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Observations placeholder

Koestler, Arthur - Janus - Revelations in solitary confinement



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Arthur Koestler – Janus [written whilst in solitary confinement in a prison in Seville, threatened with execution]

The hours by the window had filled me with a direct certainty that a higher order of reality existed, and that it alone invested existence with meaning.  I came to call it later on ‘the reality of the third order’.

The narrow world of sensory perception constituted the first order; this perceptual world was enveloped by the conceptual world which contained phenomena not directly perceivable, such as atoms, electromagnetic fields or curved space.  The second order of reality filled in the gaps and gave meaning to the absurd patchiness of the sensory world.

In the same manner, the third order of reality enveloped, interpenetrated and gave meaning to the second.  It contained ‘occult’ phenomena, which could not be apprehended or explained either on the sensory or on the conceptual level and yet occasionally invaded them like spiritual meteors piercing the primitive’s vaulted sky….

The third order revealed that time, space and causality, that the isolation, separateness and spatio temporal limitations of the self were merely optical illusions on the next higher level … Just as one could not feel the pull of a magnet on one’s skin, so one could not hope to grasp .. the nature of ultimate reality.


I noticed some slight mental discomfort nagging at the back of my mind …. Then I remembered the nature of that irrelevant annoyance, I was of course in prison and might be shot. But that was immediately answered by a feeling whose verbal translation would be ‘So what? Is that all? Have you got nothing more serious to worry about?’

The source of the experience

Koestler, Arthur

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps