My Religious Upbringing
I was raised as a single child by a single mother (and grandparents) in Brooklyn, New York in the 1980s, and educated in magnet programs at public schools. I mention the setting because 90%+ of who we are in life is based on time and place. My upbringing was in a deist environment, somewhere in-between secularism and superstition, but definitely not in organized religion. I could count on one hand the number of times I ever went to religious service back then. We celebrated the holidays, but not strictly. In fact, my family seemed intimidated by religious folks. My great-grandmother did go to religious services, as did my grandfather’s siblings. My grandmother never forced it on my mother, and then the lack of organized religion trickled down to me.
I heard as a kid that God was a fact, but was invisible and worked in mysterious ways, and judged you in a Book of Life after you die. I was also told God knows what you think, what you feel, your history, can do anything, and is invulnerable. God is powerful but doesn’t perform miracles anymore, after all, the Holocaust happened (yes, I knew about the Holocaust when I was young). The TV, movies, cartoons, and comic books I watched did not feature or push religion. Yet death? Death was bad according to my family and pop culture. Death was the end and to be feared. Heaven seemed more reasonable than Hell, which seemed too harsh. So in practical terms, my upbringing was secular with some traditional trappings.
When my grandfather got sick and went to the hospital when I was 13, I had resorted to reading the Bible and prayed for him to come back home. He never did. From that moment forth I became an angry atheist. No one had ever told me that death was part of life, in fact I was conditioned by my mother to view it as a punishment or proof of no God. She had been projecting her child-like opinions. Years later when I explained this to her, she insisted she was giving me a choice to chose a religion and denied any intentional wrongdoing. Of course it wasn’t intentional. Many baby boomers are like her. They rebelled against their parents like no other generation. And what did they build in its place? A society based on “happy feelings”, denial of negative ones, and “good intentions” to forcibly change the world for “the better”. Yet the results are that they are unhappy and need to pop pills to deal with themselves. But I digress…
I had no faith in the world, isolated myself, and read dark books. I escaped into the world of reading, video games, comics, computer games, AOL chat rooms, TV, baseball, wrestling, and movies. I got into fistfights. Most of the time I was bullied and always fought back. Sometimes I was the bully. I had sexual urges and was frustrated. I had pimples. I had just got glasses. I felt too thin and short. I had been near the top of my magnet class from Pre-Kindergarten to 4th grade but then my vision went and I could not see the blackboard from 5-7th grade. I had adolescent power fantasies. I got rejected a few times. I hated my mother’s new boyfriends. I had no male role models. I got mugged by two guys on the way to final exams (I was getting the International Baccalaureate diploma).
The Horrors of Adolescence
I know now that many teenagers go through this type of (necessary) identity crisis as a phase, although they may not use this particular language. I was an intellectual and cared about the world even as the anger and hate burned inside of me. I became a vegetarian at age 14 because I was always attached to my pets since I was born, and wondered why everyone else doesn’t realize that pets = animals = food. I did not even kill bugs. I also wanted to know why people just didn’t question…anything. Why are we here? Would I have been “me” if my mom conceived with another man? Why does the universe exist? How big is it? How did life begin? What was before the Big Bang? I began to study philosophy, history, UFOs, the paranormal, monsters, mythology, quantum physics, and religions. I liked Chariots of the Gods, which implied God was an alien.
In college, I had religion classes and was taught that men created God. They had proof, too, in the form of Biblical textual criticism. Source criticism, in the form of the documentary hypothesis, showed that the Hebrew Bible was written by at least five different authors, who added, modified, and put in their own traditions. The books of the Bible were dated to specific times and place, and meant for those communities, not ours. The books were not even in order or written by the people in the titles of the books. They were propaganda, and not even literature. All the teachers and text books said the same thing- the Bible wasn’t historical, it was made up, but it was “your choice” to have faith in it or not.
A professor told us all about the different gods of the Old Testament, such as El, Elyon, Yahweh, and how Judaism was all based on a pantheon of ancient Middle-Eastern gods, now long forgotten, but the remnants reveal themselves in Hebrew. Abraham had visions of a different God than Moses did. It was a complete deconstruction. But it all made sense and I was equipped with knowledge that no one in my life had access to.
