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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
“Touring the Spirit World” Bonus Anecdotes and Photos
2 Comments | posted May 01st, 2007 at 09:28 am by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

Metaphysical tourists inside the Queen’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid, Giza, EgyptSo my article on New Age spirituality tourism, “Touring the Spirit World,” ran in the New York Times travel section on Sunday. Read the piece.

And now, for your further enlightenment, a couple of anecdotes and photos that didn’t make it in for space reasons:

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After the ritual in the pyramid, we walked outside the pyramid to get lunch and then get on to our camel ride, but it was drizzling. On the Gizan plateau, even a drizzle is rare. Sandy Zimmer nodded, not surprised. “This sort of thing sometimes happens when we do our work,” she confided. “But don’t worry: we’ll clear it up before we head out into the desert.”

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Three stories of the darker side of spirituality tours that didn’t meet journalistic standards for publishing (hearsay), but do fine for a blog:

One of the handlers on the tour said that he works with one woman who tells her tour participants that she cannot have breakfast and dinner with them because of her “high plane of spirituality.” She would have the handler send her meals up every night. But then, one day after the tour had gone and she was staying on in the hotel, he phoned her to say her meal was coming up, and she said not to bother, that she’d be right down. Then she told him: “This is just a job, it’s how I make money. I have to make people respect me.” Now this handler, who is a Muslim and does not share her beliefs, was pretty angry about this. He said, “It wasn’t about something she believe in, or something she love it. Which is really sad, you know? Those people are so good. Most of those spiritual people are so good, and you have to find a way to help them. All she was doing was just acting. It wasn’t for real.”

Wa-El, the guide who shared the story about the Dutch group that incarnated as a different Egyptian deity each day, had a couple of others. He said a few years ago he had a tour group where one woman was obsessed with “joining the Nile,” whatever that means. They were taking a three-day cruise from Luxor to Aswan. She expressed a fervent desire to dive in, to be “one with her mother,” but the other tour members restrained her. Then one night everyone went to bed, and according to Wa-el, and the next morning she was nowhere to be found.

Wa-El also said that one day on roof of the Temple of Dendara, which is sacred to the cow goddess Hathor, he was giving information to a regular tour group while a spirituality tour group was standing not far away. While he was talking, a woman from the spirituality tour group supposedly jumped off the roof, falling to her death. According to her group, she had been talking non-stop about wanting to “meet Hathor.” (Note: I did confirm that a woman fell to her death off the roof of Dendara in the time period Wa-El described, and that they restricted access to the roof because of it, but I couldn’t confirm the suicide’s motives.)

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And finally, for a lot of the reporting I did, I had a pretty nasty bronchitis. I had just come back from scuba diving in the Red Sea for another article, and I stayed with the group from 6 am into the night a couple of days in a row. At the end of the second day, after the pyramid ritual, I stayed with the group in their hotel room, hearing their reflections on the event (off the record, so I can’t share those), but what they were talking about was really intense. I can share that they decided that because of my presence with them, I couldn’t help but write the perfect article. I was to understand, one man, John, told me, I wouldn’t know exactly what it was I was writing, but it would be “in code.” This code would be read and understood by spiritual beings around the world, while the unenlightened would just use the article to “line their bird cage.”

Metaphysical tourists around the sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid, Giza, Egypt

My sister (who did the photos for the article and these extra photos I’ve put in this post—she’s a photojournalist for Reuters, and her website is insisted I come meet her at some restaurant until midnight. So when I got home, I was overtired, and, frankly, a little delirious. I went into the bathroom to use the toilet, and when I reached for the toilet paper, the roll fell off the spindle. I looked around the bathroom floor for at least a couple of minutes, but I couldn’t for the life of me find the spindle. Then I looked at the roll of toilet paper, and then at the holder where it sat just a minute before. Dazedly, but with an open mind, I lifted up the toilet paper to the holder and let go—without the spindle—just to see if maybe, perhaps, it would levitate.

For that one moment, with a bronchial haze and 48 hours straight hours spent with intense believers, my mind was open in a way it had never been before. Then the roll of toilet paper fell crashing to the floor, I discovered the spindle behind the toilet, and all was again right with the world.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2007 at 9:28 am and is filed under In The News, Religion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 2 responses

  1. You article was awesome! And these photos rock! Thanks for sharing more.

    May 2nd, 2007 | 11:50 am
  2. Linda Claussen

    This is the real Ethan we know and love. Keep it coming.

    May 18th, 2007 | 4:20 pm

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