John S's Experience
While I was listening to Jean’s presentation, an insight flashed in my mind. It was a sensation almost like the proverbial “light bulb over one’s head”¯ turning on. A realization began to come together. The essence of it was that if people are skillful enough with word-logic, they can create a perfectly logical case for whatever they are trying to prove, and another can construct a perfectly logical case to disprove it. Neither can prove anything absolutely, because all logical arguments are founded on unproven assumptions; for instance, whether there is or is not a God, or whether one’s concept of “reality”¯ is the same as another’s. My interpretation of this discovery was that intellectual reasoning can never express absolute truth; it can only attempt to explain truths which are relative to particular people at particular stages in the development of human culture. I didn’t know it at the time, but my faith in my intellect had been undermined, and my intellect was the foundation of my self-image; my ego-strength. My deepest faith had been in the hope that my intellectual mind could find an understanding that would finally satisfy me. My mind was racing and I felt that something had gone wrong. I had the feeling that a “house of cards”¯ was beginning to topple. Back at home, I meditated and soon received a marvelous revelation that ended my quest for answers to the “big questions”¯. This is so deep and fundamental that I cannot describe it adequately even to myself. Anything I wanted to understand was shown to me. It was non-verbal, with images and symbols. I assumed I was seeing how the world works, but now know it was how my mind works. Much of what I learned is in a level of knowing so deep that I have not found a verbal way to think about it, let alone talk about it. But I know.
During the experience, it seemed like an intelligence far beyond mine which had presented me with the revelation was explaining to me what was happening. The bottom line of its message was that I had found the “Truth”¯, and the “Truth would set me free”¯. I interpreted this to mean that I was now freed from my world. My life was now finished. The world around me was now obviously an illusion. Nothing was real; nothing held any meaning. I did not realize that it was my mentally created representation of the world I now saw as illusion. I went out among people, and they were only characters in a fictional story. I can’t convey the awful feeling that enfolded me. This was not a world I could live in. The intelligence seemed to dialog with me, and for the next four days and nights I was not able to eat or sleep, as I struggled with the task of trying to hold my personal self and world together. When I told it I was not ready to leave my drama, it told me I could stay as long as I liked. But I could not stand this meaningless hell. This was “catch 22”¯. What I was experiencing could aptly be described as a “dark night of the soul." One may not reach the dawn save by the path of the night. Khalil GibranI had previously read Robert Pirsig’s book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”¯ in which his character, Phaedra, was compelled to find “truth”¯ through an intellectual quest, which resulted in a psychological breakdown. I saw parallels between his experience and what I was now experiencing.
Pirsig told of seeing the world as if it were made of glass, and shattered to bits. (Did my spontaneous glass breaking experiences have some relation to what I had read in Pirsig’s book?) “Phaedra”¯ told of being hospitalized and treated, and losing the memory of the person he had been. I knew I was experiencing a psychotic breakdown with some paranoia and dissociation. Yet, I also could analyze what was happening, and although thoughts of going to others for help came, I knew help would be in the form of treatments designed to return me to my former “normal”¯ state, and the “knowledge”¯ I had just acquired would be lost. Somehow a powerful will arose in my consciousness with the idea that I had searched for this “Truth”¯ though many lifetimes, and would not give it up, even if it meant I had to die to my present life. I was determined to hang in to my now illusory life for a while, and try to find a compromise that would make my world seem “real”¯ again, yet not lose the knowledge I had just acquired. I wanted to see how the people and events I was connected with would evolve into the future. Many times I sat in meditation, and could find peace, but when I returned back to my ordinary consciousness, the “catch 22”¯ problem still faced me. After four days and sleepless nights, I realized that neither I, nor “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men”¯, could fix what had been broken. I really had no power to do anything. I got into bed, and gave up. Completely surrendered. I faded into darkness, not expecting to see the light of day again.
