in Mystical Experiences

Dark Nights of Meditative Souls

“I never saw, heard, nor felt anything in my 28 years of practicing meditation.

Dee Ashley, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Dee Ashley, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Fascinating that you saw the Spiritual Eye while meditating and while cycling.”

Thus confessed the former monk in his email response to my post Natural Causes of the Spiritual Eye.

Godfrey (I’ve changed his name to hide his identity) was an ordained monk for nearly three decades in the Self-Realization Fellowship Monastic Order. After he and I both escaped the shackles of the Ashram, we could speak freely to each other without fear of reprisals or excommunication from the Fellowship. We became real friends after we both left the Order.

His email diatribe continued, “Well, maybe I felt nothing in 28 years of meditation except occasional vibes of peace and love”.

“The Spiritual Eye I ‘saw’ while cycling did not seem like anything that was actually special”, I replied to my former-monk friend, Godfrey. “My Hindu-Yoga indoctrinations have never failed to provide me with endless interpretations of psychophysical phenomenon. Ditto with so-called Om sounds that I’ve described. [See my posts The Sound of Om and Om: Sound of Spirit OR of Tinnitus?].

“My present conclusion is, that these experiences of the Spiritual Eye or Om sounds are natural brain or nerve phenomena that are filtered through layers of deeply held religious interpretations. I still catch myself wanting to feel special, blessed from on High.

Dee Ashley, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Dee Ashley, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Today, as I experiment and study yoga, meditation, and mindfulness with the last vestiges of religious interpretation, I find there is overwhelming evidence that so-called supernatural experiences have natural explanations. Call it shanti (peace) or samadhi (a yogic-folkloric-mystic ecstasy), or the Spiritual Eye or the sounds of Om–these are all religiously interpreted states of consciousness. [See my post Religiously Interpreted States of Consciousness].

“One man’s self-realization is another man’s hallucination or imagination. Justifiable, verifiable knowledge–not speculations– is credible. Looking at the data for what it is, not what we want it to mean, is our only chance at objective truth. And, even then, it’s contingent upon future data.

“So sad that our Father and Mother ‘Superiors’ discouraged us from talking about personal experiences in meditation, or lack thereof. I frequently felt discouraged while a monk. I never seemed holy or perfect enough. The gold-standard we compared ourselves to was a heap of myths and anecdotes of gurus and saints like Yogananda, Daya Mata, and of ‘advanced’ disciples.

“There’s a thin line separating humiliation from inspiration in those fables of embodied divine perfection. Perhaps discouraging us from talking about our personal experiences of meditation was a pious way to control or to avoid scrutiny of the sacred teachings.

“Strange, twisted fellowship that was. One imperfect, truly human friend is of greater value than dozens of, so-called, divine friends.


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  1. Love this post — personal, and straight forward in your opinions.

    Yesterday, while on a 10 hour car trip, I had several episodes of “change of consciousness” where my sense of self dissolved, I felt at rest, I felt hugely expansive and blissfully insignificant at once. These were sensations I first had as a child and then in meditation and then they came back into my “normal” life. It was fun having those feeling blast into my day yesterday. But like you, I am far from thinking of them as spiritual, but will continue to enjoy and learn from them.