My smug attitude was that millions of people still believe in God, or at least consider the biblical stories as “possibly” being true, but it’s all mythology. If the Old Testament was written by the priestly class who wanted to control the sheep, all of the subsequent Abrahamic religions must be myths as well. So if the New Testament claimed Jesus the Jew was the Son of God (a composite of all the Hebrew gods called Father) and had hundreds of references to Adam, Moses, Ezekiel, and the lot of them- well, Jesus’s story could not be true either because the Old Testament was fiction. And the Koran must be false as well, since it claims to be the last book in the trilogy, with remixes Old Testament stories, how Jesus was a prophet, and how Allah was the One, True God who appeared as all the others. And if the three major holy books are crap, why would I waste my time researching Mormonism and Scientology?
I read Karen Armstrong’s A History of God in the summer after those college religion courses. She claimed to have “faith” in God, but started the book, “In the beginning, human beings created a God who was the First Cause of all things and Ruler of heaven and earth.” She stepped through the evolution of religions, and how priests and prophets will be-ahem- “divinely inspired” to “adapt” their religion for their political and social times. For an example, when the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were exiled, their religion should have been extinct because they had believed God was literally inside the temple. So how to survive? Change your religion, of course. So prophets saw new visions about God being a Universal God who is everywhere, not just confined inside the Ark of the Covenant in the temple. I would debate classmates just to piss them off and show how superior I was to them. One teacher was a Born Again Christian, and I offended him with my angry atheism when I said “666” symbolizes who I am.
I was sarcastic, offensive, weird, different, and got attention. It helped cover up my low self-esteem and lack of real identity. I was an expert in teen angst, but never actually went down the path of joining a gang, going to parties, drinking, smoking, failing classes, playing hooky, being a slut, or doing drugs. At college, I was lonely. I lived in a small single dorm. During vacations the entire campus left and I was alone. I missed my mother and grandmother. I was in the Honors program but was lost in the shuffle. I felt like a victim, was frustrated, and had no purpose. I wanted to be famous…or infamous. Either one would have been acceptable, just as long as people would notice me and even accept my whacked out and offensive theories.
After being at my lowest point, then the best thing in the world happened to me: I saw a psychiatrist and psychologist. Both doctors accepted me, forgave me, worked with my mom and I to get our lives back on track, and really went out of their way to assist me in any way, shape, or form. They both took an interest in me, and wanted to see me get better and how to deal with my depression and manic episode. By the way, they were both Christians. I listened to their advice, and took their suggestions as orders.
Getting Back on Track
Thanks to the professional help, I started to reintegrate into society and went to vocational rehab to start from scratch. My mom got me driving lessons and a car and that was a major step in the right direction. A friend of my psychologist encouraged me to go to school. He was a Jesuit. A job coordinator liked my mother and I and helped us both. She was Christian. I passed an aptitude test and we both got grants to go to a private technical school.
A classmate there was a Haitian Born Again Christian and we got along and became friends. One day he told his pastor to convert me during lunch because my friend was unable to win a debate with me over the Bible. The pastor and I did not hit it off and he was ignorant of the document hypothesis. He was preaching to me about being a sinner. He was pressuring me to come to church and see things for myself. I rejected him and stayed away from him. The classmate was a jolly fellow, and we remained friends. He eventually got a job and recommended that I go to the temp agency which hired him. If it wasn’t for him, I would have never made that connection.
At this time, my psychologist planted seeds in my head which would sprout years later. Not only was he highly intelligent (scored perfect on his exams) and volunteered in his free time, but he was also very open-minded spiritually for some getting near being a senior citizen. He was into dream interpretation and positive thinking, but also Edgar Cayce and reincarnation. When I told him I was into Nostradamus, he did not flinch and gave me a book he had on him, and gave me a dream book. If he believed in the hidden world and in heavenly powers or whatever, who am I to know more than he?
Thanks to him pushing me to go to vocational rehab and getting my certificate from tech school, I had a job interview with a temp agency thanks to my former Haitian Born Again classmate, and I handed the woman the application. I was honest on the application, and admitted that I had ran into some issues at college. She was very impressed with how I conducted myself on the interview, how smart I came off, and she actually gave me a break. She took the chance, allowed me to go to the job site for the final interview. She was a Born Again Christian just like my friend and the pastor I debated. The job worked out and in a couple of years I became independent and moved out of my family’s apartment.
