by Laurence Clarkberg
Here’s a quote from one of my favorite books, Space-Time and Beyond:
YOU CANNOT BE AWARE OF
WHAT IS BEYOND SPACE-TIME
YOU CAN WALK IN THIS DREAM
WITH THE HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS
THAT IS THE REAL
IT WILL FIND YOU
EVERY EVENT IN THE INDEFINITE
NUMBER OF UNIVERSES IS
INFLUENCED BY YOU
THERE IS LIFE IN
YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU’VE BEEN
WE WON’T STOP SMILING
WHEN WE WALK, WE’LL FLOAT
AND LIGHT WILL POUR FROM OUR EYES
THE INTERPENETRATION OF THE UNIVERSES HAS BEGUN
Pretty trippy stuff. Easy to dismiss in the light of day. And yet, I believe, sometime in your life there will come a shining moment, herein called a “spiritual awakening,” when you will “get it,” when you will intuitively understand the wild ideas in this quote, when they become so obvious to you that you’ll be comfortable with and understanding of attempts like this to explain the unexplainable. As you know, I had such a shining moment myself, “it found me,” in October of 2016, and that led me to do a lot of research into spiritual awakenings.
Today I feel led to give you two things. Firstly I want to apologize to you and your sister and your mom that my quest caused me to be absent in your lives for a few years. So sorry! I love you all so much. Don’t be a stranger. And for you in particular, Thea, if you can find it in your heart to forgive me, I would like to resume my role of gentle guidance in your life. And so secondly, I want to discuss with you what I learned about spiritual awakenings, so that when “it finds you” you’ll be ready for your own appointed transformation and you won’t freak out about it. What do you already know about spiritual awakenings? What experiences have you had? What do you believe about spiritual awakenings?
Writing (and reading) about spiritual awakenings is a tricky business. There is the chance that a skeptical reader will harden against these ideas, and so become less likely to experience an awakening themself. Alternatively, there is the chance that a sympathetic reader will embrace these ideas a little too much before they are ready, and so experience a “partial awakening” that causes them to freeze with fear, or abuse their superpowers for personal gain, or become vulnerable to predation. I believe that most of what we call “mental illness” these days is the result of partial awakenings. The “cure” for such “illness” is to become open to having a full awakening.
Let’s define our terms. What is a spiritual awakening? I define it simply as a process in which a person’s personality and life goals change, often suddenly, in response to some kind of shock. I learned that there seems to be consistent descriptions as to how this process unfolds.
Have you, dear daughter, already had a spiritual awakening? Certainly. I believe “expected” awakenings of various degrees occur at all transitional times of our lives: our own birth, graduation, marriage, a child’s birth, getting a new job, moving into a new house, beginning a new relationship, the death of a loved one, and (eventually, finally) our own death. We like to have parties to facilitate and celebrate such life course transitions: birthday parties, graduation ceremonies, weddings, house warmings, funerals, etc. Then there are the “unexpected” awakenings, which can be triggered by any number of shocks: psychedelic drug use; or energy effects such as “shaktipat;” or physical injury such as certain back or head injuries; or trauma from sexual or physical abuse; or in conjunction with post traumatic stress syndrome, or near death experiences; or extreme orgasm.
In addition to the “trigger” I believe that there are certain lifestyle choices that can help someone prepare for, and increase their chances for, an unexpected spiritual awakening. These predispositions include: having a good diet and good self-care in general; avoiding addictions; having an energy flow practice such as yoga or dance; maintaining open-mindedness; insisting on honesty and authenticity in one’s relationships; having an internal awareness practice such as meditation or attending Quaker meetings; living “outside the box” mentally through practices such as activism and making art; and living “outside the box” physically by frequently biking or walking outdoors. And some people may be genetically predisposed to have an awakening. Perhaps they have mystics or healers in their family history. Perhaps they feel drawn to the esoteric arts. All human societies recognize those among themselves who seek a spiritual path, who with help become shamans. Are you such a person?
