Some Sufis would tell us the only spiritual life worth talking about is the experiential kind, not the religious. Why we are here is based on inner experience, gnosis, not the expectations of our country of origin, tradition, culture, teachings or habits.
Gnosis is connection to Reality, a much more proper name for God. Those who have experienced it are marked by a reluctance to talk about it. What we know of it suggests it is spontaneous, though some religious teachers claim they can induce it in their pupils by special disciplines. Jesus said his message was only for those already prepared by his God, perhaps a reference to the experience of gnosis. Bible references suggest it can’t be earned or deserved.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the experience happens to those aged approximately between 20 and 30. Each experience brings with it a sense of departure from the body. While it lasts, the feeling is of being infused as if anaesthetised with a profound sense of joy. Everything that exists or has ever existed belongs intensely to the one having the experience. There is no absence of time, just no such thing as time.
It is as if the subject is being observed with benign indifference, as if their existence is unremarkable, as if they are an essential part of a reality in which they exist forever.
The experiences are benign, they come with an undetectable gentleness as if from an infinite, unassailable strength. There is a sense that the even greater Reality is waiting nearby. Afterwards, some subjects conclude they are given as much of the experience as they can bear. As the experience begins to leave the loss is fought against with agitation and sadness, a panicking, agitated sense of extinction.
The experiences do not lead the subject to want to be a better human being. They can make the subject impatient with being human at all. Being a “better”, a “good”, human being, become givens, “fruits of the spirit”. After such experiences such attributes seem axiomatic, automatic, needing no effort to achieve such personal attributes.
There is no such thing as an Islamist, Christian, Buddhist, Hindhu or Jewish gnosis. Any attempt to entangle the pure mystical experience of Reality (MER) with the doctrines, ideologies and cultural mythomania and attachments of humans and their religions is an oxymoron.
Real, unadulterated gnosis is not anthropomorphic, human centred. It makes a clear distinction between the human spirit and what humans call the Holy Spirit, that which is of man, (matter, morality and ethics), and that which is Real, pure, the soul. The soul is a part of what those who have the gnostic experience then know as their true identity, an identity which is part of a whole to which they will eventually return permanently.
The sense is that the soul is merely placed in the human mind and body in order to experience matter and when that is satisfactorily accomplished, when the soul is purified through such distillation, refining, then the body is discarded and the mind is shelved as no longer required. Only souls are eternal, not humans.
Keith Hancock . Nanaimo mid 1995, added to in 2016.