Anatomy and Metaphysiology: States of Grace or Tangent

2010.12.10
By

PERHAPS BEFORE DELVING DEEPER INTO Things Glimpsed it would be helpful to explain my terms, and how I arrived at them.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been fascinated/obssessed/entranced by “God,” or the “Great Spirit,” or “It What Is” or more specifically the undisclosable Reality behind those words. I was often taken aback by such pop-in-the-head questions as “What came before God?” or “What would an infinitely tall stack of paper cups look like?” or “Does the bathroom wallpaper really have little toilets all over it, or does it just look that way to me?” (Sadly, ’twas the former.)

I say this to tell you that I’ve been both looking for and halfway expecting Weird Inner Experiences all my life. When they actually began happening, though, I honestly didn’t know what to make of them. To be honest, the cause doesn’t really interest me all that much: I could say they were divine inspiration, or right-hemisphere or “God module” firing, or overactive imagination, or alien transmissions, or a more-than-hypomanic bipolarity swing, or the right and inheritance of every human being. After consulting with two psychiatrists, I’ve ruled out mania — and also epilepsy and psychosis — but what’s more important to me is what these things actually do.

Mostly they increase my everyday awe, sense of wonder, and appreciation of everything we mean by “Universe” and “life.” They also perceptually — I mean directly and immediately — reinforce my formerly reasoned-out opinion that all which is, is related. And after doing a ton of research on experiential religion, I’ve been calling them Ecstasies, Visions, Light Direction and something I still don’t have a name for. These latter three will each get their own posts, B”H, but for now I’ll talk about the most common: ecstasy.

I can’t say for sure whether what I mean by “ecstasy” is the same as such mystics as, say, Teresa of Avila or Socrates — I neither hallucinate nor communicate with God, angels, demons, or mysterious voices chanting “Cthulhu ftaghn.” Rather, it’s an intensely pleasurable (but subtle) one-to-one identification with whatever’s engaging my attention — a thought, a tree, a sound — where the space is erased between me and the thing before me. It’s often (but not, alas, always) triggered by music, dance, prayer, or contemplation; I can sometimes go into the state at will, but it mostly comes on me unannounced. (No, it doesn’t affect my driving, but sometimes my conversation lulls a bit as my attention slides inward.) It generally lasts no more than a few objective seconds; I can come out of it as necessary but there’s always a feeling of regret.

(Ann just read the foregoing and asked me to be more specific. Okay. The state of ecstasy is like … well, what it’s not like is mania; that’s urgent and impatient and hurry-up-and-do-it-NOW. It’s also not like any sort of drug high, which can be wobbly and/or weakening around the edges. It’s also really not like anything else (which is one classical clue to spiritual or wholistic “authenticity:” if you think you’re having the experience, you’re not really having it). The physical and overall/background mental sensation is that everything is exactly as it should be and has no need of being other — the moment and all within it are perfect, quiet and poised — a sensation of supreme comfort and exquisite detail, even if your leg’s asleep and you’re staring at a blank wall — no lines between “this” and “that” — relaxed, focused, aware. Looking at and being looked back at. To label it more succinctly, one might well use the phrase “Entering The Great Quiet.” If you’ve ever stood in a really, really, really big place — at the base of redwoods, or the rim of the Grand Canyon, or knowing what you’re seeing through that telescope — you get the idea. But at the same time, from the inside, it’s nothing really special — more like a natural function than the Key To All Mysteries which are really one anyway.)

I realize that I may be opening myself to some criticism by posting this, especially among my more fundamentalist and/or materialist friends; as I mentioned earlier I simply feel compelled (and qualified) to share these experiences. I don’t think they make me a “better” or “more spiritual” person; bigger realities don’t necessarily make for better character. But they do make me wonder.

Next: Visions of What Makes It “It”

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