Zen Benefiel History of Engaging Fringe Topics
Growing up as a kid, though, I had numerous instances of high-strangeness and multiple experiences of beings from what seemed like various worlds. It started with a ‘voice’ shortly after my parents told me I was adopted, then OBEs started a couple of years later at 7, followed by strange dreams a couple of times a month for nearly two years that involved an orange cigar-shaped cloud.
There were instances during high school where I seemed to travel into other worlds through some kind of portal or wormhole during my dreams and, at times, while I was awake. In my first year in a Pre-Med program in college I was asked if I was willing to die for what I believed in during a meditation, agreed, and found myself in what can only be described as a brilliant white light that felt like HOME.
Several years later, married and after three jobs disappeared (machinist, meat cutter and drummer in band) I walked out on our front porch early one morning and threw my hands up to the sun. “Okay, I’m listening! Where do you want me to go?” I heard the word as distinct as if someone were right next to me, “Phoenix.” We arrived in Phoenix on April 21st, 1981.
The first book of the series, Zendor the Barbarian, goes into detail about that part of my life. Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove noted that, in spite of the subjectivity, I was able to observe and report from multiple viewpoints. If you like to know more, buying the book would be my first choice. It’s only $2.99 on Kindle.
Copy of first article on ET and humanity’s perspective published in Krystal Lighten, a local metaphysical newspaper in August of 1988. Adjacent is image of Inner Awareness workshop in Phoenix, March of 1989. Divorce final on 11.22.88 In process of finishing BSBA, Elder in Mormon Church, worked for Allied Signal Aerospace, had four children 2 to 9 years.
My day job was a production control coordinator, responsible for millions of dollars in monthly shipments of aerospace hardware, such as leading and trailing edge flap drives, helicopter starters for various military craft, environmental control valves and missile guidance systems. My first ‘desk job’ was a $7 million a month commercial spares desk with over 800 different parts and overhaul kits.
I was an Elder in the Mormon Church, performing all the duties expected, as well as teaching adult Sunday school classes. I didn’t see any conflict in the search for truth and the church doctrine for doing so, including putting the leadership to the test with referencing Mormon doctrine when they visited my home to inquire of my activity.
My wife didn’t work and had begun having extra-marital affairs while accusing me of doing so to the Church leadership. I was going to school two nights a week, working 60-80 hours a week, taking the family for weekend excursions whenever possible and performing Church duties on top of that. Yep, I had a lot of time to have an affair.
Was nearly expelled from the Church by an over-zealous Bishop, but managed to retain my composure, go through their ‘process’ and restore my ‘position,’ then walked out a year later. People are only as good as they are willing to listen and observe the reality of situations, not take someone’s word however syrupy and sweet it may be.
Front cover of first large metaphysical event in Phoenix at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and Resort. New Age Alliance was made up of 30+ member-groups in Arizona. It’s function was to align ethics, morals and values across organizations, clarifying that ideas of accountability and responsibility in the ‘New Age.’
Responsible for coordination and marketing for the event, I was elected Coordinator in 1989 after being instrumental in crafting the event. Attendance was 250+, which was huge in a conservative Republican state at the time. Our efforts, perhaps, helped get the curious to Focus on You which was at the Civic Plaza downtown the next year.
Patricia Diane Cota-Robles opened the event. There were over 30 speakers and several musicians over the weekend. Topics included Meditation, Building a Collective Consciousness, Power and Energy of Crystals, Goals and Systems for Unification, Healing and Earth Blessings, Image and Networking and, probably most important, Ethics and Responsibilities for the New Age.
Interviewed on KTAR, largest AM station in Southwest US at the time. I reluctantly claimed to be a ‘new ager’ at the time because of my association with the New Age Alliance and it didn’t make sense to further confuse the audience. They had a hard enough time asking relevant questions. Most of them just wanted to attack, unfortunately. A truncated station copy of interview is below:
I hadn’t really discussed my interview with anyone at work (aerospace), though the following day several made reference to having listened in, noting that I was accosted by guests and handled it well. It was surprising no one asked about the event.
It was a struggle to get through the transition from my marriage, living in a guest house on the property while my ex and children resided in the home. It was nice having my kids come to visit unannounced, though their mother didn’t encourage it.
Left Allied Signal Aerospace in February of 1989, ex and children had moved to Indiana. Self-employed at the time. Also facilitated several discussion groups across the metro area during this period, with guest speakers as well. Ran an advertisement on the back cover of a local mag called the New Times that read, “New Age Discussion Group – Any Topic, Any Question,” with a phone number. I didn’t appreciate the wee-hours of the morning nuisance calls, but most of them were genuinely looking for someplace just to explore their experiences and notions about them.