My Own Journey
In 1998-1999 I started to get Enneagram and Buddhist books at Borders, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Nobles, and in Amazon. I visited the websites enneagraminstitute.com, Accesstoinsight.org, dharmanet.org, and buddhanet.net. Why didn’t Americans know about Buddhism? It was never in the media I consumed. It has been around for thousands of years and practiced by millions, yet in my country, it was virtually unknown. I felt as if I had “found religion” with Buddhism without any need for a faith in gods or white bearded father figures. I believed in the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path. The books challenged me to test the theories and not accept dogma based on holy books. They said I was my own authority. Obviously, that philosophy fit into my Individualist personality and required no leaps of faith. I really got on a Buddhist kick, got the dharma beads, told my mom and grandmother I was Buddhist, got Dalai Lama audio tapes, and even converted my friend and we went to a temple….once.
The basic tenants of Buddhism describe human suffering accurately, without question. This won bonus points with me because the Old Testament required too much of a historical background and had so many inconsistencies. The New Testament to me was all about “faith”. Buddhism was more of a practical philosophy. Desire leads to discomfort because let’s face it, we are never really satisfied. Pleasures are fleeting. We avoid sickness and death. Change is the natural constant of the universe. You are not your feelings. Do not be attached to the past or worry about the future. Have love for all living things, and much, much more. But there were a few problems with how I interpreted the books (or how they were written). Keeping in mind, some of these are misinterpretations, myths, or wrong impressions, either on the authors’ part or mine: I felt it seemed like Enlightenment/Nirvana was like Level 99 goal and your ego would be extinguished then you would be a Jedi Knight. It seemed like it blamed victims via karma. The “no-self” thing never clicked. I saw a little door open to nihilism.
I also read the Koran, which was given to me by a co-worker and went on a Muslim kick for a few months. He said the Koran had scientific things in it that would have been impossible for Mohammed to had known about. I bought two Muslim books to give me some background history. It seemed pretty powerful and interesting, but was incompatible with Buddhism and seemed like a controversial thing to convert to. Then he told me I would have to choose sides one day. This was a couple of years before 9-11. I did not choose his side. The book is virtually nonsensical in English, and needs to be recited in Arabic for any spiritual awakening. I had no motives to go to Mecca, and wondered why none of the Muslims I heard about in the news follow the Five Pillars. The book seemed very bound in time and place, and not for today.
I found this weird little book on Amazon called “The Book” by Alan Watts. I could not believe it, but he said we were actually God in disguise, and it was my first real exposure to Hinduism outside my Indian friend in high school who was embarrassed by it and Apu from The Simpsons. I was so happy, I emailed my best friend (the same one who became Buddhist with me) but he rejected it outright.
Anyway, I saw that trying to practice Buddhism or spirituality in South Florida was a fool’s game. The people I knew were concerned about materialism, security, and protecting their ego. They did not believe the world was an illusion and did not want to question their beliefs or lifestyles. Drugs and sex ran rampart. They were consumers of pop culture or fashion. Others were career and status driven. It wasn’t their fault, and by no means was I outside of this cycle (although I never touched drugs) but I wanted to be. In short, there was no real support to be an American Buddhist in South Florida (I only speak English.) The women I “dated” were not religious and they were easy. (Note to young women: hold out as long as you can-preferably with someone you are engaged with or married to- so men could get to know, respect, and value you.)
Marriage Changed My Outlook
The greatest Commandment of Jesus is to love. When I was 29 I got married to a virgin Christian woman who had a wonderful, impressive family. They accepted me with open arms and were moral people. They did not force me to convert. Once again, Christians were nice to me and seemed like a happier stock of people than what I was used to. They helped others and were good role models. Sweeping generalization here, but up until then the Jewish people I knew were depressed baby boomers, cheap senior citizens, young secularists focused on their status or young Jewish American Princesses. The atheists I knew were left-wing nihilists. The New Age people were flighty, sexually promiscuous and not consistent or reliable. The Muslims were militant. The agnostics did not want to talk about religion or meaning of life. But the Christians came through for me. What did they know that I did not? Was my heart to hardened that it blinded me from the signs?