Conversely, what sorts of lifestyle choices hinder a spiritual awakening? The top constraint is fear. People fear change. A lot. And so they purposefully blind themselves to the possibility of an awakening. People react negatively to any mention of spiritual awakenings. It is uncanny how, if you try to talk with them about it, they will change the topic, or suddenly remember an urgent appointment elsewhere, and walk away without even realizing that they are activating their avoidance mechanisms. Are you such a person?
That part of a person that fears a spiritual awakening has been called the “ego.” A spiritual awakening destroys the ego, so the ego leads you away, unconsciously, from even thinking about a spiritual awakening. Anything that strengthens and sustains your ego hinders a spiritual awakening, even seemingly simple things such as taking on roles and feeling obligated to meet other people’s expectations of who you are. Even something as basic as other people using your name strengthens your delusion of self, your ego, and hinders your realization of your true self in a spiritual awakening. If you decide to open yourself to the possibility of a spiritual awakening, avoid letting people give you any names, or titles, or obligations or even letting people take your photograph.
Other things to pay attention to, which might hinder an awakening, include: poor posture that restricts energy flow, over-reliance on language, or being indoors too much. And a rigid belief system can have a harmful effect: practice letting go of what you think you know. Ironically, religious beliefs can take you farther rather than closer to an awakening. On the surface it may seem that scientific beliefs can hinder a spiritual awakening, but scratch the surface of science and there are a lot of ideas there that support a spiritual worldview, in particular and of interest to me are quantum mechanics (see Space-Time and Beyond) and fractal mathematics. True scientists recognize and explore subjectivity rather than try to pretend it doesn’t exist. True scientists aren’t afraid to look inwards. Only fearful scientists limit themselves to the objectivity and comfort of classical mechanics.
A question might arise for you here: why would I want to experience a spiritual awakening? What’s in it for me? Do I really need to never stop smiling, to “float when I walk,” and have “light pouring from my eyes”? Frankly that sounds kind of creepy. And the answer is, of course not, nobody wants a spiritual awakening. Or, if they do want it, then they are mistaken about what it is (and who they are). In fact, the more you want it, the less likely it is to happen to you, because such a desire comes from your ego, not from your true self, and such a desire indicates an inflated ego. But just as you can’t not be born, no matter how much you want to remain in your mother’s womb, you can’t not have a spiritual awakening. It will find you sometime in this lifetime. Or, popularly, on your deathbed. Or in your next lifetime. According to Buddhist philosophy, you get lots of chances. As many as you like. Everything is up to you. The question is, “Who are you?”
How do you know if you are having or have had a spiritual awakening? I remember reading somewhere that Zen Buddhists have developed various nonsensical questions, called koans, to help them test whether someone is experiencing a genuine spiritual awakening. Famous koans include “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Or, “What did your face look like before you were born?” This is all fine and good, but I think there is a simpler way to test if you are experiencing a genuine spiritual awakening: are you acting bat-shit crazy? Are you muttering to yourself? Do you cry easily for no reason? Do you shake and tremble? Do you want to tell people about your “discoveries”? Do your discoveries include some variation of “We are all one”? When you look at a clock, is the time 11:11? Do you keep seeing coincidences, and does everything appear to have hidden meanings? Do you sometimes feel profound compassion? Do you feel like you are tripping? Do you feel like walls are tumbling down? Do you feel a luminosity, a clarity, a limitlessness is entering your life? Do you feel like you’ve developed superpowers such as telepathy or astral travel or seeing auras? Do people either avoid you or have an intense interest in you and want to tell you their life stories? Do you have a sudden interest in magic? Do you see visions, or hear voices? Hmmm. Could be a spiritual awakening at work. My advice is, above all else, don't panic. Don’t rely on what other people think (including me). Learn to follow your own intuition. Spiritual guides (both internal and external) will appear as needed. You’ll recognize them when you meet them. The goddess (or whoever embodies your spiritual paradigm) has your back. Learn to trust them.
