the absence of God's presence. I was now ready to let God back in. A small portion of my hardened heart was finally breaking open.

That afternoon I picked up my Orthodox prayer book again and started reading prayers with Greg. Greg was on target: for all my spiritual knowledge, I knew little about prayer. "This is where the path to having a real relationship with God and learning true discernment begins," Greg stated, handing me a tiny little book called The Path of Prayer.[i] 

The author wrote in the Preface, "Prayer for so many of us in the West is one dimensional and incomplete." I could relate to that sentence only too well, since I had turned to Eastern meditation to escape Catholic prayers. Yet, this writer said that prayer could be holy and profound, and that through prayer, the soul could be filled with grace and love and the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit. At that moment, I began to understand that prayer, like a flowing liquid, can not be grasped or put on display. Veneration and contemplation meant so much more than simply asking for things.

After reading A Path of Prayer and chanting the prayers for three months, morning and evening, a wonderful thing happened. I felt a longing in my heart to go to back to church again. This time I knew I was returning so that I could be with God.


[i] Introduction to "The Path of Prayer " by St. Theophan, Preface


Passages from In Christ I am a New Creation, Part 1

Chapter 1

Then What Happened?

I am so unworthy! Christ is Risen! In Truth He is Risen!”

 

Thus, after being bathed in the Uncreated Light of Christ’s Resurrection[i] I ended my first book, The Pearl of Great Price, leaving all my readers with the question, “Then what happened?”

I was hesitant to write about my experience, for the Holy Fathers caution us about revealing such things for fear the evil one will manipulate us though vanity or pride. I knew I had nothing to do with the gift that I received that morning other than I had been praying for months, even years, for strength and faith to change my life. I wanted to know and love Christ in my heart and soul. I had wanted to believe in His Holy Resurrection from the dead since early childhood and He in His time answered my prayer – when it would most benefit my soul’s journey.

When I received this answer to my prayer I was far, far away from any consistent state of virtue or purification according to Orthodox traditions. God blessed me to experience the Uncreated Light of His Resurrection for the salvation of my soul. My experience also gave me the courage to change many things in my life and to be of help to others struggling with similar issues. It is for these reasons I can share some of what occurred within me during my first Pascha as an Orthodox Christian…

When I started writing this book in September of 2011, by the grace of God, fourteen years later, I was bathed in the same Uncreated Light of Christ’s Resurrection that visited me my first Paschal morning as an Orthodox Christian. This time, with tears streaming down my face, I struggled to put into words the excruciatingly intimate exchange that transpired in my heart and soul with God on that blessed Pascha morning in 1997…

Unexpected joy beyond measure filled me, surrounded me, and for a time was me. I felt so much joy that I ached from the depths of my being attempting to grasp what was being given to me. “I am so unworthy to receive this! I am not a saint! Oh, could I even dare to believe that God loves me so much?”

“Christ is Risen! In Truth He is Risen!” Being bathed in an unbearably soul touching Light was unlike anything I had ever experienced in all my years in New Age and Eastern religions. Christ’s Resurrection permeated my entire being. I could not bring my experience into words then, other than the few I uttered repeatedly while crumpled on the floor of our bedroom in this Light. “Christ is Risen! In Truth He is Risen! I am so unworthy.”

What gratitude I feel when I recall what happened to me that blessed morning. God’s grace dwelt within me for a time and now once more it was with me again. “How could I merit such love? I who had abandoned and betrayed God? I was one of the ‘lost sheep’ that the Good Shepard left all others to find.”

I felt totally humbled, I could not move, but for the tears and sighs I expressed. My husband, Greg, had no idea what was happening, but he was crying too. In the quiet of my heart I felt as if God Himself was caressing me…

“I am a fallen child, yet God loves me and has brought me to the Light! God loves me, sinful me! He is my Good Shepherd and I am one of His beloved sheep. I knew You when I was younger Lord, but then I moved away from You and could not hear Your Voice or feel Your Presence. I started listening to other voices that were not You. Now surrounded by Your unbearably sweet Light, I have found what I had lost. You are ‘The Truth, the Way and the Light.’ You have brought me out of darkness into the Light. I believe! I am so unworthy! Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!”

My experience took my breath away while giving me life. In the core of my being I understood beyond words, “Christ is Risen!” We say this phrase in the present because our God is a living God: the God of Abraham and Isaac, Who transcends time and human logic. Christ is the Awaited One, the Anointed One, the One Who trampled down death by death and freed us from death and sin. 

Slowly I started to move and my tears dried. “What happened?” Greg asked me. Struggling to even talk I said, “I was given an experience of Christ’s Resurrection.” I was trembling. “I now know, without a shadow of a doubt, in the core of my being, that Christ is God and man. I know He suffered, died and arose for me. I know He conquered death by His Death. I know Christ has freed us/me from imprisonment to our passions and sins. I know, Truly He is Risen!”

