SUMMER 1997 VOLUME THREE NUMBER FOUR
NOUMENON - A NEWSLETTER FOR THE NONDUAL PERSPECTIVE
THE EXPERIENCE OF GOD-REALISATION
My exceptional human experience (EHE) is the experience of God-realisation. I’ve been unwilling to say much about my experience before now because I don’t wish to draw attention to myself - only my work, which in turn draws attention to others insofar as I report on people and their experiences, ideas and discoveries. My interest is not in presenting autobiography, but rather in offering ‘information for transformation.’ I feel that the work is greater than the man. I have all kinds of personal flaws and shortcomings; I don’t walk on water. However, the invitation to discuss my EHE arrived at a time when I’d decided to be more public about myself because I recognize that personal histories can be enormously instructive and useful in that regard. So this account of my God-realisation seems the right thing to do now. I trust that it will have value in the transpersonal process of evolving humanity to a higher state of being.
My state of consciousness is the condition traditionally described in yogic terminology as sahaj samadhi, ‘easy’ enlightenment or ‘open eyes’ enlightenment - i.e., walking around and functioning in everyday life rather than absorbed in deep meditation. The introduction to my book What is Enlightenment? is, in a very real sense, a description of myself. That is, it gives an objective, theoretical description of enlightenment, but the major points I make there grew out of my personal and ongoing experience. Quite simply, I see God in all things and all things in God. Hence I am one with ‘the Father’ and there is no sense of separation from God in any respect of my existence. I am unconditionally happy.
I entered that state permanently in 1979. I’ll describe the circumstances, but first I need to give an overview of my life-situation before then.
As I grew up, I came to see that what was my personal experience was also the collective experience of humanity through its long evolutionary journey to the present. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. And just as my own growth in consciousness led from the bliss of ignorant infancy through the suffering of egoic self-awareness to the ecstasy of self-transcendence, so, too, will humanity’s at large, as an increasing number of people have already discovered. We humans have a potential for growth to godhood, and that is the only viable means for freedom from the agony of separate selfhood - ego - and all its destructive and loathsome behaviors. The human potential is what can change the human condition. I discovered that in my own life and, since I am human, it follows logically to say that such a discovery is inherent in human nature and awaits the world as part of our destiny. Thus ontogeny also precapitulates phylogeny.
I struggled with the issue of ultimate self-identity from adolescence on. At 24, in profound despair, and having considered and rejected suicide as the answer to my problems, I was blessed to have a spontaneous mystical experience. It was, in yogic terminology, nirvikalpa samadhi, the formless experience of God (beyond all forms and images but less than ‘easy’ enlightenment). It was a timeless moment of boundless light and cosmic consciousness that removes all doubts about the existence of God and the nature of reality. Thereafter, I ‘knew the way home’. But when I ‘dropped back’ into the world of time and matter and stubborn egoic attachments, I found that I still had a lot to work out on the earth plane in terms of my marriage, my career, my life goals, my relationship with my parents and my children, etc. (I would discover later that I also developed an attachment to the experience of cosmic consciousness, which I had to release-and did.)
From 24 until 35, I was in what the spiritual teacher Adi Da (formerly Da Free John) describes as the fifth of seven stages of life or stages of conscious-unfoldment. (They are described in some of his books and as an appendix to What is Enlightenment?) From 35 to 40, I passed through the sixth stage. Outwardly, my life was quite ordinary: wives, kids, home, job and so forth. Inwardly, however, I was ascending in consciousness to the point where only the kernel of egocentricity remained.
One day in August 1979, about the time of my fortieth birthday, I was faced with a major career decision that turned into a spiritual crisis. I had been supporting my family as a freelance writer, but my earnings had declined over several years to the point where it was becoming a struggle just to pay the bills. My oldest child was headed for college, and since I was committed to being a good husband, father and provider, I had too look at the possibility of getting a regular job and leaving behind my relative freedom to travel, lecture and write. As I looked within myself, I saw that I had a subtle but strong attachment to a romantic image of myself as a ‘free spirit’ who was above the mundane world and especially the business world. I also saw that pride or egocentricity was impelling me in a direction contrary to the best interests of my family and my own yearning for fuller God-realisation.
