Mystical Experiencer: Male in late seventies
Current location: U.S.A.
Age at time of experience: 64
The same “event” happened two or three times in full. The first is the clearest. I was sitting on a cushion in meditation in a quiet room facing a gas wall heater. I have written about it many times and generally do not get good reactions from others. What follows is the latest iteration.
I have written other renditions of the following over the years. None have seemed adequate or finished. I have shown different copies to people. I know I have gotten two positive reactions and at least five and probably more negative, even attacking, ones.
None of this matters much. Those who seem to understand what I have written do not have many words for it either, and so cannot easily continue a discussion. Those who were negative just created a short-lived defensive mode in me,
I was “just sitting” which is how I think about my meditations. This was around 2005. I was in that silence that others have named the “silence between words.” It is more than just silence as there also is no light or energy. From just sitting in the silence, I had an awareness that was aware of the Void.
The Void was infinite and had no boundaries and contained nothing definable by our endowments. After a peaceful bit of time (there was no real time), it seemed that a golden city started to show in the center. Then instantly, it became Everything, although the Void was still there.
There was no sense of time before I was back in the silence between words. However, over time, there was a sense of awe, a sense that death shall have no dominion (Dylan Thomas), that the Void and the Everything are equal, and co-equal, and co-existing. Both are infinite or “part” of one infinity, although more probably a negative and positive expression of the one. Oddly, it did seem that the Void proceeded the Everything in my way of seeing.
It was also clear that everything is interrelated in one indivisible union which would include all aspects of nothing. This unity supports all arguments in favor of ethical or altruistic plans or behaviors towards others. In the Buddhist sense, this is the cause of the compassion for all. The All would then have to progress (good karma) or fail as one entity over time.
I have no idea how to reconcile a total nothingness that allowed my awareness. The answer might be in what constitutes awareness as it might exist beyond consciousness.
The described experience has happened several times. Despite this, I continue to think of it as one experience and cannot remember any differences from one event to another.
I had a spiritual director at the time, Ken, who was a Methodist Minister and Contemplative Group leader, and I talked to him about it. I want to interject that my first formal teacher was a Hindu Yogi who taught the Jnana Yogi practice of “neti-neti” as the goal of (meditative) thought. Neti-neti translates as “not this, not this” and is the equivalent of the apophatic in Christianity. When I learned neti-neti in 1977, it made perfect sense to me.
When I told Ken about above, he had me read William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience. In particular, he wanted me to understand the chapter on Mysticism (re., p 331) which in part reads —
1. Mystical states, when well developed, usually are and have the right to be, absolutely authoritative over the individual to whom they come.
2. No authority emanates from them which should make it a duty for those who stand outside of them to accept their revelations uncritically.
3. They break down the authority of the non-mystical or rationalistic consciousness, based upon the understanding and the senses alone… They open out the possibility of other orders of truth, in which, so far as anything in us vitally responds to them…”
All three of these apply to me. Ken emphasized the part about the breaking down of the authority of others. He added this as another possible cause for the negative reactions I receive when presenting any of this.”
At the time and after it, I was sitting in meditation with a Zen Group, a Quaker Meeting, a Christian Contemplative Group (Ken’s) and mostly by myself. I seem to have been born with the ability to meditate and naturally gravitate to silence. I like company but have no attachment to any dogma or group style.