Mystical experience, spiritual experience, religious experience, transcendent experience... These all sound equally unusual until it happens to you when you realise that it doesn't matter what you call it because you have been shown the truth in the most profound way possible. I prefer transcendent experience but most people seem to call it mystical experience so I guess I'll stick with that.
This is an attempt at documenting the notoriously difficult to document mystical experience that happened to me at the start of August 2017. I want to record it because maybe one day it'll be useful for me to look back on and writing about it has helped me digest and process it.
This guy sums it up the commonalities of all mystical experiences very well in a 3 minute video if you're not interested in the specifics for me.
One Sunday afternoon the weather wasn't great and I didn't have much to do so I was walking around the Meadows to think about stuff and generally spend some time outside. In the weeks before I had been thinking about a lot of different things quite deeply - maths, consciousness, technology, what it means for something to be conscious or not, alive or dead (and if that question even makes sense), process or object, lots of philosophy and, for the last week or so in particular, metaphysics. My mind went there again.
Then it happened.
I started thinking about how things like colours and sounds don't really exist and moments later I started having, for want of a better term, a vision. I'm not talking about a hallucination, it was that the entire structure and fabric of reality was laid out in front of me.
I suddenly became aware that everything is connected. It's all the same. My vision was one of absolute unity. I don't just mean in a "we're all made of stardust" sort of way (although, of course, we are), but an awareness that everything - time, space, all matter, life, consciousness, thought and, indeed, anything that can or could exist - is all a single completely interconnected cosmic oneness. I am me, you, that car over there, the pavement, the trees, the internet and the ocean. We are all a single entity.
The impact and profundity of this realisation is impossible to overstate. I don't like the word God (most baggage laden word ever?) but I saw that there is absolutely a divinity to all of existence.
I saw the bigger picture. I saw how all the dots join up. Even in the moment I was aware that nothing was different and yet everything had changed.
I had always been able to understand things in isolation, but struggled with contradictions when trying to piece things together or make more complete sense of the world. In this experience all of that vanished. I realised that there aren't multiple things to understand and piece together - there is only one thing to understand. All.
The best metaphor I can come up with is that previously I was living in a world where I could only teleport between places - I had knowledge and experiences of so many familiar places, but with no understanding of how they connected at all. Suddenly I was shown a map and it was like a dense fog had cleared and I could suddenly see as far as I wanted. Before there were holes - impenetrable and unresolvable black boxes - in my understanding but I could see all the connections now and the holes disappeared. It was all so clear and obvious.
As the vision continued and deepened I saw how the force that drives evolution is the same force that drives the entire universe and allows reality to unfold as an infinite fractal, with life existing on the ever breaking wave of that fractal. I saw too how consciousness mirrors this, with an inherent tension to our existence between the ego (which I saw as black) on one side of this "breaking fractal wave" and egolessness (which I saw as yellow) - a conflict between the self and selfless.
Consciousness is fundamental. There is, or seems to be, an infinity to the fractal experience of consciousness. As the ego lessens, consciousness expands outwards ever farther, ever more peaceful. This is what happens when you die. By now I had walked up onto Arthur's Seat and, blissfully and in awe, I tumbled, drifted and swam in the yellow sea of absolute contentment, peace and tranquility that is egoless living. It was heavenly.
My perspective felt completely fluid and I could alter it at will. I briefly saw the world through around 20 radically different human perspectives of my choosing and felt that, given more time, I could have seen, felt, experienced and understood any that I wanted. There are an infinite number and I realised that I could be any one of these. Total compassion and absolute acceptance is the only approach that makes any sense to living. I was suddenly hit with an extremely heavy sense of responsibility.
Back to thinking about metaphysics, my visual field disappeared and I saw stark, raw reality. It is dark (which is interesting, since reality has no colour) and brutally powerful. I saw the pure energy of reality through a non-human or even non-biological perspective. The force was fearsome but it wasn't frightening. I was in awe. Everything really is just energy and vibration. Our entire human existence and experience is just one of infinite interpretations of reality. The power and magnitude of this sight and the increasing awareness that I was not only a component of this incredible, incomprehensible vastness, but I was also the entire thing blew my head clean open. I am both an unimaginably tiny part of an infinitely larger whole and yet I am also the whole.
But, as I now realise, when the experience started to end - as gently and mysteriously as it started - my mind moved on to other things, the other side of the fractal. With some level of normal cognition returning, I moved back into full-on analysis mode and started to introspect and look at the nature of the ego. With my shattered perceptions and feeling that anything I thought I knew was open to question, I couldn't handle it. I had had enough. Starting to introspect at that time seemed like an infinite void and it terrified me. Something for another time or a more gentle situation. I headed for home, picking up wine and pizza. I couldn't even begin to come to terms with the experience and I didn't want to be awake any more.