After a few years of marriage, and embracing my new extended family, and starting my own business, I began listening to debates between Christians vs Muslims vs Atheists on Youtube and felt that the Christians were more impressive. Gone were the days of preaching “faith”, these Christians were well versed in science, history, logic, and had mad debating skills. Meanwhile the atheists and Muslims would resort to somewhat personal attacks, sarcasm, and anger. I would research who the speakers were on all the sides and listened more and read more. I had previously read a few of Richard Dawkins’ books (and had believed them) but he came off so poorly in his documentaries and debates.
I listened to and read top atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and others, and although I liked them at first, they could not justify why humans are moral without God, and were too elitist and mocked believers who were perfectly happy. They offered no real alternative solutions- the best they could come up with is elitist humanism- and were angry at religious people. I also knew more about The Bible than they did. Plus, I had insight in them because I was like them, too. I knew deep down they wanted to believe in God and were upset that their rationalize minds could not digest the concept. They were projecting bad family or negative teen experiences. So I realized they were off-base and skewed, just like I had been.
I began to listen to or read Alan Watts, Manly P Hall, Terence McKenna, William Craig Lane, Mitch Horowitz, Laibl Wolf, Julian Jaynes, Robert Lanza, Chris White, Damian Kyle, Thinking Allowed, Closer to Truth, and Dr. Jim B. Tucker. I picked up a lot of info and concepts, which confirmed my suspicious that science really does not explain everything and more importantly that “post-modern enlightenment” offered no meaning of life, that there are major unknowns, and that there are mysteries out there which are very spooky. I read books on real psychologists who studied reincarnation scientifically and it was spooky. I hate the word “religion” as it means nothing about having a connection with God or morality. I can’t even check off what “religion” I am, and I think it is a big lie to even fall into the trap of labeling oneself as something. I think a lot of people my age and younger have the same quandary.
I reexamined the great immortal thinkers such as Plato, Pythagoras, and Jung and saw that they believed in a Higher Power and that science and philosophy were originally products of religion, and how the so-called Enlightenment killed God and replaced him with a Beast. I reexamined UFOs and aliens. Many people who see UFOs and even have alien encounters pass lie detector tests. I believe that most UFOs were military aircraft/drones or natural phenomena, but there are a few which may be subconscious projections of humanity’s desires or fear, other-dimensional beings, and the entities are related to fairy tales and drug trip reports. The unexplained UFO or unknown entities phenomena prove there is more to life than we believe.
What I Believe…
My beliefs cannot be labeled anymore, and I am not tied to beliefs. I am always learning, and the journey does not end. I want to believe that a Higher Power created the universe. There are times in which I do. But I forget the feeling of awakening as I get bogged down into paying bills, working, relationships, boredom, and the sex drive. I do know that the great religious and philosophical books have truths in them which organized religions, pop culture, parents, and post-modern schools of thought do not teach. The ancient texts are guides into the natural law of morality. So if the old stories warn about certain aspects about the human condition, such as how lying, homosexuality, or adultery are frowned up, then there is a reason for it, and it ought to be heeded. This does not mean to hate or ostracize people who engage in these activities, because everyone including myself engage in various different types of “sin”.
I frown upon dogma which loses the overall message. I detest religious wars and organized religions which claim they have the only way and the rest will burn in Hell. I place no real stock in rituals, holidays, and praying for selfish things. I know there is too much of a conflict of interest in churches and temples due to money and recruiting. I am open minded to Heaven and Hell being other dimensions OR states of mind, but they are NOT places where angels have white nightgowns and harps and demons have pitchforks- that is pop culture. I am my own authority and responsible for myself, either we are all part of God/conscious universe or living in some sort of simulation. I do not want to embrace the scientific reductionist outlook preached by the so-called skeptics and atheists, which reduces humanity into serving our DNA, with no other purpose than to reproduce, with no objective morality, and with no continued consciousness before or after death.