All this occurred within the space of a few minutes and I meditated on my situation. As I perceived the true nature of that situation, I yielded myself to God wholly with the bodily-felt prayer of ‘Thy will be done; show me the way.’ (My sense of the Divine, incidentally, was in no way the traditional patriarch God-image. I knew better than that, intellectually speaking, from my teen years, when I left Churchianity - ‘high’ Episcopal, in my case - at age 16, declaring it to be childish nonsense. And my samadhi experience in 1963 provided noetic realisation of the formless nature of God. But I sometimes use the verbal imagery and formulae of patriarchal Judeo-Christianity because it facilitates communication, even in my self-reflections.) I saw the spiritual inflation involved - the false pride and self-will - and I saw that as the source of my crisis. I simply relinquished all my deeply held secret wishes and self-image; I completely opened myself in faith to divine guidance while facing the unknown. It was not blind faith; it was confident expectation, based on previous experience in being provided all I’d needed along the way, spiritually speaking (even though some of what I’d needed was a ‘swift kick in the astral’).
In that moment I melted into a recognition of the absolute perfection of existence and rightness of all things, including whatever might happen in the future, so long as I remained surrendered to that sense of God as the source and centre of my being - body, mind, soul, will. In that moment I saw myself at that metaphysical point in the process of embodied existence where I could, if I chose, ‘leap into nirvana’ at the end of my life and dissolve out of the mechanics of the cosmos into what I call the preluminous void - meaning that state of being before God said ‘Let there be light’- never to be known again directly in any way whatsoever. I also saw the ultimate selfishness of that choice. I therefore chose to surrender my will to Divine Will. My soul, which had been the locus of my sense of self-identity, dissolved into the Divine Domain and in so doing, paradoxically, I discovered complete ad enduring freedom - liberation.
This realisation was a tacit knowing, felt whole-bodily, whereas before that it primarily been conceptual. It had been abuilding for five years or so, as I passed through the sixth stage process of self-disidentification. But the moment itself was quite undramatic. There were no cosmic skyrides on brahmic light rays, no out-of-body explosions, no angels and trumpets, no swooning loss of body-awareness, and so forth. It was quite like Adi Da’s account (in The Knee of Listening) of his God-realisation experience in the Vedanta Temple - just a quiet recognition of my true nature and all that implies for my life. Nothing at all had changed, yet everything had changed. Nirvana and samara were perceived as one, all dualities were reconciled in unity, and ever since then, I’m content to be a simple karma yogi whose life details will probably be quickly be forgotten - footprints on the sands of time. And that is perfectly fine with me. My focus is beyond personality and an individual’s history.
It may appear that I’m making grandiose claims about myself, but I hasten to say that I don’t consider myself to be anyone special. My personal effort in seeking enlightenment was necessary but not sufficient. It’s simply another case of ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ Enlightenment highlights the similarities rather than the differences among people; it shows the enlightened person that he or she is, at rock bottom reality, just like everyone else - i.e., ultimately, we are all one. I have certain talents and skills, but none of them especially mark me as enlightened.
Then why do I say I am? It is because of my unbroken, abiding sense of the presence of God in and as all things. That marks my state as ‘easy enlightenment.’ There is no separate self except for purposes of social utility; my true I-dentity is God-without-separation. Since I am embodied, I am subject to physical and biological laws, like everyone else (except those more highly evolved than me). And like everyone else, my life has difficulties, troublesome circumstances, misfortune, mistakes and so forth. But I don’t take such things personally. All of it is seen as arising in God and thus wholly acceptable and spiritually nourishing, enabling me to grow in wisdom and patience and strength to serve others. That’s it, pure and simple. No mystical lights shining, no celestial guides instructing, no awesome psychic powers. Outwardly, I have a very plain and mundane life as a writer. But every detail of it is illuminated and glorified by the light of God. And all I’ve read from others about sahaj samadhi speaks directly to my personal experience.
Sahaj samadhi has both a noetic dimension and a behavioral dimension - and inner and outer aspect. Nirvikalpa samadhi is an intermediate stage en route to sahaj samadhi. In my experience, it is none other than the realisation of God in the transcendent aspect - the Father in the Christian trinity. However, full God-realisation has two other aspects - the immanent and the omnipresent - and attachment to even one’s soul is an obstacle on the spiritual path. God-as-omnipresent is symbolized in the Christian trinity as Holy Spirit, the matrix or universal field from which all creation arises. God-as-immanent is symbolized in the Christian trinity as Christ, the centre of each individual’s personal being which is not other than God, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Sahaj samadhi, in my experience, cannot occur until all three modes of God-realisation have been fulfilled. Otherwise, there is an in completeness to one’s understanding that necessarily is reflected in one’s behavior. The soul must melt into God and all sense of separation be seen for what it is-illusion. When I was ‘spread out across the sky’ in a moment of cosmic consciousness and all was unending light, I found my soul. But I then became attached to it and identified with it - and subtly separated from Ultimate Wholeness. I came to see that even souls must ‘die’ if we are to realise the truth that we are never apart from God.