I got home, utterly exhausted but with my mind still completely buzzing. I stood sagging, shaking and breathing deeply in the kitchen and had to hold onto the radiator. Not for support, I just needed something, anything, to try to anchor me back in the reality I was familiar with. I wandered about the flat a bit, a quivering mess, but I wasn't looking at anything, I was just trying to let my mind get some purchase again.
The whole experience had lasted about 3 or 4 hours and, once I was finally able to pass out, I slept very, very deeply.
Fuck. Seriously heavy stuff.
The following days
The next day I woke to go to work, still feeling extremely unusual to say the least. On the way down the stairs I had to suddenly cling to the wall for stability as my visual field disappeared again and I was struck by seeing reality through that non-biological perspective. It's not so much that I could see through the building as I realised that the building didn't exist. At least not at all like I had always thought it did. Whoa! Seriously freaky and I prefer my reality more filtered than that vibrating and temporal uninterpreted rawness.
I wondered how I would cope at work but the distraction was kind of useful, allowing my unconscious mind to do what it does and sift through all the craziness. Gradually my perspective stabilised and when, the following day, I "saw through" my desk - the universe black and vibrating again - at work I realised that this perspective was fading and I started trying to savour it as much as I could. I didn't want to forget although I now know that forgetting would have been impossible even if I had wanted to. Over the rest of the week normal life reasserted itself but the whole thing was far from over.
6 months later
As I write this 6 or 7 months later, I continue to be amazed by just how much this has affected me. It was a 1000% consciousness upgrade and I still think about it every day. Only now am I starting to be able to put any of it into words.
I feel smarter than before. Not more intelligent, but thoughts and ideas come together much more easily and quickly now. EVERYTHING makes more sense now. I don't think I'll ever say "none of this makes any sense" in that totally exasperated way I used to from time to time. Reality has lost its mystery but rather than losing its beauty it is even more beautiful than before. I feel a very deep sense of peace where once there was frustration and tension. I feel healthier too, in mind and body. The desire for self-destructive behaviours seems to be vanishing.
There is so much less doubt throughout all of my mind now and I feel a lot more self-assured. I always used to question everything, asking why?, why?, why? all the way up the chain until reaching metaphysical questions. Then when answering *those* questions I could only ever do so with uncertainty which, I now realise, ultimately gave me somewhat shakey and uncertain foundations on which I had to base the rest of my opinions and thoughts - I couldn't be certain of anything.
What happened is that I formed a belief (stronger version: I was shown the truth) and it has solidified my entire cognition. I am more together now. It snapped my psyche into shape and rewired my brain. It feels like there have been some structural changes in the way my mind works. I see connections now and it altered me. Fundamentally and irrevocably.
It feels like I have spent my whole life confused and now anything that I think about just seems to fall into place. It's a really, really, really incredible feeling.
(Slightly) Open questions
At the time I was scared to investigate too deeply the nature of the ego. Something was holding me back. I think that is because the realisation of the unity of everything means that my previously held ideas about the self and who I am just don't hold up any more. If separation is an illusion, what is this "me" that is experiencing everything?
Despite seeing how the "inside" mirrors the "outside" world until finally realising that they are one and the same, letting go of the idea of a self doesn't come naturally but I think it is this gradual dissolution of the self (or, more accurately, acceptance of the self as total inter-being) and new ideas about (no/all-?)self-identity that are creating a lot of the changes in me. In fact, it seems like that's exactly where I'm heading. But not without plenty of thought. All part of the transformative experience, I suspect. Hmm...
There is no doubt that this experience was so profound that it felt like being shown the absolute truth. However (and I do bear this in mind), even during the experience I was very aware that a lot of what I was being shown was linking together previous ideas and thoughts that I'd had. In fact, almost none of it was new. Was I really right about all of these things? Seems a little unlikely, even if the idea of that would make me feel good!
In fact, the only *really* new thing I was shown was the absolute unity (although the impact and meaningfulness of that can't be overstated). Even that has roots in a lot of philosophical questions that I had been asking myself for years. I wonder what would have happened if I had entered that experience with totally different ideas? I wonder if this is how cults and religions are started.
Strange though that there seem to be common features among all those who have these experiences, no matter the culture or background with absolute unity being one of the main ones. Here's another link to the video I posted at the top of this page that highlights the characteristics that seem to be common.
Quickly after my experience I searched the web for things like "everything's the same" and "reality is fractal" which led me to realise that the vision I had and the belief that I formed is called pantheism.
What a gift this experience was! It is something like no other. I have no idea how you might trigger it. I would certainly give it to anyone and everyone, if I was able.
Mind blowing and life changing. It really has changed my existence and I could not be more thankful.