Second article published in another local metaphysical paper in 1989. Didn’t have time or notion to be a regular contributor, but I did deliver the paper to a couple dozen locations across Arizona for most of the year, in spite of a cracked head on my vehicle that summer.
I had several visits to what seemed to be a ship, though it was much more conscious that my childhood visits to the orange cigar-shaped cloud. I’d met a woman on board. A few months later I met her in person on Earth. She came with a friend to visit me, at the recommendation of her mother (discussion group member) and was delivered by one of her mother’s ranch hands.
The story of what else happened during that time is in Stubbing My T.O.E. on Purpose.
Inner Awareness workshops with multiple speakers presented in Phoenix and Prescott in the spring of 1989. Approximately 150+ (Scottsdale) and 100+ (Prescott) in attendance. Visits to groups and efforts to publicize the event (we didn’t have the Internet) meant a lot of personal networking and travel.
While promoting the event in Prescott, I met Derek Brownlee, who introduced me to Michael Valentine Zomorrow (RIP). He was responsible for the water bed explosion, was written up in Time magazine’s March ’71 issue as a ‘prophet of his own time’ for doing so. Meeting him a decade or so later was intriguing, his interests spanned consciousness, science and the esoteric arts.
Shortly after these events, the Inner Awareness Seminars in Prescott and Scottsdale, I moved to a house in mid-north Phoenix that was a center for the activity of a local ‘chapter’ of the Association for the Unfoldment in Man, originally founded by Ray Stanford. There, I learned about and participated in techniques developed by William Swygard called Multi-Level Awareness and Multi-plane Awareness.
I also participated in a weekend spiritual retreat at Woods Canyon Lake with members of this group. I’d been to many ‘channeling’ sessions and had mixed feelings about them. On this trip, though, I had my own experience of the ability, being asked permission by the ‘speaker’ and granting it. It was overwhelming as well as transforming, just to have the experience let alone the presence that requested access. These are explained in more detail in Stubbing My T.O.E. on Purpose.
1990 – 1992
Initial episode to set the tone – 200+ interviews from 90-92. Only 18 have been translated to digital and are on YouTube.
Rodger (RIP) stepped in for Andy Olson at the last minute. A dear friend, he got married the following year and recorded a yearly review of our interviews when he returned to Phoenix. The following week, after returning to Kentucky with his new bride, Rodger collided head-on with a school bus on his way to work and was killed instantly. Annie returned the following year and did our second-year review.
While contemplating my own desire for rising from the ashes of events past driving down the Indian School Road one day, the flash came to create a live metaphor for transformation. The video is of the second performance in front of about 200 people at the Mystic Moments event in an old renovated church in Phoenix, just south of Indian School on 7th Street.
It certainly was intimidating to risk making a fool out myself, yet the first presentation, in front of about 40, seemed to go well. Ariel Wolfe (founder of Mishka Events – Celebrate Your Life) rolled pennies up from the rear of the room during the musical interludes. It was one of those things that I thought about, said ‘why not?’ and just did it.
While in production of One World, one of my guests, Jean Chaudhuri, invited me to a meeting of the Phoenix Indian School Preservation Coalition, made up of members of 18 of the 21 tribes in Arizona. The school had been traded to the City through a land swap between the Barron Collier Corporation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The discussion was about how the land could be developed to honor Indian traditional ways and philosophies toward Mother Earth. We had several meetings and, eventually, Jean asked me if I’d be willing to write everything down and prepare it to present to the Mayor of Phoenix and his staff… the next morning.
I didn’t have a computer at the time, so I wrote it up, printed it and made copies, knew it needed to be on light blue, but didn’t know why. I arrived at the Mayor’s office, showed the finished copy to Jean and was pleased with her response. She asked me to present it, ‘when it felt the time was right.’
The president of the Intertribal Council, American Indian Viet-Nam Veterans and the Native American Historical Society were present along with Jean, the co-chair of the Phoenix Indian School Preservation Coalition. I heard so many references to, ‘that’s good, do you have anything in writing’ and ‘that’s great, do you have anything in black and white.
“With respect to all my relations, Jean has asked me to present this document to you. I apologize it is not in black and white, it’s black and blue, but maybe it can heal the situation.” I had no idea where the words came from and immediately knew why the blue paper. The following day at the coalition meeting the piece was adopted as a working document.
The park, named Steele Indian School Park because of one of the major benefactors, opened in November of 2001. Unfortunately, Jean wasn’t around to witness it. She had passed in 1998.