Then I had an experience similar to the description I had previously read of the “Bardo”¯. Carl Jung had written an explanatory forward in a book about the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Jung told that the Tibetans believe that a departing soul passes through an experience they call the “Bardo”¯ where frightening apparitions confront the deceased, and tempting visions try to lure one to incarnations. Tibetan monks read the Book of the Dead over the departed one so that he won’t be influenced by the illusory apparitions, and will go on to unity with divinity. I seemed to pass through a gauntlet of frightening “demons”¯, and I affirmed that they were only illusions, and continued. Then I saw visions of women about to give birth. I was presented with a couple that looked like South Pacific people. Somehow I knew I could be reborn as their baby. I did not accept this idea, and continued on. For some time, or perhaps no time, there was only silence. The Void. There was a sense of infinite peace. At last, I opened my eyes, and was filled with light. I am looking at the ceiling of my bedroom; it is glowing with the golden light of a new day. I feel weightless, and a deep sense of peace enfolds me. The “catch 22”¯ has ended. My world looks real again. I do not move for some time. Then my brain begins to form thoughts..."Am I dead?”¯ From somewhere “inside”¯ a knowing bubbles up in response; “I cannot die; I am Life!”¯ A feeling of humor at the naive question. My body is still alive; I realize that there had been an “ego-death”¯, not a physical one. Finally I rise and dress. I go outdoors, and my world illusion is now a beautiful phenomenon. A glow of “love-light”¯ is emanating from everything I see; trees, plants, rocks, even a child’s lost tennis shoe which had obviously spent the last winter with the weeds. It is far more than an old shoe; it is a repository of a child’s experiences. I walked through the field of dried weeds and broken branches which formerly would have looked like casualties from winter’s triumph over summer’s living creations. Now the field seemed to be broadcasting living energy that the life energy in my body recognized. Near the end of this field lies the rusting remains of an abandoned car. I sense a perhaps four-dimensional matrix of events in which workers are mining and refining materials, forming and assembling its parts, and shipping it to a dealer. A salesperson is happily filling out a sales contract; A new owner is proudly showing it off to family and friends. Children are riding in it to school, to Church, to the dentist’s office. The family is driving to visit relatives. The husband is driving it to work, day after day.
Finally, when it
is getting older, a teen-ager picks-up friends and makes new acquaintances in
it. And then when it breaks down, it is abandoned, and slowly disintegrates
back into molecules which then integrate into nature’s newer creations. Of
course, I did not think these thoughts at the time; it was a kind of perception
that did not need verbal thinking. Ordinarily, we see only surfaces of things,
as they flash into and out of our rapidly speeding consciousness, as future
possibilities change into past memories at the speed of light. We normally are
not aware of the time dimension in which all things are imbedded. For four
more days I did not sleep. It was not needed. I was in what might be called a
state of bliss, for many days. It was difficult to judge and choose. My ego
boundaries were gone. I felt like a newborn puppy; completely humble. Jesus'
teaching: “You must become like a child, to enter the Kingdom”¯ was recalled.
My ego slowly returned, but it was now only a tool, its limitations being
obvious. My identity as a human personality was reborn, but it was now a mental
construct, an interface with the world and other people. For weeks, perhaps
months, the intelligent presence was with me, as a guide. My personal memory
still contained many reflexes, responses, and hang-ups, but I was aware of them,
and did not have to act them out. Over time, the new, wonderful consciousness
slowly became the norm, and what I thought of as the “high self”¯ was always
available for guidance. Thirty years later, the bliss has become a background
state of peace and contentment.
At the time of your experience was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes World was obviously an illusion; could not stand to continue living in meaningless illusion.
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes Language attempts to describe experiences by analogy; \ (what was it like?) not useful to someone who has not had the experience. In other words, how can one explain the taste of a lemon, for instance, to one who has never tasted one?
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? After the awakening; for many months. In fact, after thirty-four years, my consciousness is much higher than at any time prior to the event.
How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal everyday consciousness and alertness? More consciousness and alertness than normal Experience of peace, lack of fear, deep love in unity
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. All objects in environment seemed to glow with a sense of recognition; \ a sense of unity with the phenomena I was observing.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. heightened
Did you see or hear any earthly events that were occurring during a time that your consciousness / awareness was apart from your physical / earthly body? No
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Bliss, peace, love, happiness
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? No
Did you see an unearthly light? Yes
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? I encountered a definite being, or a voice clearly of mystical or unearthly origin
Was guided by a highly intelligent thinker, ("high self", "guardian angel" ? don't know. Names were unimportant. not audible voice.
Did you encounter or become aware of any beings who previously lived on earth who are described by name in religions (for example: Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, etc.)? No
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? No
Did you become aware of past events in your life during your experience? Yes Witnessed a matrix of events of all life’s events, saw how every positive and negative events were necessary to get me to this experience.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? No
Did time seem to
speed up or slow down? Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time
stopped or lost all meaning
I exist timelessly, observing the world as possibilities become realized in the still-point.
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? Everything about the universe?
An experiential knowing, rather than a verbal description.
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? No
Did you come to a border or point of no return? No
Did scenes from the future come to you? No
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness suggesting that there either is (or is not) continued existence after earthly life (“life after death”)? Yes Remembered that we are life energy; we do not die. Only the temporary phenomena end.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness that God or a supreme being either does (or does not) exist? Not specific; was aware.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness that you either did (or did not) exist prior to this lifetime? Not specific; had sense that there were many prior lifetimes.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness that a mystical universal connection or unity/oneness either does (or does not) exist? Yes Experiential knowing
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness regarding earthly life’s meaning or purpose? No; ideas of purpose and meaning are specifically human.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness regarding earthly life’s difficulties, challenges, or hardships? No
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness regarding love? Yes Experiential knowing
During your experience, did you encounter any other specific information / awareness that you have not shared in other questions that is relevant to living our earthly lives? Yes Earthly life is a phenomenon created by consciousness/imagination of individual consciousnesses attached to energy-matter forms (phenomena). It took eons to create our phenomenal world; appreciate it and love it.
Did you have a sense of knowing special knowledge or purpose? Yes Knowledge of finally having achieved the experience of awakening after seeking for many lifetimes.
What occurred during your experience included: Content that was entirely not consistent with the beliefs you had at the time of your experience Previously did not hold firm beliefs; was open minded. Did not believe in paranormal phenomena, yet experienced much before transformation.
How accurately do you remember the experience in comparison to other life events that occurred around the time of the experience? I remember the experience more accurately than other life events that occurred around the time of the experience After 34 years, this experience is clearer in my memory than any other experiences of my life.
Discuss any changes that might have occurred in your life after your experience: Left career and spent a decade enjoying nature (sailing, kayaking, camping, etc.) mostly alone. Learned to live on very low income.
My experience directly resulted in: Large changes in my life
Did you have any changes in your values or beliefs after the experience that occurred as a result of the experience? Yes I do not believe in beliefs; only knowing from experience.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you?
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? No
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes Soon after awakening, I was debriefed by Jean Houston and Robert Masters, sent account of it to Stanislav Grof, Judy Skutch, and others. Then did not talk of it to others until recent years. Jean Houston seemed impressed, wanted me to talk about it in workshops, suggested to Grof that I present a workshop at Esalen; he was unable to fit me into schedule at that time. I did present several workshops and classes in Detroit area, but gave it up when I realized that people had their agendas and beliefs, and didn't get what I was telling them on a deeper level.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes Was familiar with NDE stories.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened: Experience was definitely real It was more real than any \ experience I have had in normal waking consciousness.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience at the current time: Experience was definitely real. Have peace of mind, quiet brain, lack of fear during life-threatening procedures for cancer, heart bypasses, etc.
Have your relationships changed specifically as a result of your experience? Yes Have to be careful to behave and talk as if I am an unawakened person.
Have your religious beliefs/spiritual practices changed specifically as a result of your experience? Yes Activities are \ more involved with people who are actively involved in "spiritual evolution".
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Yes Can experience bliss, peace, love, almost any time, by being \ mindful, without thinking.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? I feel that awakening is happening to people around the globe at an accelerating rate. I see that most people have some episodes of awakening, but usually discount it or do not process it mentally.
Did the questions asked and information that you provided accurately and comprehensively describe your experience? Yes As far as any words can describe an experience to those who have not had the experience.
What could a national organization with an interest in near death experience (NDE) do that would be of interest to you? Educate the public to a positive outlook toward life, to dispel the materialistic beliefs that are destructing human civilization.