I have a better comprehension of the real messages of the Eastern and Western religious systems than I used to, and practice it every day, and look for the signs. I am open to an afterlife- our energy and consciousness do not end. I believe the universe is alive, giving birth to suns which in turn give birth to planets, etc. I am open to rebirth. Some concepts may seem contradictory, but God is infinite and unknowable and indescribable. I place value on the present “now” and try not to regret the past or worry about the future. I try to keep a clear and focused mind. I do not harm animals or people. A note on the word “try”: the best way is to go with the current in a stream and not “try”, just “do”, relax, but keep my eyes on the ball
I believe that myths (not a bad word) have timeless deeper meanings about life and that it it wrong to dismiss them due to trying to interpret them literally. If you ask who Cain had kids with or how Noah fit all those animals in the Arc, you lost the whole point. The Fall from the Garden of Eden- I see that being repeated every day all around the world, when people go after the Forbidden Fruit and then and can’t tell the truth about it, like when God asked Adam and Eve where they were, yet they hid with shame. It happens when people reject and disobey their loving Creator and place their own needs above the greater good. I hear The Serpent tempting people with subtle words, half-truths, curiosity, entitlement, injected doubt (“Did God REALLY say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”) and pretending to be on our side. If these stories could so accurately describe the present day, surely they contain truths. I had to reset my brain to accept them, and humble myself.
Myths Which Keep Me Going
Here are seemingly contradictory myths/theories in which I accept at an emotional subconscious level:
-God created the universe and all its marvelous things, but got bored. It is like if you were able to have a Star Trek: Deep Space 9 holosuite. After living out every fantasy, you would get bored after a while. After all, if you were God you are timeless anyway. So to make things exciting and to experience new things, you put your divine consciousness in all living things and purposely forgot you were God. Therefore, each of us is the Hidden God and after we die, we wake up and merge into the Eternal. Therefore, it makes no sense to feel alone if we are all One. It makes no sense to hate someone, since they are part of you.
– Jesus, Buddha, and the other great holy men all stumbled upon the same truth- that liberation and the “Kingdom of Heaven” is actually within you, not an external place at a future time. There is a divine molecule in you and you could water that seed and release the divine spirit and become an enlightened good spiritual being who could see that death are desire are illusions. You could do great, productive things if you harvest the right molecule. But if you water the evil one, which is contained within us as well, you could become like a Hitler or a hungry ghost.
– All things are reborn to learn a lesson in life. If you keep messing up and let your evil passions and bad habits get the best of you, you keep coming back. Each life leaves impressions. If you can’t get over something, it will be impressed upon you in your next life. If you kill or hurt another person, animal, or insect, you are actually hurting someone you used to know- your mother, lover, daughter, grandparent, best friend, etc out of pure ignorance.
– We are in a holographic 3D reality which is like a role playing game, created by a Master Programmer. We have another existence in another “world”- like another dimension, planet, or future, similar to The Matrix. We have free will but there are rules of the game, “quests” sort to speak, and after we die we wake up and see how we did. It is possible we are divine beings from another dimension who want to play here to test themselves.
– We are part of a multi-dimensional multiverse, so the Garden of Eden is another plane of existence which we were banished from, ghosts are caught between worlds, demons are invisible but try to influence us, guardian angels watch us, the afterlife is a place, humans are unique, the dead are alive, all the gods exists in their own domains, etc
-Satan is the one whispering in our ears to commit selfish acts and feel negative emotions. If we could see him behind us like in a movie, we would never listen. So try to imagine seeing him tempting you. Remember, you have free will and the skeptics who claim we don’t are speaking through Satan. He does not force you to do anything you didn’t want to do. He has a role to play too. But he is hands off. It is mere words. If Satan exists, God exists, and if God exists and you turned your back to him and listened to the Deceiver, you are blowing it.
-Your mind is your greatest asset and your worst enemy. Your mind is a destroyer of Reality, as it lies to you, and is deceived by symbols (cash is not real money, and money is not real happiness, cash is paper and ink). Your mind pumps doubt and demands your body be satisfied by pleasure. But there are other voices. The Inner Voice is God, your pure, unadulterated soul which is Good. That voice is trying to shout but it has been drowned out by the filth, garbage, and lies fed to us by society and our own experiences. But the Voice is there, no matter how dim. Listen to that voice.
-God has been in exile for a long time, which is why He does not speak to us directly as He did with Abraham, Jacob, Moses, etc. He is hiding within us and we could unlock Him by doing Good things and seeing the Signs.
-It is possible that all the religious texts and doctrines were created by Man with no supernatural or divine properties. They could have been edited and the Word could have been corrupted over time, and by organized religion. However, there are hidden truths contained at the core, and the oral traditions from thousands of years ago, are indeed valid. At the very least, it becomes self-evident that there was a Creator and that people knew it is better to rise up from the flesh than to give into it. It is wrong for modern man to feel so intellectually superior than the great spiritual masters of old.
