NEWS- Mother, say I: Monk sees vision in Nelson
In an era when the Pope can cause a geopolitical controversy with a single quotation, some say they're seeing a reconciliatory omen in the woods of Nelson County. Like a new Lourdes, the vision witnesses are calling the "Blessed Mother" appeared– and continues to appear– in a quiet forest clearing in the middle of the group's 450-acre Nelson County property.
The sightings began August 20 at the Synchronicity Foundation on Adial Road off Route 29 south. Amazingly, the supernatural appearance was not really a surprise to Synchronicity's leader, a man they call Master Charles, who turned 60 this year.
"In the months leading up to his birthday," according to Synchronicity's website, "Master Charles was informed by Her that 'the time has come.'" He was compelled to construct the Pavilion, a special open-air shelter, so others could experience the vision.
What one spokesperson calls a "modern monastery," Synchronicity was started in 1983 by Brother Charles Cannon, who was promoted to "Master" in the early 1990's at the behest of a particularly enthusiastic follower, and now leads the organization that sells meditation aids and hosts week-long retreats costing between $1,200 and $1,500 per person.
Cannon was ordained a Vedic monk in India some 25 years ago, but he says that thanks to his Catholic upbringing, he has had such visions since childhood. He has come to realize that "She" is a non-denominational entity, he says.
"She can appear," Cannon says, "as Mother Mary of the Catholic tradition, as Kali Durga of the Hindu tradition, or as the White Buffalo Woman of the Native Americans. She is the divine form of all cultures and religions."
But more heartening to Cannon than the form she takes is the audience before whom she takes it: "Those who don't see her, it doesn't mean they don't experience," says Cannon. "Most of them feel the vibration and the power and the sacred environment that is created there."
Besides the occasional nacho or french fry whose Maryesque ridges wind up visible to everyone on eBay, most visions have revealed themselves only to a select few, such as the schoolgirl who put Lourdes, France on the world map after a Virgin Mary vision in 1858. One notable exception was the series of apparitions floating above a church in Zeitun, Egypt during the late 1960s which was viewed by thousands.
Master Charles's congregants can't boast those kinds of raw numbers, but they do claim to have a pretty good batting average. Synchronicity vice-president Alan Scherr reports that 50 percent of the participants at a recent retreat saw or felt some sort of presence at the woodsy Pavilion.
Alas, two correspondents from the Hook were in the other 50 percent. Scherr, however, says that may not be the best litmus test: "The apparition is visible not depending on the apparition, but depending on you." Reports from other Synchronicity Foundation enthusiasts vary accordingly.
"She appears to me in form such as a face sometimes, woman with baby sometimes, very bright bluish-white light, vibrating," says Synchronicity participant Bobi Garvey. "One day, it felt like someone put a spotlight on my heart and there was heat radiating– very warm and fuzzy, and the feeling emanating from it was just love."
Scherr's wife, Kia, has an even more striking depiction. "I've seen translucent blue light in that area of the Pavilion, but more specifically, it would start out as an eye looking at me from a tree," she says. "It would turn into a whole face, like she was playing hide and seek. There is tremendous love and a certain amount of playfulness as well."
That may underscore the prevailing mood of her visit: Cannon describes the apparitions as "blissful, ecstatic, celebratory."
However, Isis Ringrose, a well-known Nelson resident who is often described as a psychic, points out that such sightings often precede "map-changing wars."
"I wouldn't be surprised if she shows herself now," Ringrose says. "We are already in World War III, even if we don't don't realize it."
"It's not about, 'Heal me' or 'Throw away my crutches,' or anything like that," says Scherr.
Instead, it's about coaxing spiritual realization from observers, and the message She allegedly delivered to Cannon– as transcribed on the Synchronicity Foundation's website– makes that pretty clear: "I come with a simple message: It's time to awaken. It's time to rise to the level of the God that you are."
Kia Scherr admits to having seeds of doubt at first. "I thought, 'Am I just hallucinating?'" she says. "And that's when I got this message that said, 'Well, you can either doubt or you can celebrate.'"
Partly because the apparition is so recent, its authenticity has not yet been evaluated by representatives of mainstream religions.
"How the Catholic church would react, I have no idea," says Cannon. "They would probably, as they do in most cases, invalidate until they prove it by their criteria– I think they have some ecclesiastical boards that it has to meet before they deem it authentic."
Indeed they do. Although the Egyptian apparitions were approved without a formal rubric, the Vatican has since issued a document called "Norms of the Congregation for Proceeding in Judging Alleged Apparitions and Revelations."
However, proper papal oversight of a cross-cultural deity doesn't seem to rank very high on the list of priorities for the enthusiastically non-denominational Synchronicity Foundation. Although they're proud to have an Anglican priest in their worldwide network, the first order of business out in Nelson is preparing for an onslaught of visitors.
An eight-point bulleted list on the website outlines guidelines for visitation, ranging from proper conduct and scheduled activities to reservations for on-site lodging and donation information.
And Scherr claims they'll also be ready for religious inquiries. "Have we had a dialogue with mainstream religious faiths? No," he says, "Do I think that's going to happen? Yes."
Far be it from a reporter to speculate on divine will, but if there is a point to all this, that dialogue might just be it.
"She comes in a place that is not aligned to any sect or religion– I think that's a very powerful message," laughs Cannon. "Why'd she come here? Why didn't she go down the street to the Catholic church? Or the Baptist church? What's she doing here? That's a real important question."
Synchronicity constructed a pavilion adjacent to the "Shrine of the Heart," the location of the alleged Blessed Mother sightings
PHOTO BY WILLIAM WALKER
'Master' Charles Cannon in a publicity shot