I had an impulse to go on my knees, there in the road beneath the stars
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
THE EXPERIENCE OF 'A'. From A Drug-Taker's Notes by R H. Ward. (London,1957),
Last night as I was walking home from the station I had one of those strange experiences of "rising up within oneself", of "coming inwardly alive". As it happens, I can remember the comparatively trivial beginnings of it.-A minute or so after I had left the station, I was attacked, though not severely, by the indigestion which is always liable to recur when I have been working particularly hard.
I thought to myself, though I suppose not in so many words, I could separate myself from this pain; it belongs only to my body and is real only to the physical not-self. There is no need for the self to feel it."
Even as I thought this the pain disappeared; that is, it was in some way left behind because I, or the self, had gone somewhere where it was not; and the sensation of "rising up within" began. (Although I had not yet walked more than a couple of hundred yards, I have the impression that movement encouraged this sensation. It is as if movement has some kind of integrative effect...)
First there is the indescribable sensation in the spine, as of something mounting up, a sensation which is partly pleasure and partly awe, a physical sensation and yet one which, if it makes sense to say so, is beginning to be not physical. This was accompanied by an extraordinary feeling of bodily lightness, of well-being and effortlessness, as if one’s limbs had no weight and one's flesh had been suddenly transmuted into some rarer substance. But it was also, somehow, a feeling of living more in the upper part of one's body than in the lower, a certain rather peculiar awareness of one’s head as, appropriately no doubt, the most important and intelligent of one's members.
There was also a realization that one's facial expression was changing; the eyes were wider open than usual; the lips were involuntarily smiling. Everything was becoming "more", everything was going up on to another level. (What exactly is happening at such a time to one's nervous system, one's endocrine glands, the cells of one's brain; how much a sudden access of adrenalin to the blood stream is involved; whether areas of one's brain which are normally "dark" are being "lighted", neurologists and others might or might not be able to say.)...
I found that I could think in a new way. Or rather, it would be more accurate to say that I could think and feel in a new way, for it was hard to distinguish between thought and feeling, since both happened at once and in association. This was like becoming possessed of a new faculty...it was not exactly that [things] were trivial; they had simply got into their proper proportions... This, I realized, was the real meaning of "being at peace with the world"...
I noticed in regard to this thinking and feeling in a new way that certain thoughts and feelings were dangerous. If I allowed any suggestion of dislike, distrust, fear or contempt to approach, it had to be deliberately put away, or the "rising up" began to be a "falling down"; but once these kinds of thoughts and feelings had been put away, then the "rising up" was continued.
It was now (I had gone perhaps a quarter of a mile) that I found myself looking at a certain house, one with which I am very familiar, as if I had never seen it before. There was a cloudy moon, and the house, some of its windows lighted, was outlined against the night sky.
According to one's ordinary perceptions, it is rather an ugly little suburban villa; but now it appeared to be quite otherwise. In fact the proper way of putting it is to say that it did not merely appear to be anything: it simply was. And the "is-ness" of it was all I knew and all I needed to know. I stood and stared at it, and the mere sight of it filled me with an indescribable joy... It was another house, and yet I knew that it was the ugly little villa I pass nearly every day. I realized that, could one always live on the different psychological level on which I was living at this moment, then the whole world would be changed; it would be another world in which there could be nothing which we habitually call ugly or evil, and nothing which we habitually call beautiful or good either, since the truth of things is beyond these contradictions, and somehow takes them up into itself.
...Time had very little significance, but I must have been in this different state, sometimes more, sometimes less, for rather over half an hour. Not only did the realization of the truth, the astonishing new reality, of everything that I saw persist; everything I saw was mysterious and wonderful... My ability to see, my actual and physical eyesight, was greatly sharpened. Even distant things, the cloud formations, the moon, were miraculously clear.
The sheer joy I experienced in all this is beyond expression. I felt that the world of nature was utterly right and literally an act of God's, and that to know this, and to be permitted to appreciate so much of the wonderful and the adorable, was nothing less than bliss. And this was reality. That is the whole point. The feelings and the thoughts we usually have are not real by comparison with this new condition of being into which I had moved. My knowledge of this reality which lies beyond where we normally are was undeniable and irrefutable...
At one point in this walk, it flashed upon me with the same effect of irrefutable conviction, Of course there is God...God was here; he was in everything that I looked at and in me who looked...I was in God's Presence...
...the idea of death came to me more than once during this half hour, but it had then quite a different meaning from the one we usually give it. It was not merely that it was not in itself evil and to be feared; more positively, death was "Dear, beauteous death! The jewel of the just"... '
As I have indicated, the intensity of this new state fluctuated during the half hour or so that it took me to go from the station to my house. At times I felt that it was "dying down"; but then some other thought or feeling, a fresh access of awe and wonder at the marvels I perceived in the outward world or understood in the world within, would again renew the peculiar sense of “rising within myself", the sensation of bodily insubstantiality, the extraordinary speed and exactitude of perception. On one of the crests of these waves of renewed intensity, when the aperture of consciousness was at its widest, I heard, vividly, shockingly, and as instantaneously as one might see a flash of lightning, what I can only call an inward voice which said, "There is something perfect".
The phrase conveys nothing of the meaning it bore at that moment, for it had unbelievable depths of significance. The voice seemed to be telling me in those four words everything that it is important and necessary to know. "There is something perfect" was a summary of what it is to be in the presence of God who is perfection's self...
I stood still in the road, filled to the brim with this wonderful and joyous realization, that whatever we may have to endure of pain, sickness, grief and man's inhumanity to man, there is still something perfect within all created things, that ultimately they live by it, and that nothing else matters. Tears fell from my eyes. I had an impulse to go on my knees, there in the road beneath the stars...'