Some science behind the scenes
Danger of suppressing behavioural function
When we suppress memory, we suppress learnt function. When we suppress learnt function we are in danger of also suppressing the behavioural functions that we have learnt in response to emotion.
If we inadvertently suppress behavioural functions we can unleash emotion so charged and so intense that we may damage ourselves and others – the opposite of suppression – very very high overload, overload so high it could make you ill and eventually kill you.
Anyone who takes Hashish as an experiment witness [has a different experience from that with mescaline]. He is back in the human state. First of all he is pervaded by a feeling of benevolence. He is filled with an agreeable optimism that warms his heart.................
Then suddenly, though nothing has struck him as any different, he laughs.
At what? Why? No visible reason for laughing. What he wanted was visions, but for that – he doesn't know it yet – he will have to wait for hours. Again he laughs. Again for no reason. At what? Why? No visible reason for laughing. What he wanted was visions, but for that he will have to wait for hours. Again he laughs. Again for no reason.
From Traditional Nursery Rhymes [collected by Michael Foss]
What did I dream? I do not know
The fragments fly like chaff
Yet strange, my mind was tickled so
I cannot help but laugh
Laughter may be the positive side of emotion unleashed, but there are any number of negative emotions that can also be released. This can, unless understood, be deeply destructive and cause you and others enormous damage. Imagine rage unleashed, or hate or anger or fear, with no logic or reasoning to quell it and no behavioural brakes to dampen the effects.
And sometimes that raw emotion can be terrifying for those subjected to it. You could kill or hurt or maim.
Even on an everyday basis, emotions are largely uncontrollable when triggered, but the function that provides the ‘brakes’ as it were on emotion is the command and control function. A truly violent emotion may be triggered by some perception, but under normal circumstances the reasoning function searches in our database of learnt function for some function to moderate the effects and suggests to the deciding function that our behaviour is controlled using this function and a different activity is triggered from the one we might have initially considered. An hugely emotional person is actually one with a poor level of reasoning capability – not something to be proud of.
But during spiritual experience, the reasoning function goes, and the will ceases to invoke behavioural responses, so the emotions we feel will not be controlled they will be displayed in all their full force. If we love we will really love, if we hate ………… well here we have the potential for really dangerous results.
We only have to look at geniuses during their more inspired moments to see what spiritual experiences do to emotions. Beethoven, for example, in his most spiritually aware moments was given to violent bursts of uncontrollable emotion.
The World as Will and Idea – Arthur Schopenhauer
It is also well known that we seldom find great genius in tandem with pre-eminent reasonable-ness; on the contrary, persons of genius are often subject to violent emotions and irrational passions…..
The impression of the present moment is very strong with such people, and carries them away into impetuosity, emotion and passion.
And those on drugs are also frequently faced with the same effects. Some say it is ‘cathartic’, which is a weasel word for being out of control emotionally. On a normal day to day basis, the will can simply choose to suppress the emotion and dampen it down, so the emotion is expressed, but in a moderate form. We call this suppression – a person has suppressed the way they actually feel. There are lots of critics of suppressed emotion, but they are wrong to criticise.
Many religions cultivate this because it tends to lead to a more harmonious society, we are better able to work together and live together if we temper down emotions. It is positive, because it results in far fewer long term problems between people, businesses run more smoothly, marriages stay intact, partnerships stay together, fewer people get hurt both physically and emotionally. Christians, Hindus and Buddhists are all encouraged to control their emotions in order that they do not ‘act first and repent at leisure’.
But, during a spiritual experience there is nothing to provide the dampening down.
So where before we may have had happiness, we might expect absolute bliss; where before we might find fear, we might get terror; where a perception might have invoked anger, a perception without the tempering effect of reason might provoke uncontrollable fury; where before we might have had a few pangs of remorse at an action of ours, when relived as a dream or vision it might provoke uncontrollable and extreme pangs of conscience.
In unrestrained spiritual experience we should expect to get real extremes of emotion – real extremes. It is not unknown for a person to experience uncontrollable crying as a result of spiritual experience where they have not cried like that since they were a child.
Remember that this is not necessarily a good thing, so if it is going to happen we have to be prepared for it and to be prepared for it we need to understand something of what might provoke a reaction.
The Drivers of emotion
There are two main drivers to the sort of emotion generated during a spiritual experience – one is the personality of the person, the other is the prevailing emotion you have at the time you enter spiritual experience - the mood you start with. There is a third we shall see shortly.
Personality as driver
Who you are and what your main character is, is a fundamental driver to the emotions you will get during spiritual experience. If you have the personality of a killer, you could become a killer, if you have the personality of a violent man you will be violent.
You have to know yourself really well. A spiritual experience can be pretty revealing for those who do not know themselves, because what they learn is their true nature free of the repression of cultural norms and societal conventions. Imagine nymphomaniacs unleashed or the petty minded control freak on the prowl.
We are what we are, but released under the spell of a spiritual experience and we can be extremely terrifying people and it can be a very upsetting experience for the person themselves to know themselves and what they are.
What goes in has to come out. The emotional input we have as perceptions at the time we have a spiritual experience will help to determine what kind of experience you get.
And emotional input gets amplified during any spiritual experience.
If you are calm and happy, placid and relaxed, unworried and feel no hate but only liking or love towards your fellow creatures and the world at large, the experience is likely to be positive and blissful. If you are angry or furious, suspicious, restless, worried, anxious or fearful, or alternatively you feel hate or resentment or envy or loathing or bitterness, the experience may be none too pleasant.
Feel anger, for example, at the time you start trying to subjugate reason and it is likely that you will both have difficulty subjugating the reason and you might, even if you succeed, start seeing devils and demons!
The emotions that you have at the time that the reason is subjugated not only have a strong bearing on what sort of experience you have, but also long term whether it provides more long lasting benefits.
Stages of Meditation – Acharya Kamalashila with commentary by the Dalai Lama
DL: Buddha Shakyamuni taught these two practices, calm abiding and special insight, and they are the only methods by which you can achieve all the levels of concentration. Therefore, the text states that since calm abiding and special insight are equally important, you should cultivate both qualities
AK: Yogis cannot eliminate mental obscurations merely by familiarising themselves with calm abiding meditation alone. It will only suppress the disturbing emotions and delusions temporarily. Without the light of wisdom, the latent potential of the disturbing emotions cannot be thoroughly destroyed, and therefore their complete destruction will not be possible. For this reason the Unraveling of the Thought Sutra says 'Concentration can suppress the disturbing emotions properly, and wisdom can thoroughly destroy their latent potential'
DL: Merely meditating on calm abiding will not enable you to eliminate obscurations to enlightenment and the disturbing emotions
The composer gives us what it thinks we need at the time. It uses our perceptions and puts together a package of input geared to our state and needs.
If we are happy, contented, loving and kind, compassionate and so on, the resulting input is likely to be positive and reinforcing. We may get bliss and inspiration or little flashes of wisdom. The universe is run on a diet of love.
If we really hate our fellow man, however, are cruel or uncaring, resentful or malicious, selfish and unkind, we may get quite a shock. There may be two possibilities – maybe the composer provides you with a touch of bliss and love to try to show you how it could be – the carrot approach. If however, you look to be a fairly fearful case, you may well get quite a shock, the stick can come down very hard at times as can been seen in some of the observations - particularly of the drug users.
There was a young girl - Anon
There was a young girl of Asturias
Whose temper was frantic and furious
She used to throw eggs
At her grandmother's legs
A habit unpleasant and curious