There is a phenomenon in people's lives that has been paid little attention too, although it is not rare at all. I'll try to describe how I experienced it myself:
When I was 23 I worked for a Dutch bank in Hong Kong in 1953, It was dull routine work. At lunchtime I retired to the staffroom to eat my sandwiches. As I was doing so in a quiet state of mind I was overwhelmed all of a sudden by what felt as a glorious spiritual light. I submitted to it and felt immersed in its beneficial glow. I felt taken up in a state of heavenly bliss. I went with its flow and felt one with the universe. It lasted only for a few minutes, but did not disappear, but lingered on. It returned various times in the following days. When it happened again on the street I felt as if floating in the air.
What sets this experience apart is that it is spontaneous, not as a result of previous exercices, fasts, methods. It comes all of a sudden. In the course of time I have learnt that this is a phenomenon that is not as rare as it may seem.I have been privileged to meet some friends, family members and people who had a similar spontaneous experience, least expecting it:
If I have met five people who had such experience, how many more will there be? Must be hundreds of thousands all over the world. Yet we hear seldom of them. In my opinion that is because they are embarassed to confide the happening to others for fear of being called 'strange' or 'weird'. A similar reaction occurred to people who had a near-death-experience. When waking up after a coma, they related in exitement about what they had experienced, but found that hardly anyone was interested. They were told that these were hallucinations they shouldn't pay attention to. In desparation of not being understood they would organize meetings with similar patients who could understand their stories. I surmise that the same is happening to people who experience a spontaneous moment of enlightenment. They fear not being understood and remain silent about it. It may also be that people who have such phenomenon are so unprepared and surprised that they shy away, try to suppress it, which is a pity as they let an important moment in their lives pass without taking notice.
Now as to the nature of these happenings, I conclude from my own experience:
I consider that a spontaneous spiritual experience, as I had, is a phenomenon that has been paid little attention to. Yet when it happens to someone it may have a profound impact on his/her further life. He/she will look differently at reality. Realise that that there is far more beyond what meets the eye - feel one with nature and the universe - take up spiritual interests in one form or another - look differently at people and their behaviour, may be more compassionate. Therefore its happening should be better known as by understanding it may prevent a fright reaction when it occurs. Cases should be more widely publicized. Its message of wellbeing and oneness with nature will contribute to a more positive view of life. It may change one's vision - often being nihilistic nowadays, without any form of hope, dreading the future, feeling lost. The enlightment happening may change such outlook. I do hope that more people will realise the importance of acceptance of this spontaneous inner awakening.
Psychological research on spiritual and kundalini awakenings is still in its infancy and has tended not to focus on experiences of a sudden, spontaneous nature. Studies investigating the impact of mystical experiences similar to spiritual and kundalini awakenings, on well-being, have recognised the predominantly positive, healing effects of these experiences, but have also acknowledged some of the more challenging aspects brought on both by their disruptive nature and by their typically biased clinical interpretations.
Participants were recruited to take part in the survey through social media. The experience was described as follows: “Have you ever had a strong experience of a profound spiritual nature in which you suddenly and non-intentionally felt in contact, or communion with something that is considered to be an ultimate reality, ‘God’, or the divine? Have you ever felt that your ego suddenly transcended beyond an ordinary personal identity in space and time, and that you became ‘one’ with the universe?” All participants were aged over 18 and must have experienced SSA/SKA at least once in their lives. Participants who had experienced SSA/SKA under the influence of psychoactive drugs were excluded. Participation was voluntary.
A total of 153 respondents completed the survey but one was excluded as their experience was mediated by psychedelic substance use, so only data from 152 participants were analysed. Of these, 55.3% identified as female, 42.8% as male, 1.3% as non-binary, and 0.7% as other. Ages ranged from 18 to 69 years (N = 144, M = 41.09 years, SD = 11.60 years). Reported ethnicity was 74.3% white, 11.8% mixed/multiple ethnic groups, 9.2% Asian or Asian British, 0.7 black/African/Caribbean black British, and 3.9% other. The participants' reported religious/spiritual belief was 63.2% spiritual but not religious, 5.3% Christian, 5.3% Hindu, 2.6% Agnostic, 2% Buddhist, 2% Muslim, 1.3% Atheist, 0.7% Jewish, and 17.8% other, of which 2% identified as Omnist. Seventy-three percent of participants reported having experienced more than one SSA and/or SKA in their lives, vs. 27% having experienced it just once.
Responding to the multiple choice question: “Considering your most powerful SSA or SKA, do you think there were any significant factors that led you to have this experience,” 52% reported psychological turmoil/trauma (e.g., stress, depression, loss, bereavement, combat, addiction), 47.4% meditation practice, 31.6% spiritual literature, 21.7% contact with nature, 21.7% past use of psychedelics or entheogens, 18.4% yoga practice, 13.2% near-death experience, 11.8% breathwork (e.g., Wim Hof method, Holotropic Breathwork, pranayama), 11.2% sacred sexual intimacy, 9.9% fasting, 9.2% no discernible trigger that they were aware of, 9.2% physical injury, 8.6% lucid dreaming, 8.6% sleep deprivation, 7.9% athletic activity, and 39.9% “other” factors.
For regularly practised activities before the onset of participants' most powerful SSA/SKA, contact with nature was the most reported activity (68.4%) and Kundalini Yoga was the least reported activity (11.2%). For regularly practised activities after participants' most powerful SSA/SKA, meditation was the most reported activity (79.6%) and “other yoga” was the least reported activity (21.1%) (Table 1).
These extracts are from accounts of spiritual experiences from the archive of the Religious Experience Research Centre (RERC). See here.
Here is an account of spiritual awakening from William Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous – an organization that considers a spiritual awakening to be the last step that frees sufferers from addiction:
“Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in the mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, ‘So this is the God of the preachers!’ A great peace stole over me and I thought, ‘No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are all right.’” (From Miller, 2004)
See articleI was wandering alone in the woods and came across the largest tree that I have personally seen. It was a "ceiba" with a diameter of perhaps four metres at the base (excluding the buttress roots) and something like 60 metres tall. Of course nothing happened in objective terms. But it was as if the tree yelled its godly nature at me. I was scared. Nothing was happening, but I felt as if a large dose of some strong hallucinogenic drug had just exploded in my head. Then I realised that I was having a "mystical experience". So I just sat on one of its roots and looked around. And everything: rocks, small plants, air, sky, the mountain itself, the water in the brook, started "talking to me". I stayed at the place for a long time, until it began to get dark.
Responses are welcome. Email to: manandu@NOSPAMxs4all.nl but delete the word NOSPAM from the address. You may write in English, Dutch, French, German, or Spanish.
First conceived: 20 September 2021, revised 26/10/2021