This article is inspired by this recent one on Medium.com by Patrick Paul Garlinger. In it he identifies seven signs of spiritual awakening. Much of what he said resonated with my own experience, so I am writing this in support of what he is saying.
His article contains several phrases that are completely alien to atheists and materialists, and which lead them to mock the beliefs of spiritually oriented people:
- “your soul is trying to pry open your mind”
- “the universe conspires to bring you experiences so that you start to see reality differently.”
- “a deeper undercurrent of wisdom in which the Divine is communicating with you”
- “you have an inherent connection to the Divine”
- “guidance from a higher power”
- “spirit guides and guardian angels”
- “the ways that the universe is in conversation with you”.
To believe in such things is considered by many to be naive and foolish. Perhaps one term which sums them all up would be Supernatural Intelligences. My point would be that, once one has had experiences of this type, a bridge has been crossed, and it is no longer possible to regress into materialist, atheistic ideas, because one knows that they are false through direct experience.
I’ll focus on four of Garlinger’s signs of awakening which have been especially meaningful for me. He calls the first the Dark Night of the Soul. In my life this manifested itself as a period of deep depression, the culmination of several years of alienation and unhappiness. During that period I had become attracted, at various times, by the philosophies of Sartrean existentialism, atheism, and Marxism. I hadn’t thought especially deeply about the issues; it was more a question of a psychological, emotional appeal. These worldviews seemed to explain and justify my gloom, and the lack of meaning in my life.
Garlinger says: “These moments force you to look within and ask yourself why you’re here and what you’re doing with your life”. Indeed, the significant turning point in my life was when I decided to psychoanalyse myself, thus to look within my own life for the source of my problems, rather than blaming the outside world. This decision was the trigger for my spiritual awakening. From that moment on, just as he says, the universe conspired to bring me experiences which made me see reality differently.
His second sign is called Disidentification with Your Thoughts. He says: “you may start to realize how much your thoughts… shape your perception of the world… The world you perceive is the world you — or more accurately, your mind — has created for you”. This is a profound statement. I now understand that my attraction to Existentialism, atheism, and Marxism came as a consequence of my personal psychology, not because they had any validity. They were illusions created by my mind, which my consciousness accepted uncritically. The period of spiritual awakening shattered these illusions.
I now believe that it is a major problem in the modern world, that so many people accept uncritically illusory ideas and worldviews which emerge from within. We need to separate our consciousness from our minds. Buddhism seems to have a profound understanding of the problem, since one of the first tasks in Buddhist practice is to require the practitioner to observe rather than accept the thoughts which emerge and float past. Once thoughts have been observed, without having been accepted, then one can analyse them, and try to understand how they might have arisen, their origin in the unconscious. Also, the Transpersonal Psychology Psychosynthesis uses the following mantra: “I have a body but I am not my body. I have feelings, but I am not my feelings. I have a mind, but I am not my mind”.
Garlinger’s third sign is Deeper Awareness of Your Purpose and Values: “You’ve made choices that seemed rational and grounded but perhaps did not align with who you truly are. You may have wanted to be an artist, a dancer, or a writer, but chose a more ‘practical’ job instead”. This was precisely true for me. I had probably always wanted to be a musician, but didn’t have the confidence or courage to follow that path. I therefore made bad choices, effectively sell-outs, and this failure to be myself was the true source of my depression and gloom, which led my mind to be attracted to these illusionary philosophies.
His fourth sign of awakening is Signs, Messages, and Synchronicity, a term coined by Carl Jung to describe highly meaningful coincidences with no causal explanation. Garlinger calls it “a connection with a deeper undercurrent of wisdom in which the Divine is communicating with you in ways you had previously ignored”. My own period of spiritual awakening was full of such occurrences, proving to me that the universe is governed by much more than the four forces known to physics.
To conclude, Garlinger says: “Once you embrace that truth, and allow your soul to guide you, a whole new world, beyond the limited version that your mind has perceived, becomes available to you”. This is obviously relevant to the highly limited atheistic and existentialist philosophies. It is also regrettably true of much of modern science, which has a very, very, very limited view of the true nature of reality.