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A conversation with Ruth and Charque Newell

Ruth and Charque Newell have run The Upper Room: A School of Mysticism in Regent Square since 1999, offering classes in tarot, meditation, dreams, I Ching and "practical mysticism," as well as individual readings.

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Why a mysticism school?
Ruth: We went for that because we believe we ultimately are teachers. Our readings are teachings. There were mystery schools in the Middle East. The core of it is that the world is a reflection of consciousness, not a cause of it. All of your experiences in life -- from getting caught in a traffic jam on the Parkway to relationships -- are a product of your thought patterns. I tend to move out onto the Parkway too slowly, but that isn't always a problem. But sometimes I think: Why have I got a pushy driver behind me today? You will always find that there is something pushing you.

It's hard to believe every little thing -- like thousands of people in a traffic jam -- happens on purpose to each motorist. That's why daily horoscopes -- meant to apply to millions -- seem so preposterous.
Ruth: I'm not in favor of generalized horoscopes. But you are going to have a personal relationship to that traffic jam. Not everybody will have the same experience. Why did certain people not end up in 9/11? Some of them overslept. Somebody took their child to day care. People miss planes that crash, or are on them.

But if every choice is equally meaningful, then every choice is equally meaningless.
Charque: We're talking free will. It's not that they had to miss the plane or make the plane. Our choices open us up to certain experiences or close us off from certain experiences.

What about a person broadsided at a red light?
Charque: That is gravitation. A woman was in here telling us about an accident she had years ago. This was an old guy who was in a hurry to pee. He couldn't see her, she couldn't see him coming, they met. The actual symbols of what they were dealing with, she was dealing with her whole life.

Ruth: So the old man who hits her is a mirror of a part of herself who gets agitated and embarrassed to deal with [that] part of herself. We deal in other people with mirrors of the self.

Charque: If you're sitting at a red light and you're blindsided by a truck, you need to look at your life and look at what it's a symbol of, what you're not aware of. Nothing ever happens but that it gives you a gift of the awakening of the self, and when you find that gift, you would not trade that experience for anything.

Unless it kills you.
Charque: As one channel [-- that is, a spirit contact --] said a while ago: Death, it's absolutely safe. Our entire culture is focused on death. The things that can go through red lights are police, ambulances, fire and funerals. They're all involved with maintaining the physical form. We say life is a mirror. When you go out there and try to change life, the image stays the same. When you work on yourself, the image in front of you changes. People keep trying to change their physical experience by looking in another mirror.

What kinds of students do you get?
Ruth: It tends to be more women than men.

Charque: The culture tends to exclude inner exploration in men.

So there's nothing random about you ending up in Pittsburgh.
Ruth: No ... I would say karma brought me here. It wasn't exactly my choice. It wasn't the top of my list to come here. As long as I'd chosen to be with [Charque] I ended up at this place.

Charque: We think of it as a very special place. There is the underground pool here, which is tapped into by the fountain at the Point. We read somewhere the Indians knew this to be a sacred place. We think of this as a portal into inner world space, particularly the high priestess space. Then Pittsburgh becomes a center for much more inner exploration. It's not so much a place for people to go out and do and act. There are many blocks to the traditional outer action. So it is a place people come to heal their inner spaces and [move] out and do other things. We feel as the millennium progresses it will become as important as Sedona [Ariz.].

Does mysticism hold any solutions to the city budget crisis?
Charque: The mayor has been trying to create. He's been trying to be a magician. And it won't work. He's trying to make it this booming, effective place. It cannot be that way.

Ruth: We have to do a reading on it.

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