Home Up Riders on the Storm


Book One:



Written by Rick Archer


 © 2015, Richard Archer




Although I was raised a Quaker, my mother and I only attended Sunday meeting on a sporadic basis.  Consequently I never delved much past the basic concepts.  Therefore when I returned to the Quaker meeting in college I had no idea that Quakers have a long tradition of interest in Eastern religion.  Since the Quaker religion revolves around meditation, its members are naturally drawn to Hinduism with its practices of yoga and meditation.


On my third visit to the Quaker Meeting, one of the members stood up to announce the visit of a yogi from India.  This yogi would be speaking on the campus of John Hopkins later tonight.  Curious, I decided to attend. 

The talk was given in a coffee house on campus with about 50 people in attendance.

As I sat there waiting for the talk to begin, I was blown away by the strangest painting I had ever seen.  An entire wall was filled with a mishmash of symbols that held no meaning for me.  Quite frankly, I was clueless. 

The yogi appeared.  As was customary, the yogi sat cross-legged swathed in orange robes.  He spoke at length about the Material World and the Spirit World.  Afterwards, his pretty American assistant invited us all to a nearby hotel for 'initiation'.


This, of course, was about the same time that the Beatles were in the news for their visit to India to meet the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  I suppose it was the star power of the Beatles and their widely-discussed Magical Mystery Tour that made interest in Eastern religion ultra-cool back in 1969. 

During the lecture, I had observed my particular yogi with great interest.  Naturally I wanted to know if he was the real deal or not.  He had long grey hair and was heavily bearded.  His demeanor was quiet, gentle, and soft-spoken.  One thing that impressed me was that he never asked for money.  This did not strike me as a sham.  His message was very simple - through meditation, one can find enlightenment.  Considering what a mess I was at this time of my life, I was looking for enlightenment any place I could find it.  So this explains why I showed up at the hotel later on.

There was a group of about twenty people who followed the yogi and his assistant to the hotel across the street.  We all sat in the front room of a two-room suite.  The yogi was in the far room, but we never saw him.  Instead his pretty assistant ushered people one at a time into the back room.  Each initiation seemed to last about ten minutes or so.

While we waited, the yogi's pretty assistant held court.  She was extremely well-spoken.  Her poise and warmth were without a doubt the most persuasive part of this unusual evening.  I had never seen anyone so happy in all my life.   The assistant was from the city of New York.  I suppose she could be called a 'disciple'.  She wasn't much older than me.  Considering how rarely I saw a woman my age on campus here at my men's school, much less one this pretty, I was understandably drawn to the young lady.  I had come to this initiation as much to see more of her as to meet the yogi.  Thank goodness, she smiled and laughed as she answered my questions.  What a charming girl.  Of course I was love.  Considering my acute loneliness, how could I not be? 

Finally it was my turn.  The young lady brought me into a darkened room lit only by a single candlelight.  The yogi sat in the lotus position on a straw mat.  He silently gestured to a mat opposite him.  I sat down and crossed my legs as best I could.  We were four feet apart with only the small candle between us.  I was very surprised that the yogi said nothing.  His only words were to close my eyes.  I began to feel light-headed, even dizzy.  I had the distinct impression the man was probing my mind.  Curious, I visualized a question mark in my mind.

At that exact moment, the yogi laughed.  Coincidence?  I don't think so.

After five minutes, he smiled again.  He told me to repeat the sacred words 'Om Kriya Babaji Nama Aum' out loud several times.  When I got it right, he smiled and nodded.  He said for me to close my eyes and meditate for 15 minutes every day, repeating those words over and over.

Then he rose to escort me to the door.  However, before he opened the door, he touched me on the shoulder to ask me a question.

"Where are you from?"


He laughed again.  "Ah, I see."

What was that supposed to mean?  But I was too timid to ask.

And with that, the man smiled again and opened the door.  I was bewildered.  I had absolutely no idea what had just taken place.  However, the man had impressed me as sincere.  If there was any fakery involved, I doubted it seriously. 

From that point I began to meditate daily, a practice I continued for the next three years.  Sorry to say, I have nothing to report from the experience.  Not once did anything out of the ordinary take place.  If something happened in recesses of my mind, I was certainly unaware of it.

