I know it’s pushing the limits a bit psychologically and cognitively to grasp explanations about the nature of circumstances, which you may not have personally experienced, and you may not know exactly where to begin, but with patience and applying our talents for thinking and reasoning, I believe it is possible to gain some greater understanding of “genuine experiences,” as described by those of us who have some familiarity with them.
The general nature of life itself should, by now, be broadly understood to consist of a variety of levels of experience and being, and to include more than what can be easily detected or ascertained by our five senses. It should also be obvious that life is comprised of characteristics of much greater complexity than what can be satisfactorily described or demonstrated scientifically, but in order for you to open yourself to the transcendent, it is still necessary to comprehend, at least in some general way, the nature of physical existence.
In my case, the awakening to the spiritual path happened a bit in reverse, and I recall having a number of extraordinary experiences as a very young child that seemed to me, even then, to be from a source outside of my own physical existence. Naturally, I could not comprehend fully the implications of those experiences at that time, but neither did I question their validity or their importance.
To me, they seemed quite normal as experiences went, since I had no basis for judging them beyond the subjective experience of their occurrence, and assumed quite understandably that everyone else was having them also. It wasn’t until I began school and my indoctrination into Catholic orthodoxy at around age six that it suddenly became unacceptable to acknowledge any extraordinary experience as anything other than “God’s mystery.”
I’ve written a couple of times about the way my thoughts and early childhood notions were suppressed by a fairly strict religious upbringing, and how I was often told not to concern myself with such “imaginings.” All those years of suppressing my own thoughts eventually contributed to the “explosion” of unconscious contents that Jung described as often occurring “abruptly,” when we finally reach some sort of boundary condition psychologically. In spite of this intensely restrictive environment, I still continued to experience a number of moments when I felt overwhelmed by a sense of “otherness” toward my inner world, even some occasionally striking events of precognition; the sense of the presence of invisible energies or individuals, or an extraordinary feeling of deep connection to other individuals in my limited temporal circle.
There were also several “out of the body” experiences during moments of extreme danger or tension, including one that occurred during a fall from a thirty-foot scaffolding platform in high school, where I remember floating above my body listening to the teachers telling others that I was dying. Once I even heard an inner voice of a girl, of whom I was not physically aware, as she was approaching me from behind saying to herself, “I hope you still want to be with me.” Imagine my surprise when I turned to see her standing there, and when I answered, “Yes, I do still want to be with you.” I thought she had said it out loud—until she asked me “How did you know I was going to ask you that?”
The events in Massachusetts in 1973 are a great deal more complicated in their explanation and description, and it has taken me decades of research and exploration to even be able to say that I am beginning to appreciate just how complex the explanation of the nature of our subjective experience of human consciousness must ultimately be.
To say that my experience in the autumn of 1973 suggested the influence of a transcendent source is quite an understatement. Jonas Rice was, in so many ways, a kindred spirit; a brother from another mother; another soul with whom I shared a great deal more than a fleeting sense of connection or an out-of-the-body experience. It always seemed to me that during those episodes, we occupied the same physical space in some way, and there were moments when it felt as though I was seeing through his eyes, and at other times, that it was simply a presence which seemed to be guiding me or steering my attention. Whether any of that actually explains my experiences is far from definitive for me, even today, and although they seemed objectively real to me at the time, as a rational person, I must acknowledge that the true nature of that connection is still really, to some degree, “unexplained.”
The explosion of our unconscious contents, when it occurs in the way Jung described it, can be inexplicable in any sort of satisfying temporal terms, precisely because our unconscious mind is, itself, quite mysterious and usually inaccessible subjectively. In my case, the eruption was so violent and it affected me so intensely physically, that nailing down the full explanation naturally resists logic and normal reasoning. If you’ve read that portion of the story well, you may recall that a fair amount of what I wrote was not legible at all, and my attempts to transcribe what was legible, were hampered by the feeling of complete and utter confusion that I felt afterwards.
The name Jonas Rice was a guess on my part about those two words as they appeared on the page, but when I stood at the tombstone in the center of Worcester, the paralysis in my body was real and my rapid heartbeat and inability to catch my breath were frightening. I was having a panic attack and it shook me to the core. I still get goosebumps when I think about it.
If you look back thoughtfully through the events of your own life, you also may actually be able to discover that you may have had some version of experiences in this regard, which, though not as severe, still point to a non-physical aspect to our nature as cognitive sentient beings in a physical universe. Perhaps you suddenly got a hunch about where you might find a missing item which was in your possession days before, or experienced a pleasing sense of delight at a particular moment for no apparent reason. You may even have felt particularly bad or good about the circumstances of someone you knew or someone you love, even though you had no real sense of what was causing it, or why it was particularly good or bad to them.
Our personal sense of intuition is commonly influenced by our own experiences of such events, but applying the memory of our experiences is not always sufficient to explain an intense feeling or a particularly keen sense of the suffering of another. You may not have ever associated your heightened awareness of these types of things with any sort of transcendent source, but if you dig a little deeper when you experience such feelings, it often becomes more apparent that the circumstances alone really don’t completely explain why you feel the way you do.
Opening yourself to the possibility of transcendence—placing yourself deliberately on the path of greater understanding—is the first step toward recognizing why you once found yourself engaged in a conversation with your friend on the question of whether or not God is real, or how it is that you recall an extraordinary experience years or days ago, when you sensed the urgency to initiate some unexpected response to an event, leading you to take a different path on a particular day, which resulted in that unusual experience.
Should you decide to investigate these possibilities as they relate to your own life, don’t worry about having “meaningful questions,” or “coming up blank,” when you consider the relevance of particular experiences right away. This is new territory for anyone who hasn’t previously contemplated the nature of subjective experience. You will be expanding your realm of experience simply by looking into the subjects you are encountering. When a question arises in your mind, you will know that it is time to ask it, and to explore the subject further. Until then, you should keep searching and reading and thinking.
I am very glad to be sharing my experiences with the visitors and readers here and recommend that you take the time to explore these ideas on your own and investigate the subjects surrounding them; you will eventually come up with ideas of your own that you will want to explore.
To anyone who asks me, what I recommend as a means to increase their understanding is to begin writing in a journal, recording whatever random thoughts or feelings or ideas come to mind. Even if, in the beginning, nothing particularly interesting or helpful comes up, eventually the practice itself will yield new thoughts and may, upon reflection, stir those questions, and you may even find new avenues to explore.