On spiritual experiences – what are they worth?

In the theosophical lodge in The Hague yesterday, during a very interesting meeting, we were discussing what theosophists call ‘initiation’. Real initiation is a transformative experience, whereas initiation rituals are another thing altogether (though they may have a lasting psychological effect as well). These aren’t my definitions, but those of a lecturer we had heard the previous week.

Talking about those real initiations, the topic of spiritual experiences naturally came up. Each person in that room had had one spiritual experience or another. This is clear – why else go to a theosophical meeting in the first place? Two people shared theirs. One man had had a kundalini experience once. He had also seen a ghost. Several other paranormal experiences like that were discussed. A lady talked about the happy occasion when she had been in nature and suddenly her passed husband appeared. It was an experience of joy for her, though she explained it to herself as the result of her longing for him.

I wrote about my disillusionment with Krishnamurti yesterday – but on spiritual experiences I follow his line. That is: I don’t think the experience should be held on to too much. I don’t think that someone who has had such experiences should be put on a pedestal, nor do I feel that they are something to brag about.

Krishnamurti said in a conversation with Pupul Jayakar about Kundalini:

Can we put kundalini energy in its right place? A number of people have the experience of what they call kundalini, which I question. I question whether it is an actual reality or some kind of physiological activity which is attributed to kundalini. You live an immoral life in the sense of a life of vanity, sex, etc. and then you say that your kundalini is awakened. But your daily life, which is a self-centred life, continues.

That last bit is what really concerns me: how to live a non-self-centred life. Whether or not I get to experience ‘the one’ or ‘the timeless’ (or whatever you want to call it) on any given day is not up to me. It’s not up to me as a personality anyhow. There are probably physiological issues that determine when that happens.

I probably have to explain that last paragraph a bit more.

In theosophy, as in most spiritual traditions, consciousness is described as a layered thing. I use the word layered, but I don’t want you to think there are actual layers. For our present purposes it is not necessary to go into too much detail. The personality is what types, chooses clothes to wear today, worries about money and has certain parents and background. The individuality is that in me that learns from this life. The scent of that learning is passed on, or so I believe, into a next life. We call this reincarnation.

The individuality is, in the long run, the boss. My personality is more or less spiritual depending on the extent to which I let that wisdom from my individuality into my personality. The personality can choose to ignore that wisdom – and I would become an evil self-centred person.

Spiritual experiences come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. But whether they are initiatory experiences depends on what happens after. Does that transform your life, or does your life stay the same? Do you turn the experience into a memento – like that great trip to the Rocky mountains you did last year – or is it something that carries on into every relationship, including that with nature?

In this blog I write a lot about the things I don’t understand, the things that trouble the personality. This is because I feel that the personality is where the real work is. Unless the personality gets transformed somehow, we cannot expect society to change. I don’t know if any of my readers have noticed but the world is in rather serious trouble today. Spiritual experiences or searches for ‘enlightenment’ should not be a way to just flee all that. Or so I feel.

I’m constantly struggling for words here. I feel perhaps this post is the one I would have wanted to write 🙂 The trouble with that is, of course, that I am not a practicing Buddhist in the way this writer means. (used to be present at: http://the-urban-monk.livejournal.com/597896.html)

4 thoughts on “On spiritual experiences – what are they worth?”

  1. Hi Spirituality,

    Your post is chocked full of ideas. So, I’d just like to comment on a couple things you posted.

    I don’t think the experience should be held on to too much. I don’t think that someone who has had such experiences should be put on a pedestal, nor do I feel that they are something to brag about.

    I think if someone has a ‘spiritual’ experience that transforms them in some way, it’d be really hard not to hold on to it. For those of us who are seekers of truth and knowledge, it may be the validity we need to continue our search. For me, it was a turning point in my life and I will always give it the highest value over all other experiences. But, should one brag or put persons who’ve had such experiences on a pedestal? No, I agree with you there. I don’t think spiritual experiences are rare and I think humility would come into play there.

    As for someone having a spiritual experience, like Kundalini, and going back into a self-centered life, I believe is quite normal. I wouldn’t necessarily question those claiming a one time or intermittent experience as not having experienced them at all. It takes a dedicated and willing person to live a spiritually filled life. But, not all who have had one-time spiritual experiences do the ‘work’ to achieve consistent experiences.

    Just my 2 dinar… 🙂

  2. I’ve recently started reading your blog posts. I find them thought-provoking. Thanks!

    On my site, I share about my spiritual experiences. They are real to me. I choose to honor them for how they have helped me make paradigm shifts. However, I see them for what they are. They are only true to me alone. I cannot convince others about the experiences that have happened to me. My interest is only in telling my readers to go explore and validate their own truths.

    I’ve also been taking Kundalini Yoga lessons; but I do not tell others that the Kundalini energy has been awakened in me. It has not happened. However, my friends who have experienced it, shared with me in their excitement. I am happy for them. At the same time, they do go back to their normal life; but I believe, they tread in greater light. I wouldn’t call them enlightened, just because they have got some Kundalini awakening! It is a spiritual journey, no doubt and not a one or two time experience.

    I’m constantly mindful that I do not act special just because I have got certain spiritual experiences. I am as much a student as everyone else. Just like I am learning pearls of wisdom from you 🙂 Everyone is my teacher, I humbly accede.


  3. Regarding the link to Urban Monk, every time I read about needing gurus and teachers, I’m left with wondering how the Buddha pulled it off by himself. I guess if someone wants a guru, who am I to argue? Nisargadatta thought they were a useful shortcut, perhaps it’s so. If we’re all going to be around for eternity and a day anyway, I lose the point of getting there faster.
    Which brings me to my point. It often seems like the claims of spiritual experiences are just a different kind of self regard. Sitting around talking about it is helpful to whom exactly? The knee jerk answer is that it opens up ‘possibility’ to someone who hasn’t had such an experience. More likely it implants suggestion, and the person finds what they expect. That’s the problem with belief or any kind. We all think that it’s the other person who is gullible and misled.
    Whether it’s belief in reincarnation or belief in the guru, it all springs from a desire to continue, to become more. It is an elaborate escape from the truth of what is, nothing else. Have to have a guru? Here’s one, no cost, no mantras, no sitting, no robes, no obligation…..
    Do useful work, don’t take more than you need, be quiet.

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