However, three weeks after the yogi's visit, something extremely out of the ordinary did take place.  That Sunday morning, one of the members of the Quaker Meeting invited me to return that same night to hear a lecture.  The talk was being given by a local Baltimore artist named Bob Hieronimus The Quaker man described Hieronimus as an expert on the occult and added this was the most interesting speaker he had ever met.  That was good enough for me, so I returned later on.

To my surprise, that night I discovered Bob Hieronimus was the man who had painted that unusual mural in the Hopkins coffee house where the yogi had spoken.  During his talk, he pulled out pictures of some of his artwork.  I was very surprised when Hieronimus showed a picture of his mural titled Apocalypse in over Levering Hall on campus.  Now that was an odd coincidence as well. 

Hieronimus explained that his mural was full of all sorts of weird occult symbolism.  None of it made a bit of sense to me, but I was definitely curious.  I was pleased to discover tonight's lecturer was the same man who painted the mural.  Maybe now I would learn what that weird painting was supposed to depict. 

Hieronymus Bosch was the name of a 16th century painter in the Netherlands known for his fantastic imagery, especially his macabre and nightmarish depictions of Hell.  His most famous work was The Garden of Earthly Delights

Considering tonight's speaker shared the same unusual name and they were both known for weird artwork, I assumed Bob Hieronimus had adopted his unusual name from the Dutch painter.  Apparently not.  That said, the modern Hieronimus was every bit the mystic of his predecessor. 

Hieronimus spoke a little about himself.  He said he had virtually no training in artwork.  For the past couple years, he had been designing posters and album covers for Elektra recording artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, as well as for Jim Morrison and the Doors.  The moment Hieronimus casually mentioned he had shared his esoteric ideas with Jim Morrison, I sat up in my seat.  Considering Jim Morrison with his bizarre lyrics was my idol, I viewed Hieronimus with added appreciation.

That evening Bob Hieronimus spoke to us on the Eastern concepts of reincarnation and karma. Then he moved on to Atlantis, the Great Pyramid, the Great Seal, the secret destiny of America, spacemen, UFOs and astrology.  Welcome to the world of the Occult.

I was particularly fascinated when Hieronimus discussed reincarnation, the concept that each soul lives many lives.

“Currently Christianity proposes a one and done chance at Heaven.  Why do people on earth think they can attain salvation in one life time?  If that's the case, then you and I know a lot of people who have already blown their only chance. 

Tough luck for them, huh?

I know, I know, the Bible doesn't mention reincarnation.  Take a guess how many times the Bible has been rewritten or reinterpreted?

Everyone knows that in education, if you fail a course, you are given the chance to try again.  It makes perfect sense that an All-Knowing God would give us each a chance to try as many times as necessary to get it right.

As we return to earth again and again to complete our purification, we face obstacles which we must overcome.  If we do not overcome these hardships, we do not grow.  Through many lifetimes, we eventually will learn the lessons that will one day make further incarnations unnecessary."

As Bob Hieronimus spoke of karma, reincarnation and the possibility of a hidden world beyond our senses, his lecture reminded me of the crazy things I had once read in a book about Edgar Cayce, the American mystic.  Like Hieronimus, Cayce claimed there was much more to this world than meets the eye. 

Bob Hieronimus was a charismatic speaker.  I was fascinated by everything Hieronimus talked about.  I wasn't the only one.  Everyone in the room was on the edge of their seat.  It was obvious that many of the people in attendance were interested in the occult.  When he finished, I decided I wanted to learn more.  Hieronimus had suggested a local bookstore, so I made a note to visit.





The morning after that lecture, I found the occult book store near campus and began to read... and read... and read. 

From the second half of my Sophomore year till the end of my Junior year, I would spend a year and a half reflecting on the mysteries of life.  I referred to this period of my life as my Magical Mystery Tour, a name I borrowed from the title of a current Beatles album.  

I decided to start with Edgar Cayce.  When I turned 18, Dad gave me a book for Christmas titled The Sleeping Prophet by Jess Stearns.  Dad said he had just finished reading the book himself and now he wanted me to read it too.  The book was about Edgar Cayce, a clairvoyant from Virginia who died in 1945.  The book told of Cayce's amazing ability to use his psychic gifts to cure people of diseases and physical problems which baffled conventional physicians.

Cayce became a resource people used when they had exhausted all other medical avenues.  Cayce would go into a trance and prescribe bizarre remedies.  To the astonishment of many, the remedies worked.  Naturally people wanted to know where Cayce had come up with his strange ideas.  After all, there was no logical explanation on how Cayce, an uneducated man, was able to come up with these unconventional, off-the-wall medical cures.  So one day while he was still in his trance, they asked him to explain.  While he was asleep, Cayce replied that he was able to tap into some sort of Universal knowledge.

In 1923, during one his trances, Edgar Cayce began to speak of the previous incarnation of his current guest and how that previous life affected the man's medical condition in the current life.  When he awoke, Cayce was just as shocked at what he had said as the people who had been monitoring him.  His Protestant Christian upbringing had never exposed him to the possibility of reincarnation.  Cayce was just as baffled at this new concept as the people who had heard him speak during the trance.

This was just the start.  Over the years, Cayce would go on to speak in trance of past lives in nearly 2,000 Life Readings.  Since they kept a written record of every word spoken in every trance, whatever Cayce said was put in a library for anyone to read. 

His amazing stories spawned an entire series of books on reincarnation, several of which I read personally. I was clearly hooked on the story of Cayce's amazing life.  Interesting reading, yes, but were these unusual life histories true? 

Well, I had no way to verify these tales.  I was certainly open to the idea of reincarnation, but that didn't prove anything.  What persuaded me the most was the sterling reputation of Edgar Cayce.  Not only was I strongly convinced that Cayce had profound psychic abilities, I was impressed by his character.  Cayce was a humble man who spent his entire life attempting to help people.  Considering his library contained 14,000 documented readings, if this man was a hoax, he sure had me fooled... and a lot of other people too. 

After finishing the books about Cayce, I wasn't ready to stop.  Now I moved on to other topics.  Astrology.  ESP.  Carl Jung and Synchronicity.  Course in Miracles.  The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception... any book I could get my hands on. 


What crossed my mind a thousand times is that I had no way to prove any of these.  I can be just as skeptical as I can be open-minded.  I hate taking other people's word on things that cannot be verified.  Since I was not the kind of person to accept anything on "Faith", I hoped very much to find a firm reason to believe in the existence of God.  Although I never found the absolute "proof" I was looking for, one book made a profound impression on me.

The book's name was Autobiography of a Yogi.  

Given the unusual experience I had my own yogi about a month earlier, I did not hesitate to purchase this book.  I soon learned the book was written in 1946 by Paramahansa Yogananda, a yogi who had come from India to California to spread Eastern teachings. 

I quickly discovered why this book is regarded as a spiritual classic.  Yogananda described a universe that I found very intriguing.  Not only did the yogi discuss a hidden world that exists beyond the realm of human sight, the book stated the twin concepts of karma and reincarnation were fact, not fiction.  The writer then carefully explained how these concepts operated in daily life.

Karma is the law of moral causation, an eastern variation of the Christian idea that 'as ye sow, so shall ye reap'.  Thanks to the law of cause and effect, whatever one does has consequences, be it in this lifetime or the next lifetime. 

The concept of Karma implies that each life has a Destiny and that certain things are "fated" to happen whether we like it or not.  The only choice we have in the matter is our attitude and how we decide to react. 


Due to my St. John's background, I was taught to question everything.   My Quaker background also taught me to question everything.  That included religion. I found that I was unwilling to accept any Christian tenet strictly on faith. 

I don't mean to offend anyone, but intellectually, I found certain elements of Christianity tough to accept. 

My biggest problem with Christianity lay in the obvious unfairness of the system. 

Every fiber of my being is attuned to the concept of fairness and justice.  I find myself incapable of believing in a God who isn't just.

Theoretically, if one lives a good life, one goes to Heaven.  I would be okay with that if anyone was given the same starting point in life, but we all know that is not the way it is.

Some children are born into good homes with loving parents while others are born into wretched poverty.  One child is taught to love while another child is taught how to steal.  Why should one child be blessed while another be cursed from birth?   Why would a fair and just God set up a one-life system where one child has a huge advantage over another?

Due to the problems of my own childhood, I knew I had grown up crooked and twisted while my esteemed classmates grew up in lap of luxury.  Not only did they have a head start on me in life, perhaps their upbringing included the finest churches and the finest Christian training to give them a head start on Heaven as well.  Perhaps they were taught the value of benevolence and good works while other children like me who were knocked around grew up selfish, untrusting and unforgiving. 

Or worse, what about the children whose lives were so preoccupied with hunger that learning effective ways to steal food was far more valuable than religious training?  According the Christian system, these thieves were headed straight to the Hothouse, not to some happy paradise in the sky.

For me to believe in God, I needed to believe in a God who is both loving and fair to all His children.  I wanted to believe in a God who created a level playing field. 

It made no sense to me that God would play favorites, blessing some, cursing others. 

Nietzsche once said anyone who believes in a Loving God should first visit an insane asylum or a war hospital.  Once someone witnessed the intensity of human suffering, they would no doubt begin to question God's love and sense of fairness. 

On the other hand, the twin concepts of Karma and Reincarnation as described by Yogananda satisfied my sense of justice.  In this system, nothing happens to a person that he does not deserve for some reason.  As Yogananda explained it, the suffering in this lifetime might be the result of a misdeed in a previous lifetime.  Considering Edgar Cayce had said the same thing, I paid close attention.

Cayce and Yogananda agreed that whatever happens to us in this lifetime is the result of our own past actions. I am responsible for my own happiness and misery.  I am the architect of my own fate not only in this lifetime, but in lifetimes to come.  However, due to deeds done in previous lifetimes, there would be incidents in this lifetime I would have to endure.  Everyone has to pay their debts.   So in this sense, certain "Karmic" things will happen to me whether I like it or not. 

While I wasn't particularly happy about losing an eye or being disfigured by acne, I found myself willing to accept these principles.  I most definitely wanted these ideas to be true. 

However, my skeptical side reminded me that just because I hoped these ideas were true didn't necessarily mean they were true.  Although the stories told by Yogananda had a convincing ring of sincerity, I was not prepared to accept the words of a total stranger as conclusive proof.  I had previously reached a similar conclusion with Edgar Cayce.  Words in a book prove nothing.  I required something I could see or sense with my own awareness.

So my next step was to look for evidence of Yogananda's unseen world.  

Easier said than done.  Considering I possessed not an ounce of psychic ability... no ESP, no premonitions, no visions, no dreams predicting the future... I had no physical way to pull aside the veils that were said to conceal the Unseen world from the Material world.  

No one said probing the mysteries of the Universe would be easy.




As I examined my life, the only thing out of the ordinary that I could put my finger on were the various coincidences.

My memory instantly returned to my remarkable visit with Mrs. Ballantyne in the parking lot during my Senior year.  Not only had this woman's appearance defied all laws of probability, I likened her intervention in my life to that of a last-minute rescue. 

Until Mrs. Ballantyne appeared out of nowhere, I was reeling.  Out of control, who can say what crazy thing I might have done next?

However, after our long talk, I regained complete control.  Mrs. Ballantyne had inspired an optimism that things would work out.  Within two weeks after that chance meeting, out of the blue I was suddenly handed a full scholarship to college.

Was Mrs. Ballantyne's visit a Miracle?  How should I know?  All I can say was that her visit felt like a miracle to me.  If I had to pick one person on earth to pull me out of my tailspin, I would have chosen Mrs. Ballantyne.  And there she was, right before my eyes, more than willing to give a boy who was a total stranger a half hour of her complete attention. 

Therefore Exhibit One in the possible existence of an Unseen World would have to be that improbable grocery store meeting.  I wondered if it was possible that some Guardian Angel had brought Mrs. Ballantyne to my side that afternoon. 

Then I recalled my two close brushes with death.

Exhibit Two came when I was 6.  A stock car crashed through a fence and barely missed killing my father and I.  If it hadn't been for a strange thought that popped into my mind and caused me to hesitate, my father and I would have been right in the path of the flying vehicle. 

Exhibit Three came when I was 18.  I barely missed being crushed to death when my car spun out of control on the final day of my St. John's career.  What was strange in this situation was the complete lack of traffic.   Ordinarily Westheimer was one of the busiest streets in the city, especially at lunch hour.  However, that day I was trailed by one single vehicle that was just barely able to stop in time.  Where was the traffic?   Luck?  Of course it was luck.

But then what is "Luck"?  What do we really know about "Luck"?  What if there is such a thing as a guardian angel?   The concept of a guardian angel assigned to protect and guide a particular person can be traced throughout antiquity.

If someone is willing to accept the existence of God, then why stop there?  Why not go one step further and consider an idea as far-fetched as a Guardian Angel?  Why not speculate on the idea that Angels are used to operate the unseen pulleys and strings of Karma? 

Guardian Angel
Pietro da Cortona, 1656

I have chronicled other coincidences besides Mrs. Ballantyne's appearance and cheating death.

Exhibit Four came the day I was caught cheating on a German test.  A young man appeared out of nowhere to catch me opening a textbook.  He had at most a three minute window, but due to perfect timing, there he was.  I am going to say this again... that young man had no business being in that room.  That room was in the farthest corner of the school.  He had to make a special trip to come look for a missing book.  Had he knocked, I would have closed my book.  Instead because he thought the room was empty, he came barging in the room at the perfect moment to catch me red-handed.  I was beyond incredulous.

Exhibit Five came the morning I spotted Emily getting out of the cab with Eric.  I was in that train station for two minutes, but due to perfect timing, I arrived just in time to see my girlfriend full of excitement over her weekend adventure with this handsome young man.

How hard would it be for some Angel to suggest to the boy in my dorm that Rick Archer had a car and might be willing get him out of a jam?  For that matter, did some Angel whisper to Mrs. Ballantyne as she was driving home one afternoon that the grocery store on her left would be a convenient place to do her weekly grocery shopping?

Exhibit Six is the moment in my life when I was aggravated to my wit's end over my losing streak at chess to a man I despised.  Out of nowhere, a book on chess appeared at the bottom of a box.  That book solved my problem.  The timing was critical.

Exhibit Seven was the time I got my job at the grocery store by being in the right place at the right time.  The manager was short-handed for a huge strawberry sale the next morning and noticed me standing in the checkout line with my mother.  He hired me on the spot.  That "lucky break" turned into a job that literally changed the course of my life.

The ancient Greeks had no problem explaining coincidences.  In their world, the Greek Gods interfered with the lives of men and women all the time.  When I was a young boy reading the Iliad, it made perfect sense that a poisoned arrow from the bow of Paris could travel 100 yards and strike the great warrior Achilles in his heel, the only vulnerable spot.  After all, the Greek God Apollo had guided the arrow.

Exhibit Eight came the day I was pursuing my long-cherished dream of playing basketball for my school.  Suddenly the basketball struck me on the acne-covered blind side of my face and caused me untold agony.  That moment effectively ended all my dreams of playing basketball for my school. 

Indeed, I would never play basketball for my school, something I have regretted my entire life.  That peculiar glancing blow changed the entire direction of my high school career.  It cost me my last chance to become an active member of the student body.

The uncanny accuracy of that blow bothered me no end.  At the time, I felt like this was a deliberate mishap of some sort.  I couldn't help but wonder if Apollo had it in for me too. 

Of course since modern man is so much more advanced than the Greeks, most people would say it was a freak accident and dismiss it.  And yet in all my years of playing basketball, I would never again be hit in that same spot again despite my blind eye. 

The timing was critical.  It sent me reeling into an isolation at my school from which I would never return.  At the time, I wondered if this accident was "meant to be".  Was it my Fate to be prevented from the one activity that might bring me some recognition?


- fate


We are amused by the ancient Greeks and their morbid preoccupation with the Gods of Olympus.  Every myth talks about how the Gods interfered in the lives of mortals all the time.  To the Greeks, Fate and Destiny were accepted concepts.  Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos were known as "The Fates", three old women who controlled the thread of life of every mortal from birth to death. 

We all know that Mythology was the Greek method of explaining events over which the frightened people had no control.

