Dave’s story is resonant of the patterns inherent in most spiritual awakening experiences; deep existential questionning in childhood followed by an ineffable experience of ‘Oneness’ with the love of the Universe, which completely transforms our world view. This blissful experience often leads to dispair due to a struggle to explain the experience to others, and the pressure to continue to conform to a society that feels too restrictive as a result. These experiences can be isolating if we can’t find others who understand and to whom we can relate, hence the importance of communities such as this, and the bravery of people such as Dave sharing his journey…
This story began long before I had any memories, but the primary and most powerful experience was forty-five years ago. I was eighteen and had become absorbed in the deep distress of my friend, at one point spending a continuous seven hours wondering how she had become so distressed and what could possibly be of any assistance. I knew I could not help in any real way: I had poor confidence and communication skills, little experience of life, and did not know who to turn to. But I strongly felt that help was needed and had to be provided somehow.
Through a long car journey and then sitting alone in my room, this question must have turned into a deep and wordless prayer, reaching a point where I was lifted entirely out of myself into the underlying reality of existence. This was so other-worldly that it did not register on my conscious mind; my everyday self was sitting on a chair but I was immersed in a primary aspect of the cosmos. For a timeless period I was gone.
Slowly I started to return to my body, and I began to feel some after-effects of the realm where I had been taken; an extraordinary bliss and power, a fathomless depth of love manifesting in the material and immaterial realms. Effortlessly energising all substance, consciousness, and movement, the radiation of an incredible love powers every aspect of existence.
Not having any words to describe this, I just stayed with it, my entire outlook on life completely changed. Sometimes I saw a person’s interpenetrating psychic layers, full of complexity and meaning in slow, or quicker, movement. Each us so absorbed in our own concerns that we couldn’t see the extraordinary wonder of life. Adults were especially unaware of the energetic layers of their psyche, disconnected from so much of their being. Yet if those energies had not been there, the physical body would just have collapsed; slowly disintegrating into a formless puddle.
There I was, without any direction about what to do with it all. With an underlying blissfulness I just followed routines, believing if I kept quiet it would create less disturbance. Meanwhile I tried to find out what was going on: how is it everyone was so imprisoned in themselves? Feeling high and relaxed, I went to school and wondered why it was important that I should isolate myself in my brain and work with ideas that had no direct relevance to the underlying realities in life. Coming home again I kept an inner distance from my family, unable to share my experience in a way that communicated something of its nature. Any time I started to open up about this experience the response was dense and confused, missing the quality of the experience entirely. I couldn’t find the right words at all.
About three months later I was more or less in an everyday state of mind again. My friend was doing better and I wondered about whether to share all this with her. Rightly or wrongly, I also felt she would not appreciate the wonder of it and would think I had lost my mind somehow. So I went on searching for someone who knew. I read many books and went to churches: I was disappointed to see many religious people talking about holy things without really connecting to them, without living it in a moment by moment experience. The search became more desperate as my ignorantly practiced bad habits began to bring me down. Eventually I opened a tatty little book that had been lying around for some time; Knowledge of the Higher Worlds by Rudolf Steiner PhD. I drank in this book that had looked so unappealing: it spoke to me! I became aware that the person who wrote that book knew exactly what he was talking about. I felt wonderfully re-assured and refreshed. I did not understand the book, yet it felt utterly authentic. Steiner had provided an instruction manual for inner development, one that took account of the different dimensions of human existence in the modern age. So I relaxed, thinking I will get round to doing the exercises he recommended sometime in the future, and re-engaged with ordinary teenage existence.
Lacking confidence in the everyday world, and without any sense of what occupational role I should get involved with I lived day-to-day, simply believing that applying myself to spiritual practice and maintaining my independence was enough. Aimless and easily led, I also discounted much of everyday life, thinking the spiritual was more essential. Over-doing meditative practices, in particular, led me to be ungrounded and unaware of the ordinary realities, including how my ordinary personality worked. This meant I had a poor memory, was intermittently sensitive, and was rarely “fully present” in ordinary life.
Independent and rather isolated, I floated through jobs and different situations, negotiated changes, travelled, studied and gained a wide range of experience. In my thirties I felt I needed to become more involved with life. Eventually I found an occupational role that suited me, got married, had children and a health service career.
As I finally practice some of Steiner’s exercises, I begin to see how much I have missed in life. Yet maybe that needed to happen before I could freely and consciously apply myself to self-improvement. Although I am now deliberately strengthening it, my will-power is still not good enough to balance my thinking and feeling, and I remain vulnerable to drifting into murky waters.
I have become wary of the direction of my thoughts and passions: I know these can mislead me. Patiently I need to acquire the ability to take charge of my inner life: to learn how to strengthen it against self-importance, materialism and other psychological, spiritual and cultural influences. I need to fully appreciate the people around me and the contribution they make to our development. Nowadays the possibility exists of not being continuously swept up in the dramas of everyday life, but to be open to a subtle inner guidance informing my selection of what to see, what to do, and how to go about it.
Although I remain in my spiritual infancy, and fall over all the time, yet there is some progress. When I fully pay attention to each clink of the washing up, I hear an extraordinary symphony of incidental music. The calls of the seagulls echo with infinite desolation, or contentment, or irritation in their fight over food. People are by far the most amazing; how is it that we say we say, and do what we do, out of all the things that could be said and done? And through the whole wide world, every psychic movement in each individual is lovingly overseen, in a transcendent framework of developmental opportunity.
As Dave clearly demonstrates; the spiritual evolution journey is continuous post ‘wake- up’, and integrating the spiritual and human aspects of us is so vital….being mindful and grateful for each moment of life as much as we can be can certainly help with the process.