Hello, my name is E, I’m a professor at a research university with a PhD in the environmental sciences. Until a few months ago, I described myself as agnostic. Today, I’m not sure what I am but would probably call myself some kind of nondual pantheist because I was fortunate enough to have a two-hour conversation with god after starting a regular meditation practice this year.
The god I conversed with was not any of the typical gods I was familiar with (certainly not the Christian God), but I’ve found my religious experience reflected quite well in other reports of direct experiences with God/Universal Consciousness/the Source/the Divine/the Holy Spirit — etc. In particular, it satisfied the 4 criteria of William James:
- Transient – the experience is temporary; the individual soon returns to a “normal” frame of mind. Feels outside normal perception of space and time.
- Ineffable – the experience cannot be adequately put into words.
- Noetic – the individual feels that he or she has learned something valuable from the experience. Feels to have gained knowledge that is normally hidden from human understanding.
- Passive – the experience happens to the individual, largely without conscious control. Although there are activities, such as meditation, that can make religious experience more likely, it is not something that can be turned on and off at will.
I can’t say if I believe that my experience provides evidence for a higher power, or the alternative hypothesis that the human brain has access to an inner god-like presence, but at this point I can’t really tell the difference between those hypotheses and am content to assume they point to the same underlying reality.
If nothing else, God is an experience available to everyone and it’s an experience that is worth the pursuit. If it happens to make you a better person that’s just a nice bonus.
One thing I am sure of is that religions are founded by people who have an experience like mine and try to tell others about it. Unfortunately, it seems that once religious beliefs become institutionalized they become more about the control of believers and less about teaching how to access God directly. (Mainly because if you access God directly you realize that what you’ve been taught in Church is mostly nonsense). Really, the only valid way to compare religious traditions is to ask How efficient is the religion in leading its believers to a continuous religious experience? This is a scientific question that I have not yet seen asked or answered.
These days, it’s simple for me to tell who else has had this experience — their words echo with a Truth that I never appreciated before. Jesus of Nazareth had it, and tried to explain it as succinctly as he could (though ironically his millions of followers seem to skip over it — it comes in at #95 on the The 100 Most Read Bible Verses).
Matthew 22:34 And when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they themselves gathered together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with a question: 36 “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?”
37 Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’d 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’e 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In Matthew 22, Jesus shows that he is enlightened by the knowledge that All is One and All is Love — he equates “Love the Lord your God” with “Love your neighbor” because Your Neighbor is God is You is That Tree Over There is The Whole Damn Universe. He tells everyone: This is it! The most important commandment! Everything hangs on it! That commandment repeats the Truth I experienced, which is that God is Love and the only path to salvation is Unconditional Love for God aka The Universe aka Everything — the Good AND the Bad. Good luck with that! Once you can love Barack Obama and Donald Trump and Osama Bin Laden and Mother Theresa exactly equally (that is, totally and completely) then you will be well on your way to enlightenment and perpetual union with God. Get started now with a mettā loving-kindness meditation from the Buddhist tradition.
In John 15:5, Jesus used the analogy that he/God was the grapevine, and his followers were the branches. Of course, the apparent difference between them is only a trick of our imagination, they are in reality only One — the grape plant. During my experience, I hit upon a similar analogy in the microbial world — that of fungi. Looking from above, we see each mushroom as an individual, with it’s own size and shape and color and imperfections, but if you look below the ground, you’ll see that they’re actually all connected through a network of hyphae that make up the mycelium that is actually the bulk of the organism. Similarly, I felt that as humans we see each other and the world around us as individual and separate. Even though we are all unique expressions of God’s love, underneath that illusion we are actually all part of the same One thing.
During my experience, I didn’t see or hear anything specific, I just knew or felt the answers as soon as I had questions, and tried to write the answers down and rearrange them as best as I could afterwards. Many religions espouse some kind of Triad, and I felt that also, denoted as I/We/You, though it was often hard to tell the difference between the human-ego-I and the universal-I and the human-We and the universal-We. At that time, I had read some about Buddhism and Christianity and not much about Hinduism, but interestingly the presence felt more closely aligned with Shiva/Shakti than with other deities — I don’t know why. Anyway, here’s what I ended up with — enjoy.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
We are all expressions of god
exploring the landscape of the universe
suffering is a choice We made
in order to experience this world
bad things happen in the world because We allow/want/need them to
good things happen in the world because We allow/want/need them to
to experience all that is available to experience
time is real but also an illusion
all things have happened and will happen
at this exact moment
We are the creators and the created
but who created us?
If We are the infinity
the aleph-null: ℵ0
then who is ℵ1 ?
what is ℵℵ ?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE GOD?
there is neither good nor evil
there is no heaven
there is no hell
except that being apart from You
and being able to experience this world
but We chose this separation
so it’s ok
We are as children
We do silly things
but We are loved eternally
sometimes We are admonished
We admonish ourselves
for being childish
We are accepted and loved
We can’t not be loved
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HUMAN?
everything is perfect exactly as it is
everyone is perfect exactly as they are
yes even bad people
even the worst people
because we are all expressions of god’s love
We were given agency
to make things more interesting
to explore every nook and cranny of experience in this world
but We are the prodigal children
we are already forgiven
and everything we do is perfect
yes, even the bad things
forgiven for what?
for not living in perfect accordance with our true expression
for not embodying our holy spirit in every second of every day
We cannot improve ourselves
because there is nothing to improve
We are already perfect
We cannot get closer to god
We cannot get farther away from god
god is within us always
but We can bring ourselves closer to being a pure expression of god
through worship and right living
it is not expected or required
but it is permissible, thank god
it is acceptable to use shortcuts to commune with god
but they are necessarily temporary
it is better, more fulfilling
to align our human nature with our divine nature
and live always in commune with god
there are no falsehoods
but some things are Truer than others
to exalt god is to live your own Truth
as truly as possible
our purpose in life is to be here
at this exact place
at this exact moment
experiencing this world
exactly as We are
there is nothing else
this is it
BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?
why am I here?
do I have a special purpose?
yes you are here to love
and be loved
and experience this life
and to accept suffering
and to relieve suffering
you can’t not matter
and it doesn’t matter
if this human body believes
or doesn’t believe
it’s ok, either way
you’re a good human
but is any of this real?
if so: it doesn’t matter because
We are already forgiven
and when the time is right we’ll each discover our Truth
if not: it doesn’t matter because
the feeling of holiness is so perfect
that We will seek to return to it anyway
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
right living is living a frictionless life
in pure expression of the holy
thoughts and movements flow
they are not pre-determined
but no choices need to be made
only following the instincts
we already know how
we’ve just forgotten
but with practice
we can remember
there is a right way
but no wrong ways
to glorify god
to sanctify god
of the sacred
there are no wrong actions
just unskillful actions
just frictioned actions
fighting the current
to the current
to the eternal unbounded love
and go with the flow
there is no life after bodily death
but this awareness is eternal
and will return to the source
has never left the source
is the entirety of the source