So how does one explain the origin of the Trojan War, one of the greatest war sagas of all time?  Blame it on the Gods!!  According to Homer and his Iliad, the Trojan War was launched by a beauty contest between three Goddesses who asked Paris to pick the prettiest.  Aphrodite, the winner, gave Helen of Troy to Paris as a reward for picking her.  Athena and Hera started a war to teach Paris a lesson. 

On one level, we laugh at the improbable events of the Trojan War and the ensuing Odyssey as the entertaining product of Homer's fertile imagination.  But what if the Greeks were on to something?  Maybe they were right about Fate. 

How much actual control do we have over our lives?  We all know our lives could change in the blink of an eyelash.  A drunk driver here, a bolt of lightning there.

It has been over 2,000 years since the Trojan War, yet when strange things happen, we cannot help but wonder if this accident had our name on it.  The English language is replete with phrases that reflect the same helplessness the Greeks must have felt. 

"His time was up."  "God's will."  "It was meant to be."  "A fateful event."  "There are no accidents."  "It was in the stars."

I contend that deep down, most of us suspect we are at the mercy of powers greater than ourselves. 

Could it be that we all have a Destiny?   What if there is reincarnation?  What is so bad about reincarnation?  What if each incarnation is meant to be a new series of opportunities to learn lessons, acquire new abilities, develop our consciousness and learn to help others?

Please be aware I do not present these ideas as "Fact".  These ideas are merely my fanciful imagination at work, not something I have any direct knowledge on.  I am not a psychic, I am not a prophet, I am not "enlightened" in any way.  I am merely a flesh and blood guy like everyone else.  What I will say is that I have given the subject of Destiny a lot of thought. 

Based on a lifetime of observation, I have come to believe that every now and then, certain events happen for a reason.

A boy walks in my room at the exact moment to catch me cheating.  I arrive at a train station in the nick of time to see my girlfriend betray me.  An idle thought stops my progress just in time to let a car fly past my eyes. 

So far I have listed eight unusual coincidences in my memoir... and there are more to come.

How many coincidences does it take before someone has the right to be curious?   At what point do we stop chalking extreme coincidence up to random accident and begin to look for a better explanation? 

I have spent my life speculating that one possible explanation for what we call "luck" and "coincidence" might be unseen entities.  These entities could very well coordinate certain events in our lives without any knowledge that we are being manipulated.  Our only clue that someone is toying with us again is that the odds of the event happening defy all laws of probability.

The existence of unusual coincidences raises a lot of questions.

If God exists... and there are a lot of people who believe that He does... then is it really that much of a stretch to believe there might be a system of laws in place to coordinate important life events? 

Was it possible a Guardian Angel was responsible for arranging some or all of my coincidences? 

What exactly is "luck"?  What exactly is a "miracle"?  

Do you ever ask yourself where "ideas" come from?  We speak of "inspiration", but who exactly 'inspires' us?

Is it possible there are entities beyond our sight who have the power to put ideas into our minds using the power of telepathy?

Is it possible our thought processes can be influenced in some way without our realizing it?

Did someone put the thought in Frank's mind at the exact time to go find his missing book in the isolated German classroom?

Did someone suggest to my dorm companion that I was available to give him a ride to the train station to discover Emily's lie?

Did someone suggest to Mrs. Ballantyne a certain route home one afternoon and then suggest my grocery store as a convenient place to shop?

Did someone call my attention to a mysterious box on the floor moments after I openly wished for a way to improve at chess?

Did someone whisper to me at age 6 that an arcade game was the most interesting game in the world to delay me long enough to prevent my death?

Did someone lead Mr. Ocker to the check-out line where I was standing at the exact moment he remembered how short-handed he would be the next day with the strawberries?

I have no definitive answer to these questions.  I do not claim to have spoken to God.  I have never seen an angel nor any visions.  All I know is that the coincidences in my life have aroused my curiosity.  My own experiences lead me to wonder if certain "chance events" are not "chance" at all, but rather somehow arranged behind the scene according to a master plan. 

Many people believe in Fate.  I am one of them.  But please don't expect me to prove it.  I am powerless to do that.  Coincidences do not prove anything.  But they definitely have the power to make us wonder.



A Coincidence is a small miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous.-- Irene Hannon

Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys.-- Emma Bull

Coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous. -- Doris Lessing




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