Here’s a few likely clues, just to start out with. These sorts of things are often what catches people’s attention, gets them wondering if there is more to life, sets the seeking going…
- Peak experiences, experience of immanence
- ‘Psychic’ experiences: telepathy, telekinesis, previsions of an apparent future, ghosts and apparitions, poltergeists, ‘magic’, automatic writing…
- ‘Out of Body’ experiences
- ‘Spiritual’ experiences — whatever they are1
(I exclude drug-induced experiences from this list, for the fairly obvious reason that they are induced by drugs).
And here’s a few unlikely clues, by way of contrast:
- Doubt over ‘who am I?’2
- Death, grief and grieving
- Time inexorably passing, failure, shattered and lost belief
- Sex and shame, loving something more than my self
- Pain (non-physical) in life
Contrast and compare…
Can you see the difference in flavour of these two lists? In the first list. everything here seems to offer something — an addition, something extra, perhaps something wonderful, perhaps promising, a tempting insight into ‘That Which Woman/Man Is Not Supposed to Know’ — but Lo! you have found out! Everything in that list adds something to your search, your knowledge, your experience.
The second list, on the other hand, is almost all about subtraction. That’s why it’s a list of unlikely clues: we are all wired up to seek to gain more, not to seek to lose anything. Loss is the last place we look.
The trick of loss is using it to gain the secret it contains, and there’s always a secret in loss, if it can be seen.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong at all in experiencing any of the ‘highs’ on the first list, if you do; treat them as a gift and enjoy, if it’s enjoyable, or marvel, if it’s marvellous. Use them to summon you “onward and upward” — if that’s what you want to do.
Essentially these are mostly experiences in what can be described as the ‘psychic’ domain, and as such they are unpredictable, don’t occur reliably, and are not very useful as a guide to anything at all, as most of the time they simply are not happening.
Another problem with these first-list experiences is that if the experiencer is caught up in the glamour of the experience and wants to have it ‘again!’, well, it turns out that such experiences generally do not repeat in the same form3. All the time spent on pursuing them is time that is not spent in knowing your self — which I suggest would be more productive.
The items on the second list, by contrast, are readily accessible if you are afflicted by any of them. You can start working with them immediately.
Discounting what is false
One simple approach to finding out what is true is that of first identifying and discounting what is not true. This is supposedly the way of dis-confirmation, the way of science4 — and if it’s good enough for them, it might do for us, too.
The second list is full of experiences that can show us what is not true — demonstrate what is false in our ideas.
Pain is the ultimate teacher.
Once the lesson is learnt, further pain is unnecessary.
- There’s a lot of confusion about what a ‘spiritual’ experience is…
- Google once gave almost 20 billion results for Who am I?
- guess how the author knows that…
- at least, according to the philosophers of science, who are mostly ignored I suspect by practising scientists