By retired surgeon Anthony Good, a follower of mysticexperiences.net
Introduction: This is a remarkable first person document of lasting value to Mystics, Seekers, and those academics and scientists around the world who study our subject. It was an easy decision to ask for permission to re-propagate its contents here, for which permission was given immediately. – Keith.
Spirituality has, for me, always been immersed in doubt. I was brought up an atheist until I could think for myself when I moved onto the agnostic fence.
I could find no logical way to God, and even Soren Kierkegaard, the nineteenth century existential philosopher and theologian said that at some point there had to be a leap of faith, which I found hugely disappointing. How could faith be relied upon, when so many put their faith even in everyday things and are let down? I sensed a risk of falling into wish fulfilment.
The religious cultures I found so foreign, with constant referrals to faraway times, places, and ideas. Religious folk unfortunately are sometimes the worst exponents of the moral principles their creed advocate. (As I write there is a continuation of the unfolding sex abuse scandal in the English Roman Catholic Church.) How can the organised religions be so convinced of their God and yet reject each other’s; who is right, who am I to believe, where am I to put my faith?
Though many folks have a sense of spirituality outside the mainstream religions, it is poorly organised and without support outside the secret societies of the Masons and Rosicrucians who are often held in suspicion, and can attract hostility. So where does one turn?
Then there is the enormity of human suffering, from wars, failed political ideologies, disease, natural disasters I need not go on. How is all that accounted for in God and spirituality?
Nor was there evidence that God did not exist. Doubt looked both ways.
A Spiritual Opening
The existential crisis and spiritual opening were the game changer. There had been a couple of hints in past years but now this was like a slo-mo spiritual party cannon explosion of dreams, reveries, living mythologies, visualisations, spirit encounters, revelations, and far too many improbable coincidences. Before this curtain opening in my late forties, I would have considered its significance highly doubtful. It had to be experienced to be believed, then things will never be the same again.
I was pulled off the agnostic fence to at least follow this opening. There was no doubt about the experiences, but what they meant, or where it was taking me that was different. However, what appeared to be new truths were being laid before me and this was a kind of embodied living of what was happening rather than just some kind of thinking thing. It’s not willed, it breaks in, it is not lead by thinking, it leads.
The journey stripped away the old dependable truths, to the point where I was alone looking into darkness, a broken deconstructed character, and new truths doubted. I felt on the very edge of sanity.
Diminishing Old Doubts
Spirituality, had to be directly experienced, when it brings its truth value. Could I accept truth without having to understand it? The mystics say this experienced truth is higher than the trickster intellect. After all how many rational arguments and lines of logic have found their way into false conclusions?
I found my experiences were consistent with the mystics whether psychologists like Carl Jung and Roberto Assagioli, those from the main religions, and even the great artists, writers, and poets. They formulated an interconnected tapestry of consistent truths that revealed the push and pull of our existence.
Is it not unfair to expect the followers of the organised religions to be perfect, or even live up to their ideals, can anyone else do that? They are caught up in human failings like the rest of us even if also like us they cannot see, or even want to recognise them.
I found faith in the authenticity of my experiences, without them I would have stayed on the fence, faithless, and doubtful as before.
My perspective on my life is of course human with an egoic orientation, but the true reference point for our lives may be the soul wanting to learn and grow into wholeness, holiness. Oh, and how convenient to blame something else for our errors, an all supposedly loving God. Mankind has free will, and so how could God be omnipotent; man has to take responsibility, at least until man’s free will is perfectly aligned with God’s will? There is though enormous not knowing.
So if it’s true that we are looking at the work of effectively an infinite mind no wonder there is doubt and we need guides to find our way through. So many people seem to think they know the unknowable God. An egoic trap?
New Doubts on the Journey
Gradually, day by day experiences, contemplations, revelations, and more, have built up internal and external consistencies formulating what looked like the truth. Doubt has been diminished but waxed and waned.
For example, I recently had this dream; I was looking up at the sky with my dear wife and birds were flying over us when a big shaggy dog appeared jumping across the sky. I told her that when I saw Pegasus in the sky that is what it looked like, seemingly impossible but still able to walk on air. Then I saw the dog as a sheep, and then it broke up into birds. All along what I had thought was a dog running over the sky was an illusion of just birds coming together like the murmuration of starlings or swirling of a shoal of fish.
Is all experienced as spirituality merely a misinterpretation? Derren Brown the extraordinarily talented English illusionist when asked if he believed in God said he did not because he knew how the mind could deceive itself. The dream could have referred to sheep following dogma. Was I at risk of forming my dogma out of illusion and following that, sheep-like? Yes, of course.
More recently I read the excellent book, ‘The Master and His Emissary’ by Iain McGilchrist (he is on YouTube). It is an up to date account of lateralised brain function, and how the relative predominance of left and right brain function has influenced history.
Spiritual experiences are held in the right brain which cannot directly vocalise; could we be tapping into this during the spiritual journey? Is this fascinating hidden part of the brain trying to create a seemingly legitimate false reality for our lives out of mostly lost memory cuttings? I doubt that I have the imagination, sophistication, or creativity to construct what I have experienced spiritually, with its multi-layered complexity, intricacy, and revelatory push. But could spirituality be the dark side of the brain, and nothing more, or is our brain triggered into activity by something beyond it?
Could I be following a self-constructed elaborate fiction to live by, but then you don’t need to be in spirituality to do that! McGilchrist says that when people don’t believe in God, they find something less worthy to believe in.
Journeying with Doubt
Doubt is diminished by relating to events that go beyond our control or construction, such as synchronicities, predictive dreams, manifestations, and coincidences too improbable and frequent to dismiss easily, episodes of being rescued by unlikely circumstance or out of character individuals, and much more that cannot be explained by mere mental working and chance.
Maybe the most fundamental dissolver of doubt is a very solid and deeply felt sense of rightness about what is experienced (and not merely willed into creation by thought). Is this the faith that people describe; it’s not confected, wished, logicalised, but felt very deeply building up from experience and contemplation over years. It often, maybe usually, arrives without invitation, and is surprising.
Doubt, I have heard it said, is a necessary part of the spiritual journey, and will be with us to the end. The journey has eventually brought me to encounters that are more believable than not. There will always be a fear of self-delusion, but that diminishes with an honest appraisal of what I encounter. To wrestle with the truth and doubt and maybe God too is the surest way to find the right path on the journey to a purpose of our existence.
For now, I hope that in recognising my doubt, (and all its companions; faith, hope, wanting, fear, love, knowing and not knowing, and others) I can avoid being controlled and biased by it and relate to what comes in the next step with openness and balance as a seeker of truth.
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