That realisation, in my case, had conferred no special powers or unusual talents; it has simply eliminated all suffering and bestowed unbroken happiness through union with the fullness of Being. I can get angry, impatient, and so forth, but none of that clouds my sense of the presence of God. Because of my recognition that we are all forms of God, my anger and impatience are rather rare, and when they occur, it’s usually with a legitimate sense of righteousness and a wish to instruct the person, who’s behaving stupidly or foolishly. It’s aimed at behavior or actions, not the personhood of the individual. I admire people of sweet and saintly behavior, and wish to cultivate that more deeply in myself. But even more enlightened sages can get angry or impatient, as Jesus did when he drove the moneychangers out of the temple. That can be enlightened action, however; sometimes the most compassionate thing you can do for someone who will not listen or learn, or who is violating the Eleventh Commandment by inflicting pain on others, is to ‘punch him in the mouth.’
To complete this account, I took a job shortly thereafter as director of a school for self-development in body, mind and spirit. I held it for two years and then I joined a utility company as a communications specialist. That was my full-time occupation for 14 years until I was offered early retirement in 1995. And that, too, was perfectly fine with me. I have absolutely no career ambitions, having dropped them fully at the onset of sahaj samadhi. Now my ‘career’ is to communicate about enlightenment and to let the Tao/Divine Will lead me. In other words, God puts on a business suit and goes to work each day, providing information for transformation.
So today, I regard myself as a self-consecrated man of God whose parish is the entire planet. I’ve taken the bodhisattva vows and am trying to conduct myself as a Rambodhisattva, a peace warrior capable of dealing wisely and compassionately with the increasing violence and insanity of the world as humanity at large moves into the evolutionary stage of fully-functioning ego, in accordance with the divine template for our destiny. Sahaj samadhi is not ultimate enlightenment and I’m certainly not at the end of the spiritual path; I have a long way to go until I’m fully translated into God. But I’m perfectly relaxed and detached about it. My objective in personal terms is to become Christed; my objective in collective terms is to become Christed.
Therefore I’m embarked on an adventure in consciousness, exploring the human potential for apotheosis. Although I rest in the fullness of Being, I am nevertheless restless in the potential of Becoming. Like all people, I’m both a human being and a human becoming. My present ‘order of business’ is to actualize my potential through a loose structured program of psychophysical activities aimed at several things: first, development of extraordinary functioning in various ways, primarily through the martial arts; second, exceptional health through physical fitness, yoga and applied psychoneuroimmunology; and, beyond that, development of psychic abilities. (I claim very little of all that at the moment.) I also intend to live to the 22nd century, when I will be 161 years old, and I am investigating nonordinary means such as kaya kalpa, an aspect of Ayurvedic medicine, for longevity. (The non-egoic purpose of extended lifespan is more time for spiritual practice.) Although I expect and consciously will that I’ll see the 22nd century in this body, I recognize that my death might occur at any time before that through accident, illness or murder. I am ready to go at any time and am also exploring ways to ‘cast off the body’ through purely mental means. My objective, stated another way, is attainment of what the Bible calls the resurrection body. That, my research indicates, is Christianity’s term for what Taoism calls the diamond body, Buddhism calls the light body, yoga calls the adamantine or vaira body, mystery schools call the solar body and Gnosticism and Neoplatonism call the radiant body. This is the vehicle for consciousness in which people will function collectively during the penultimate stage of human evolution, many thousands of years from now. I am simply attempting to accelerate evolution in my own case for the sake of all others, but I always operate from the ‘base camp’ of God-realisation that is prior to all growth and development.
May this EHE become an NHE (normal human experience) for all humanity.
About John White
John White is an author in the fields of consciousness research and higher human development. He has published 15 books, including The Meeting of Science and Spirit, What is Enlightenment?, A Practical Guide to Death and Dying and, for children, The Christmas Mice. His books have been translated into nine languages. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Saturday Review, Reader’s Digest, Science of Mind, Esquire, Omni, Women’s Day, and various other newspapers and magazines. He lives in Cheshire, Connecticut, USA.
This essay was originally written for an essay contest on Exceptional Human Experience.