Somehow a door to high strangeness opened during that time. I had multiple visitations, including Rodger after his death and a variety of beings that most would refer to as extraterrestrials, though it was hard for me to label them as such because they appeared in ‘dreams’ that weren’t really dreams, as holograms in some instances and telepathically in others.
I remained quiet and yet the conversations seemed to bleed over into the ‘real world’ as I networked with others to find guests for the show. Some years later I made up my mind that I didn’t care what others thought and the understanding I’d garnered was worth sharing. It was contrary to all the conspiracy theories I was hearing about and yet it felt much more real and true than anything being discussed at UFO expos at the time. I titled the book to be a little confrontational, yet direct in communicating the essence of the book.
I attended the first International UFO Congress in Tucson in 1991 and began relationships with many ‘experts’ in Ufology at that time. Tim Beckley’s New Age and Alien Agenda expos in Phoenix the following two years provided more.
Helga Morrow put together a conference in Sedona and invited me up to do some interviews, featured at the left, which allowed me to ask questions that seemed to be important yet weren’t being covered at the time. The interviews were archived for over a decade and a half until being posted on the UfologyPRSS YouTube channel in 2013.
I had finished a Master of Business Administration and decided I wanted to teach high school and was in the Secondary Teacher Education program at the University of Phoenix. I got a phone call from Jim Dilettoso, inviting me to Village Labs (a regular hang out) to talk to the promoters of the Prophets Conference. He’d recommended me for their event logistics and coordination manager.
I put all the logistics together in the three days I had and deliveries began on Thursday, setting up 120 vendor tents and 3 outdoor speakers tents with ventilation. We had 2 1500kw generators, 3,000 extra chairs (event drew over 5,000), a 12-man security team, off-duty county police for traffic and 50 volunteers.
The event went off without a hitch and all the volunteers had a lot of fun. What wasn’t fun was being at Frances Barwood’s (then City Councilwoman) home for an after event party and getting a phone call letting us know the promoters had taken the cash receipts, hopped in a limo and were off to Sedona, leaving me with over $1500 in unpaid receipts.
I would have done it regardless. I’d met José and Lloydine Arguelles, so much fun to be around even with deep conversations. I had a several short deep conversations with Dr. Edgar Mitchell where he revealed some ‘secrets’ and had me promise not to say anything as long as he was alive. I kept my promise. Two guys and a gal felt inauthentic and untrustworthy, Dr. Greer, David Icke and Linda Molten-Howe.
2000 – 2001
Invited to speak at the Gathering of Souls event in Campe Verde at the end of September, 2000. I did an updated version of the video above, the live metaphor for transformation, and included situations that contactees/experiencers often found challenging. It was a 3-day event that brought some very interesting folks together from around the world, specifically built around the theme of the Ashtar Command.
Met Diana Pey (left) who invited me to visit her for a month in Chile, SA the following summer, where I gave a presentation on community project planning to about 50 business owners and metaphysicians in Valparaiso. My Spanish wasn’t all that great and several were gracious to help with translation.
Brought my drums to the Gathering of Souls as requested, too. A couple other musicians were bringing their gear and a we all played for a dance party on Saturday evening. There was no rehearsal and the flow was exquisite, one tune to another with very little ‘uh, what do we do next’ moments. The photo was and interesting one with Orbs all around us.
Closing ceremony was quite interesting, as I was brought up on stage and asked to commit to a role and ‘baptised’ in the pool outdoors (brrr) afterward. The full story is in Stubbing My T.O.E. on Purpose.
Standing Elk, now Chief Golden Eagle, also presented and in spite of many attempts to connect over the years has continually rejected my approaches. He could never look me in the eye. I’d had plenty of experience with Indians and never were they so rude.
After the event I built my first website, which grew to over 25,000 visits per month in the following year. I also hosted dozens of chats on Spirit Web and after one of them I had a week-long engagement ‘on board’ in February of 2001. After hundreds of hours and posting thousands of pages, I took it down after experiencing a lack of consideration and respect from supposed ‘members’ of the AC and the folks who put the conference together. Continued efforts offline and with local events, though.
I was invited to LA to work on some project in late spring of 2001. I lived in downtown Hollywood with friends for a couple of months, then went to Chile for the month of July. Prior to leaving we had started work on producing an event called Gaia Fest in a canyon called Las Pulgas, just across the Pacific Coast Highway from the beach and about a quarter mile south of Sunset Boulevard.
I worked remotely from Chile in acquiring sponsors, including Whole Foods, vendors and musical acts. The property was an old highway depot that had been renovated and had a really neat house with a glass room that overlooked the driveway and from where you could see the ocean. There were three tiers to the property, all paved with cement and perfect for an event. About 2,000 showed up and we found ourselves on the front page of the Pacific Palisades paper the following day.
