=1 "How to be sure"
How to be sure
Rigourous mathematical logic or above-average intelligence are not the only means by which man can realize the oneness of things. In each child and even in each adult there is an innate faith, a secret certitude, that this universe and our individual life have a meaning. Indeed, there is love, hope, meaning and value in all beings and all things, because they are all one. All is a continuous, interdependent and interpenetrating oneness. So naturally the capacity to experience oneness, to become conscious of it, is built into every human being and probably into every animal also.
This intimate secret knowledge can and frequently does explode into the outer awareness through a sudden overwhelming experience. The mystical, yogic, or cosmic experience of the one can come in a thousand ways: in a dream, a vision, an aesthetic breakthrough; through sickness, convalescence, drugs, yogic exercises, contact with a guru; in a temple, a bordello, a forest, a bank; in the midst of life or even while dying; but it always comes with the realisation that everybody and everything is one with everybody and everything else.
Though full-blown mystics are astonishingly rare, people who have had mystical experiences are astonishingly numerous.
Reduced to its most elementary form, a mystical, yogic, spiritual, religious, or inner experience is a feeling or certitude that we are more than physical bodies, or a sudden knowledge of the presence of something in us or outside us that transcends the physical world. This more or less overwhelming awareness, whether sudden and fleeting, strong and recurring, precise or vague, has no apparent cause, no relation to any particular position in space or time. Suddenly it’s there filling us with joy.
Soeren Kierkegaard makes the following entry in his journal, dated 19th May, 10:30 a.m.
- “There is an indescribable joy, which blazes through us just as inexplicably as when this outburst of the Apostle broke forth without apparent motive: ‘Rejoice! rejoice! and again I say, rejoice’. Not a joy over this or that, but the whole-hearted cry of the soul ‘with tongue and mouth and from the bottom of the heart’. I rejoice in my joy - of, in, with, at, on, by and with my joy - a heavenly burden which somehow suddenly interrupts our other songs; a joy like a breath of wind that cools and refreshes, a gust of the trade wind that blows from the plains of Mamre to the eternal mansions.”
Kierkegaard must have considered this experience especially important, as it is the only entry in his diary where the exact hour is noted.
But most people pay little attention to such experiences and ignore entirely their spiritual importance. A little door opens, and indifference closes it again. People with a religious background (and especially if this experience happens in church or while praying or while reading pious books), connect it with the particular form or aspect of their worship, or whatever their educational upbringing leads them to expect.
Then even a simple feeling of elation or calm may be eagerly seized upon with the hope of deepening it into peace and security, or liberation. But generally our religious background is rather too narrow and superficial for a widening and deepening of our experience. A sectarian or literal habit of thinking and judging either rejects it as unorthodox or narrows it down into an orthodox dogmatic frame. Here the door is allowed to open only to a certain extent so that the experience may remain within the limits of orthodoxy.
When Saint Teresa of Avila told her confessor of her first experience of sat-chit-ananda he became upset. “My dear child,” he told her, “you must not allow yourself to fall into that trap of the devil; you are allowed to feel the sufferings of Jesus but not any pagan feelings of joy.” With such a psychological and archetypal block, few Christians have met God the Joy.
Usually, where mystical experiences do occur, especially in countries of The Book (Christian, Jewish, Muslim), they are almost fatally hampered if not brutally suppressed by narrow formulations dating back to the neolithic age. Even if one believes these formulas to be the word of God, one should not totally forbid Him to add a postscript every few thousand years! After all, every religion in the beginning was a living mystical experience, and if God spoke to Moses and Joseph Smith, why shouldn’t he speak to you and me? Few modern Westerners have been prepared for mystical experience at all - what to expect and what to do if and when it comes. Would you, for example, recognize a sudden unprovoked, super-induced feeling of joy as the word of God? With his Lutheran upbringing Kierkegaard could not, though he may have had some suspicions!
The great number of neurotic or psychological breakdowns in western countries is caused mainly by the prevailing hopeless duality and schizophrenia of man’s basic religious beliefs, or his lack of any belief whatever in the all-encompassing oneness of things. In the East, popular religion aims to make people happy and harmonious, while in the West, the historical role of religion has been to make them unhappy, fearful and fanatic. Thus, in modern times, turning away from the beliefs of one’s forefathers has meant flight into an even more melancholy autistic retreat.
If we are looking for an expression of a higher awareness crystallized in a form that can be transmitted to posterity, then we must be careful not to overlook the nonreligious, nonconformist mystics of today who may be found in scientific institutes and laboratories where, through exclusive study, it would seem, of the properties of matter, they discover the workings of the one.
Here we can still find that faith, that certitude which while eschewing old formulas moves mountains because it has found the secret of the one.