Jimmy Carter was almost lynched when he tried to eliminate parking for bureaucrats. Why? Because people just didn't believe. Not like George Vogel, Veterans Administration procurement officer, who is convinced that getting a parking place is as easy as thinking of one.
"I'm sort of cosmic oriented," says Vogel of his talent. "I try to make my goals through communication with the cosmos. I want a parking spot, the cosmic forces intervene in 15 minutes to get someone out of a spot for me. It's a feeling that there are forces out there that will help me reach my ends."
More than 200 George Vogels wound up at the sixth annual Consciousness Frontiers Day at Northern Virginia Community College's Loudoun County campus Saturday. No coincidence, either. These people don't believe in mere happen-stance.
Like Vogel, a Laurel resident, who, as a result of being late for the conference, found himself engrossed in the "inner journal" lecture instead of the "increasing intelligence" seminar he had planned to attend.
Those old cosmic forces again.
"First, I stopped to help somebody on the road. And then I got lost," says Vogel, grinning expansively. "I got on that stupid Dulles road and didn't know there was no off ramp. I didn't intend to be in this class."
Kind of spooky, huh?
For Vogel and those of his ilk, the day produced a broad sampling of paranormal intrigue: everything from exorcism to dowsing to "astropsychology." p
Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame should be alive to see this. People who actually believe. Or want to believe. A groundswell, organizers say, of lawyers, doctors, military brass, bureaucrats, housewives and elementary school teachers -- very prim and middle class -- all prepared to take that leap in logic that would have gotten them labled fruitcakes 10 years ago. Maybe two years ago.
Sure, you can find water with a stick. Or make an ashtray fly across the room. They saw him do it.
"More and more people are having psychic experiences," says Jean Eek, a kindly, soft-spoken sort of Betty Crocker of the extrasensory and the event's coordinator. "The climate is becoming ripe for them to admit it."
The "prossession and exorcism" class is about to begin when woman number one leans over to woman number two and whispers: "You open yourself to spirits when you use a Ouija board. Now, is that true, or is that not true?"
"Well," confides woman number two, "they say you shouldn't do that. I get really spooked sometimes."
Enter the realm of unlimited possibilities, of mind expansion, "out-of-body experiences," miracles and healthful hypnosis. A yearning to believe, some would call it, in a world where faith is in short supply; or perhaps, like those convinced science will one day bring their frozen cadavers back to life, people who simply don't want to be caught short and find out later it was all true.
In any case, this suburban version of "Altered States," in which sound waves are preferred to LSD as a means of artificially induced enlightenment, strikes a chord in normal, workaday folk.
"If so many people have these things happening to them," declares Janet Bowers of Vienna, "they can't all be lies."
"There's something out there that we have to know and learn," adds Cathy Youngdahl. "Because our planet is in big trouble."
In another class, the subject is demons. The instructor, the Rev. John Nicola, an authority on the occult who was a technical consultant to the makers of "The Exorcist," says: "You see certain things in the world that can't be explained by science today. . . . I'm not making any interpretations," he says of his experiences with poltergeists and psychokinesis. "I believe it because the church says so."
Elsewhere, instructors such as U.S. Rep. Charles Ross (D-N.C.) invoke the Bible in their prescriptions for expanded consciousness and miracle making. Others explain the uses of "relaxation and guided imagery" as a means of self healing.
The common element in all this proves elusive. "It's the subconscious getting in tough with the conscious," ventures Millie Cronen of Vienna. "That's what we're all about."
And where, Ms. Cronen, do you work?
"Are you kidding? If I told you that, I'd be fired in two days."