I didn’t sleep for nearly two days, helping with all the on-site prep work and trouble-shooting during the event. Special thanks to Stephen Fantl, Matthew Schlueter and Carl Brentweisen, our host.
Before moving to LA, then Chile and then back to Pacific Palisades in 2001, we recorded a para-celestial logic syndrome over a few months. We played for the Gaia-Fest after party in a more intimate environment just outside the house.
Upon my return, it became a sound track for group meditations that allowed experiencers direct contact with non-human intelligences, with up to 35 participants each having an experience they could barely describe afterwards. Some were able to describe exacting details of interactions with technology and various races of ‘extraterrestrials.’
While researching Near-Death Experiences online, the website for the American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences had particular appeal. Yolaine Stout had created the website and I reached out via email initially and developed a personal relationship over the telephone.
After a number of emails and conversations, there was an opportunity to submit a presentation for an annual International Association for Near-Death Studies conference. I had no idea if I would be accepted, and a few weeks later got the notice that I was and would be included in the 2010 conference in Denver, CO. I was told I’d have an hour initially, which turned into 20 minutes.
2008 – 2013
I took a number of years off to tend to business, developing a coaching and partnering clientele. In 2008 I was asked to take over an existing Meetup group for experiencers, which had about 250 members and grew to over 350 in the following few years. I also created Mothership Cafe and Planetary Citizens early in this period with Independence Arizona launching in 2012.
In 2010 several of the Meetup members and I got a vendor table at the International UFO Congress which had just moved to Phoenix. After several years, even knowing the owner and staff well, I was never selected as a presenter. I still wanted to contribute somehow and in early 2013 the opportunity arrived through some very synchronistic events.
The previous year in May there was another ‘visitation’ that was both exciting and perplexing. The short story is that my handlers (three Arcturians – greys) installed something in the back of my had as an ‘upgrade’ and I was acutely aware of the sensation as they were doing it. I only told my girlfriend about it, though I did write it all down immediately afterward.
At the IUFOC, mid-way through the event I had gone to listen to Rich Dolan. I’d met him at a MUFON meeting previously. After I returned to the table one of our members approached me and said she was shown this device in the back of my head, that I was effectively ‘plugged in’ to the cosmic computer. I found that extremely odd as I had said nothing about my experience.
At the 2013 IUFOC we launched UfologyPRSS, a multi-device personalized RSS (PRSS) reader focused on Ufology and the Paranormal, connecting folks to the best UFO news sites, books, blogs, podcasts, videos and more. Within a few months at least a half-dozen other Ufology and Paranormal websites got major upgrades. Did we effectively raise the bar?
The whole concept of the website was to present a collaborative, potentially unified, front as a virtual demonstration of people learning how to work together. Even with the hundreds of sources and some initial support by bloggers, the results were dismal. Even with a number of personal requests to potential contributors (and there agreement) little happened as hoped.
Over the years I established many personal relationships within the Ufology community from attending events, like the IUFOC and Contact in the Desert and knew the owners of the events personally. I never seemed to make the ‘list’ of presenters even with concerted efforts.
However, they did turn out to be productive as I was able to connect Rey Hernandez, co-founder of the Dr. Edgar Mitchell Foundation for Extraterrestrial Encounters (original name). I’d responded to an email from him the year before with no response, unfortunately, though I got another one and responded. We had a fairly lengthy conversation about his mission to create FREE and focus on a survey to collect data that would be useful for shedding light on the experiencer point of view.
I agreed to help, although I didn’t want to be on the board because of my experience with other members he mentioned. Rey sent some materials ahead and showed up at the 2014 IUFOC. I introduced him to many and helped him establish some notoriety with them. The work of FREE and their book, Beyond UFOs has made major contributions to Ufology.
Twenty-six years after the start of One World, a dream came true. It started with a phone call from Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove. He thought his interview with Jason Jorjani on the Greys would be of interest to our audience. I posted it and sent an email, along with a copy of Stubbing My T.O.E on Purpose. A few days later I got a request to come talk about the book.
Jeffrey offered this blurb regarding the book:
Zen Benefiel, literally, takes us with him on his journey from drums to conundrums. His mind is facile as he weaves a narrative ranging from deep within the esoteric/ufology subculture to lessons of marriage, family, and business life. He draws upon archetypal psychology with a particular appreciation for the creative godhead archetype. If you read this book with an open heart, you may find yourself discovering new vistas of your own.
Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD
Host, New Thinking Allowed YouTube channel