My husband was beaming. I was hushed and still, wanting to hold on to the grace. I climbed back into bed, taking slow deep breaths and rested. Some time passed and I said, “I am not sure what to do with my experience. How do I integrate or hold this experience in my life?” Greg paused and reflected. Then he said, “I am sure God will show you His will in due time. It is important not to share your experience or try to put it into words for now. I have read that we can lose the grace of such an experience if we boast of it or share it prematurely or at all. It is best to let it dwell within you and talk to a priest about it when you feel ready. For the present, perhaps taking a walk would help?” It was a glorious day in Marin County. We went for a lovely walk on Ring Mountain[1] and by the time we returned I felt more integrated and settled.

My experience was something I needed to keep sacred and private then. I felt a spiritual fire and urgency within me to reflect on many things that day and the following week as we entered into Bright Week.[2] I knew I had best make the most of the grace that I had been given. I recalled the first Christian awakening I experienced as a child with the Mother of God while on a retreat for girls at a convent. I came home aflame with love of God and wanted to become a nun. At the time my mother did not respond with the same enthusiasm to my desire. I was prevented from acting on the spiritual flame that had been ignited in my soul.[3] Due to that experience I realized, if one does not act on the grace one is given in such an awakening, one will indeed lose the grace. I therefore felt compelled to act on the grace quickly and decisively.

[1] Ring Mountain is a lovely mountain with spectacular views of San Francisco and Marin County located in Marin County between Tiburon and Corte Madera. author

[2] Bright Week is the week after Pascha. Mystically celebrating Paradise reopened to us. In all the Orthodox Churches the doors to the altar remain open until the conclusion of Bright Week the following Saturday evening mid-way through Vespers. Daily prayers are Paschal and sung, no chanting, throughout the week. For many who have labored spiritually throughout Great Lent and Holy Week, Bright Week is a week of renewal and refreshment. Many feel an indescribable feeling of lightness and joy. author

[3]  To read about this awakening in Veronica’s early life see The Pearl of Great Price, by Veronica Hughes, pgs. 23-24.

[i] Sensing life with God in eternal bliss versus “bursts of exalted yearnings”

“During a grace-filled awakening the heart is allowed to sense another better, more perfect, joyous life.  This, however, is not at all what people have who feel an awakening of bright impulses and noble yearnings (which we call a movement of ideas).  These manifestations correspond to that which is exalted over the ordinary order of things and tend toward the realization of the grace-filled suggestion, but they diverge widely in direction and goals.  The latter push one into some sort of foggy area, while the first turn one to God, show the peace that is in Him, and grant a foretaste of it.  The goal of the first is life with God in eternal bliss, and of the latter it is “something.”  Of course, it is always something great and extraordinary, but nothing more can be said about it other than it is “something.”  The supreme difference between them is that the latter sort of burst in and act uniquely – the spirit inspires one person from one side and another person from another side, but the first embraces the entire spirit on all sides and placing it near the goal, satisfies it, or gives it a foretaste of the total satisfaction to come.

Bursts of exulted yearning are essentially traces of God’s image in man; it is a shattered image, and therefore it is discovered as resembling splintered and scattered rays.  These rays must be gathered into one and concentrated, and this focus creates an igniting ray.  This, shall we say, concentrated ray of spirit, unified within itself but broken up within the many-faceted soul, produces the grace that awakens the soul and ignites the spiritual life – not by setting the person into cold contemplation, but into a certain life-producing burning.  Such a gathering of spirit corresponds to the feeling of Divinity – this is embryonic life.  It is the same in nature:  life does not appear until its powers act in a shattering way; but as soon as the higher powers collect into one, a living existence is manifest – as, for example, in a plant.  So, it is in the spirit.  While its impulses are breaking things up, now this and now that, now in this direction and now in that direction, there is no life in it. When the higher, divine power of grace concurrently descends upon the spirit, it brings all of its strivings into one and holds them in this unity – then comes the fire of spiritual life.

By these signs it is easy to distinguish grace-filled awakening from ordinary manifestations of spiritual life, in order that they may not be confused, and mainly, in order not to miss the chance to make use of them for salvation.  It is particularly necessary to know this regarding those times when the grace of God acts without any preliminary effort on the person’s part, or without any particular strength.  The awakened state cannot go by unnoticed, but it is possible to not give it the attention it deserves and, having been some time in it, again to fall into the ordinary circular motion of soul and body.

Awakening does not complete the work of the sinner’s conversion, but only initiates it; the work on himself lies ahead and is very complicated work at that.  Everything, by the way, related to this is completed in two turning points: first in the movement toward oneself, and then away from oneself to God.  By the first movement the person regains the authority he had lost over himself, and the second brings him forth as a sacrifice to God – a whole-burnt offering of freedom.  In the first movement, he comes to the decision to abandon sin, and in the second, drawing nearer to God, he gives a promise to belong to Him alone throughout the days of his life.”

The Path to Salvation, St. Theophan the Recluse, pgs. 151-53