Did you ever have a spontanteous spiritual experience ?

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:
1. Chancellor of an embassy told me that he was cycling across a Dutch heather when suddenly he was taken up in nature and felt one with the universe.
2. A dear old lady friend told me that during WW2 when she was walking across a bridge in Amsterdam she felt suddenly taken up in the heavenly expanse.
3. A Dutch Balinese painter, Auke Sonnega. His poëtic description of what he experienced on Bali may be found here.
4. A cousin of mine, who experienced all of a sudden a great spiritual experience which now serves as inspiration for his paintings.
5. My sister in law sat in a park watching her children play. Suddenly she was enraptured by a glorious feeling of oneness with nature.

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:

It is not evoked by a prior longing for it. Yet they may have had an open mind, for instance as a result of meditation, or other method to quiet the mind.
To fully benefit from the experience is that one goes with the flow. If one resists, its intensity will be lost and possibly forgotten.
Some psychologists call this a SSA: a Spontaneous Spiritual Awakening. We cannot force the spirit - only open ourselves to it without expectancy.

What makes this happen in us? A question I can only speculate about.
Is it something you have evoked, opened yourself to, without being aware of it ?
Is it induced by a spirit entity that wishes you well ?
R.M.Bucke M.D., was the first to describe the phenomenon some 120 years ago, naming it cosmic consciousness. After it happened to him it gave him the impulse to make it known to the world. He researched literature and found some 80 similar cases described. In the early 19th century his description and examples became widely accepted, even in the medical profession. His book on the subject: 'Cosmic Consciousness', had dozens of reprints until the present day.
A far reaching speculation is that the cause for the awakening comes from oneself. But not at the time it occurs, but from a lifetime later when one has achieved a spiritual capacity to influence one's earlier life.

There are various versions of this phenomenon:

What I'm most interested in is when it occurs to people unaware, without any form of preparation. It often happens outdoors in the quietness of nature, lasting for a few minutes. Normally it has a profound impact on them and influences their further lives.
Case histories show that the enlightenment comes with little imagery, dramatisation, figures, or conceptual messages. It is a pure feeling of exaltation, bliss. Sometimes a presence is being felt, but not seen.
Apart from this sensation there are kinds of spontaneous experiences that resemble more of a revelation and should not to be confused with the happenings described above. Apart from the common occurences there are more dramatic phenomena which are usually accompanied by images, figures and above all a message.
There are also phenomena called kundalini awakenings which have more to do with becoming aware of power currents in the body. I shall not go further into that form.
The same applies to what are termed: spiritual emergency cases. They are being described as ‘critical and experientially difficult stages of a profound psychological transformation that involves one's entire being. They take the form of non-ordinary states of consciousness and involve intense emotions, visions and other sensory changes, unusual thoughts as well as various physical manifestations.’ I will not go into that phenomenon either.

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.

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Reference to the phenomenon and case histories:

SPONTANEOUS SPIRITUAL AWAKENINGS: PHENOMENOLOGY, ALTERED STATES, INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES, AND WELL-BEING

Read article (Jessica Sophie Corneille1* and David Luke)

Extracts:

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.

The authors also give details of a survey:

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).

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PERSONAL EXPERIENCES:

These extracts are from accounts of spiritual experiences from the archive of the Religious Experience Research Centre (RERC). See here.

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Table 1. Reported regularly practised activities before and after the participants' most powerful SSA/SKA. See article.
Table 2. Highest to lowest mean scores of the 20-item Nondual Embodiment Thematic Inventory (NETI; Butlein, 2005), relating to the phenomenological features of SSA/SKA (N = 152).See article
Table 3. Top 10 (A) highest and (B) lowest scoring items of the 76-item Kundalini Awakening Scale (KAS; Sanches and Daniels, 2008). See article
MENTAL WELL-BEING IMPLICATIONS OF SSA/SKAS When participants were asked whether they felt that their experience had been predominantly positive or negative in the short-term, 90.8% responded that the experience was positive, and 9.2% responded that it was negative. However, when participants were asked whether they felt that their experience had been predominantly positive or negative in the long-term, 98% responded that the experience was positive, and only 2% responded that it was negative, implying that SSA/SKAs were more likely to be perceived as positive in the long-term even following negative short-term experiences, but that both short and long-term effects were predominantly positive.

See article
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AWAKENING AND PEAK EXPERIENCES

See article

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WHAT IS A MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE?

See article

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)

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See article

I 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.
That day, something inside me changed for good. There is a psalm that says something like "I fear nothing, because I know God is with me". And that is just what happened: I was given proof of God's existence. I am a different person since that day.
I do concede that it might have been some sort of short circuit of my brain cells, a rush of endorphins, some toxic substance in the air, or who knows what. But the experience was too extreme and too unique. And the knowledge of the godly nature of being was imprinted in my consciousness in a manner that no rational process has been able to remove.
Besides, that knowledge has made me an absolutely happy person. And all my personal and material affairs have been improving since that day, also. My knowledge of God, and my total submission to it, have been supporting me for the last 14 years, and I hope to be able to maintain that faith as long as I exist. Perhaps by being able to give a name to it ("God") and associating it with some deeply engraved cultural structures of my psyche (some sort of "religious inclination") I have managed to conserve that extremely beneficial state of mind. That is probably why many traditions reverence not only God, but also "the name of God".


References:

Spiritual Awakening Process

Link: www.frontiersin.org

BBC program on 'extraordinary awakenings'

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


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