Calming medication may be called for in the short term, but only if you really just cannot stand the intensity of it all. But don’t rely on medication for the long term. Suppressing a spiritual awakening will lead to more problems than letting it run its course. And “running its course” will be different for everyone but you may have some or all of the following waypoints along your journey:
You may experience an unsettling loss of identity, what one author calls The End of Your World. In some traditions this is called “ego death”. Your roles and obligations may fade away. You may have to quit your job. You may need to end some close relationships. You may need a lot of alone time to process all this.
You may experience disorientation, including paranoia. Just remember: the universe is ultimately benign. Any monsters you meet are actually there to help you. Challenge them. Ask them what gifts they have for you. They are obliged to stop trying to scare you and to give you their gift. Works every time.
You may experience increased energy flow. A sudden spiritual awakening can blow a hole right up through all your chakras and leave you very sensitive to energy effects. You may be sensitive to the feelings of people around you. You may find yourself shaking uncontrollably in the evenings. You may find your hands react to beauty and truth by spontaneously forming gestures (mudras). You may find an incredible increase in your sexuality. Develop an energy flow practice such as dance or yoga so that you don’t fight the energy but learn to go with the flow.
You may develop a deep appreciation for music and other arts. You may find new understandings in songs and movies that appealed to you before your awakening. There is a reason they appealed to you.
You may find it necessary to seek out people you’ve wronged in the past and ask for their forgiveness. And you’ll develop a need to forgive yourself. You may want to seek the help of a healer to help you overcome past trauma.
Lastly, with some luck (what is luck, really, but the goddess having your back?) you may come out of it all with a renewed sense of purpose. You may end up innovating in some way and starting a business, or fighting successfully for human rights in some way, or simply living a life of bliss. It’s all good.
Apparently, I learned, it’s possible to get stuck at various points in a spiritual awakening, what one author calls having a partial awakening. What are some harmful directions a partial spiritual awakening can take? (The idea of linking spiritual awakening to mental health was notably explored by Stanislav and Christina Grof in their book Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis.)
I know people who became so open-minded and receptive that they became overwhelmed. They developed paranoid thoughts and came to believe they were under constant surveillance by evil forces. They easily came to believe in conspiracy theories. They became unable to function in society.
I know people who were under a lot of pressure to pretend to be “normal,” and developed an incredible sense of shame about their awakening, leading them to not trust themselves, and so they allowed others to abuse them, and they came to mistrust people, and they became socially isolated.
On the other hand, I’ve met people who embraced the superpowers that were the result of their awakening, and used those superpowers for personal gain. Their partial awakening increased their ego rather than diminished it. This is a mistake that the ancient Greeks called “hubris”. The gods punish hubris.
Some people become lost in the Dark Night of the Soul, also known as the Chapel Perilous, which leads them to become confused about their identity, or have multiple identities. I believe schizophrenia may be a result of this kind of partial awakening.
I believe from personal experience that manic depression results from trying to suppress a spiritual awakening. Just like trying to hold a flag in a heavy wind makes the flag flap uncontrollably, the force of suppression generates extreme cycles of too much faith followed by extreme loss of faith, which we call mania and depression.
One result of a spiritual awakening is becoming very in tune with “nature”. Nature is not doing too well these days as a result of dominator culture tearing things up. And so sensitive people may acquire either a debilitating helplessness or an uncontrollable rage without fully understanding why.
Lastly, if you or a person you know is experiencing a spiritual awakening, what should you do to help them? I would say the best thing to do is nothing. Above all do no harm. Let them work it out for themselves. Perhaps tell them about your own experiences. I could say more, but this question is starting to get beyond the scope of this letter. But I will leave you with a quote from the Grof’s book:
Being surrounded by people who have at least a general understanding of the basic dynamics of spiritual emergency is of great help to a person in psychospiritual crisis. Whether the attitudes and interactions in the narrow circle of close relatives and friends are nourishing and supportive or fearful, judgemental, and manipulative makes a considerable difference in terms of the course and outcome of the episode.
Thanks for reading. Stay in touch.