– Mankind could have hallucinated God and His Voice- it could have been part of a now obsolete form of consciousness-but even so, the messages were divine because they were original and profound. The ancients had access to the mysterious Voice, but modern Mankind has been cut from hearing it directly, which is the cause of much of our confusion.
– Believe it or not, but I read a new He-Man comic book where it turned out that the Power Sword was simply a channel to the ultimate power of the universe contained within Castle Grayskull but it was never necessary for Adam to transform using the sword as long as he believed in it. In other words, the power was contained in all of us: “YOU have the power!” he said as he looked at the reader. As I kid I listened to all the morals of the 1980s cartoon, and wondered why the millions of kids who also loved the show did not obey the morals. It turns out most of the messages were applicable to the 21st century and we would have been better off if we obeyed them. Those morals were based on the Judeo-Christian ethics system, not post-modern nihilism.
– Our own thoughts could cure disease and sickness (see placebos, prayer, positive thinking, hypnosis, etc).
My conservative business partner (whom I had worked with in the old company) had been working on converting me to be a non-denominational Christian for years, always engaging me in debates. He is such a moral, honest, and helpful person, that I had began to actually listen to him after all of these years. I saw the rise of Islamic terrorism and how the Progressives ignored and apologized for those acts, while at the same time trying to degrade Christians. The Progressives I was exposed to (the Left, Liberals, Democrats, or whatever you call them), pushed worshiping government to solve problems which are only solvable at the individual level. They pushed identity politics, genders politics, and formed aggressive “protest” groups. Republicans of course are hypocritical as well because they set the standard too high, so when they get caught in a bathroom, they fall farther. I am an Independent, but conservative, but do not fit the checklist definitions.
When my teenage niece (we have a father-daughter relationship) was visiting, I was shocked that she had memorized a bunch of the Bible but had no context and was unable to talk about key concepts. So I was in a position to motivate her to learn about what God is all about. I tried to get her to read her student Bible and actually brought her to church. Me in church? I brought her to a Christian concert (something which I had never imagined I would do), and I talk about the big picture with her when she is depressed. She is well-behaved and headed into her 20s soon, and I did not want her to fall for the temptations and the mistakes I fell into. I knew atheism/humanism could NOT be the way to survive high school and college in tact. Atheism provides NOTHING for her.
When my grandmother died, I had to be strong for my mother, who was co-dependent with her. My mother blamed God, because she was never taught the truth about the lie of permanent death. So here I was being in a position where I had to give my mom inspirational and religious meanings so she could get through this. After many, many grueling months, I did change her view and she is accepting that there is an afterlife and that we are being tested here, and there is a plan for her, and she is making her parents proud by working.
When my business partner’s nephew debated me on a Christmas Eve (he was in a disbelieving mood and wanted proof that God exists and Christianity is correct), I was once again in a position where I, of all people, defended Christianity and the Bible. That night I also saw my partner’s daughter fully charged with a spiritual energy, which had to have been The Holy Spirit. Her faith and loyalty to God was electric, and her character of being a straight-A student, who did community service, and was still a virgin all made sense to me now- it was because of Jesus. She was real and incorruptible and protected by The Holy Spirit and it came into me as well. That was the final straw for me to have faith and accept God, or at least realize that I have been doing It’s work for a very long time even though I was in denial.
Saul/Paul changed, and so did I. I am OK with people believing other things. I am OK with other systems working. If a system is not working (the sin/stress/confusion/sadness continues), one ought to consider improving it so it works for them. In my view, what we do here on earth is just one part of the process. If you are reading this and are confused about life or “searching” for yourself, the secret is that you never lost “yourself” because there is no fixed “self” to lose. We are like fruit from a tree, and the tree is the universe; we come out from the universe- we do not “pop” into it. More importantly, you can’t search for yourself because you are already here- you have all the answers. In many ways, I came full circle. It is okay to take the time but don’t do things which bury yourself too deeply. You just have to listen, see the signs, and embrace life. If you are a parent, please be a good role model for your children and introduce them to a moral code and a mature spiritual belief system early on.