There are numerous accounts of spontaneous enlightenment spread throughout the mystical and esoteric literary archives. Some from those who have established their mark in history, saints, prophets, and teachers of various traditions, and others, relatively unknown individuals who, with little or no warning, found themselves erupting into a new and expanded consciousness that could be as overwhelming as it was revelatory. Suddenly they seemed to be living in a new country with some kind of multidimensional awareness they were little prepared for. Adapting was a fierce struggle but somehow the only option. Shrinking back to safety seemed impossible.
Enlightenment at that level is far beyond the much prized serenity available during mindfulness meditation. It aims to destroy all your comfort zones before issuing a new map to the strange and vaguely threatening territories unveiled for your weak-kneed perceptions. Rather like a long lasting overdose of a psychedelic where the aliveness of everything becomes more than apparent and never really lets up. Another comparison might be those daring unfortunates who determinedly raise the kundalini from its nest at the base of the spine, are initially thrilled with the sparkling results but find they can never put the genie back in the bottle and are then seemingly condemned to such annoyances as picking up the random thoughts of other drivers in rush hour traffic.
How the seeker copes with all of this varies from case to case. With some it is plain they have ascended the ladder of consciousness in previous lives and the current one only confirms their proximity to the transcendence of normal human capacities, affording them a niche to calmly ‘know’. With others the leap is more cliff-edge and their free fall through space continues its crazy gymnastic gyrations for weeks or months as they seek some momentary peace from the pressures of hugely increased sensitivities.
From the first group we could example Deepa Kodikal, who during sleep, “Saw the entire span of the sky as seen from the earth. I was shown countless luminous stars scattered across the sky.” Later: “I saw that these myriad stars, seen and unseen, receding into the unknown, together formed a galaxy, girding the heavens; and I saw this mighty galaxy receding to a tiny star structure, then appearing as a single star among another group of a mightier galaxy, where each star was a galaxy itself.” Later: “This went on endlessly into infinity. Suddenly I found I was not on the earth watching this busy, hurling universe. I was at a point beyond the endless complex of galaxies, beyond the outer lonely galaxies girding the fathomless depths of inter-galactic spaces.”
Later: “All this time I was huge enough compared to the stars to have a span of vision encompassing the entire field of the firmament. My proportion to the stars was as is man’s in relation to a gnat, huge! But as I observed the star studded sky, the distance between me and the sky suddenly dwindled and the star universes were all around me, encircling me, floating by me. I found myself becoming smaller and smaller until I finally became non-existent. I was snuffed out. Now I was everywhere! I was everywhere at the same time! All-pervading. Any point and every point was a center. There was now nobody excepting these heavenly bodies floating gently by and me – all-pervading and all-seeing”.
Later, she summarises: “I was omnipresent, all-knowing and all-enjoying. But I was not the universe. I was totally free of it, independent of it and uninvolved in it. I spread everywhere, but formlessly and unencumbered by attachments, an eternal witness not bound by the universe. I was pure and intelligent consciousness, seeing all and knowing all, but not depending on the universe for sustenance.”
From the other group, Susanne Segal, who as a pregnant young woman living in Paris with her partner, was waiting for a bus home when “I lifted my right foot to step up into the bus and collided head-on with an invisible force that entered my awareness like a silently exploding stick of dynamite, blowing the door of my usual consciousness open and off its hinges, splitting me in two. In the gaping space that appeared what I had previously called ‘me’ was forcefully pushed out of its usual location into a new location that was approximately a foot behind and to the left of my head. ‘I’ was now behind my body looking out at the world without using the body’s eyes. All the body’s signals seemed to take a long time to be picked up in this non-localised place, as if they were light coming from a distant star.”
This disconnect continued for the bus ride, with discomfort and near terror, as she “felt cut loose from sensory solidity, separated from and witnessing the body from a vast distance.” Later: “The whole thing was nightmarish beyond belief. The terror was escalating rapidly and the body was panic stricken, sweat pouring in rivulets down its sides, hands cold and trembling, heart pumping furiously. The mind clicked into survival mode and I started looking for distractions. Maybe if I took a bath or a nap, ate some food or read a book or called someone on the phone.”
Later, after failing to explain any of this to herself or her husband: “The thought did arise that perhaps this experience of witnessing was the state of Cosmic Consciousness Maharishi had described long before as the first stage of awakened awareness. But the mind instantly discarded this possibility because it seemed impossible that the hell realm I was inhabiting could have anything to do with Cosmic Consciousness.”
More than a decade later she adds, “I was driving north to meet some friends when I suddenly became aware that I was driving through myself. For years there had been no self at all, yet here on this road everything was myself and I was driving through me to arrive where I already was. In essence I was going nowhere because I was everywhere already.” She sees that she has confronted her fear of the no-self and that “Fear didn’t need to go anywhere for the personal self to be seen as non-existent. After all where could it possibly go, it had never existed. Fear’s grip now broke and joy arose at once. The experience of emptiness had given up its secret: the emptiness was seen to be nothing but the very substance of everything.”
Finally: “Needless to say, nothing has ever been the same since. The fact that ‘I’ no longer existed, that there was no person anymore, gave way finally and completely to the realization that there is nothing that is not myself. What remains when there is no self is all that is.”
Others fall somewhere in between. Lester Levenson, following on from his realization that giving ever more and more love to others was the actual source of his own happiness, contemplates “the source of intelligence and energy” and discovers that they are both available in unlimited amounts” and that they came “simply by freeing myself from all compulsions, inhibitions, entanglements and hang-ups”. And he saw that he had “damned up this energy” and all he had to do was “pry loose the logs of the dam, his hang-ups and compulsions, to allow this infinite energy to flow”. Pretty soon he was seeing that “the source of all this energy and intelligence, was basically harmonious and that harmony was the rule of the universe, why planets were not colliding and why the sun rose every day.” Undoing all his bodily and mind limitations, he let go of those identifications and saw that his “Beingness was all Beingness, was like one grand ocean, not chopped up into parts called drops or bodies, but all one ocean.” Finally he concludes that “When we get in tune, our capacity to love is so extreme that we love everyone with an intensity which makes living the most delightful it could ever be.”
These individuals are quoted in the book Moments Of Enlightenment (Robert and Judith Ullman, Conari Press 2001), along with many monks, rabbi, poets and swamis, some well known like Meher Baba, Yogananda, Gopi Krishna and Krishnamurti. What actually occurs with these sudden illuminations, satoris and enlightenments? I believe the greater self, the higher self, the monad, descends from its higher elevation to the ego on earth, most likely by a pre-arrangement, known but neglected by the persona with the name and recognizable identity, springing them beyond the perceiving self into all that is perceived and revealing the inner divinity that is given to all, no matter how small and insignificant, and forcing them to embrace that radiance rather than merely admitting it theoretically, as many aspirants and seekers will readily do.
Such Cosmic Consciousness is without doubt a gift and a blessing but it comes with a shock, a sword that slices all our assumptions about both the sacred and profane, leaving us breathless with astonishment and unsure of our new but ancient role. As another experiencer Robert Adams puts it: “There is the Pure Awareness that is with you all the time, just waiting your recognition, awaiting your understanding that you are not the body, that you are a spirit, called the Atman, Brahman, Absolute Reality. This is who you really are. This is your real nature.”
Earlier in my journey I had sensed this presence but had called it, at various stages of my mental development, self-consciousness, the observer, the witness. I now see that I was perceiving only a small part of ‘it’, the segment I was then able to cope with. More recently I have come to see it as a speck of the huge and endless being that sent ‘me’ here to (a), shoulder the burdens of incarnation and (b) throw them off with a giddy squeal of Eureka!