From the earliest I have been interested in spirit and science. At an early age I studied (insofar as a small child can) the Bible, works on medieval and renaissance magic, alchemy, Qabalah, the Hermetic tradition and anything considered paranormal insofar as it an essential part of the human condition. That would include the psyche. the condition of the soul, psychic phenomena and ability, astral travel and so on and big questions about reality and existance; in a word, metaphysics.
I was also very interested in the sciences but my understanding of science took more time to develop.
I had a sort of prolonged dark night of the soul around the age of 10 or 11 when I realized that religious faith and reality do not match. At first I objected on ethical and later on rational grounds. Anything that requires faith was (and still is) in my view repugnant to reason, common sense and the ethics of the Old Testament and the Koran was repugnant to common decency.
But with losing my religion came a mental and emotional darkness, a depression. Looking back I guess it was something like a personal abyss of existentialism despair or something like that. I do not regret it. I see it as a necessary step towards ‘truth’, a desert that needs to be crossed if we are to reach more fertile grounds of knowledge and wisdom.
So by about the age of 11 I was more or less held a philosophy of materialism. That is to say that I didn’t believe in anything outside conventional science. I was far too young to read into quantum physics and its paradoxes yet. I did not believe in an afterlife or a soul or psychic abilities. But I was interested in martial arts. I read an article on how meditation increases the concentration of the martial artist and gave them a sense of peace. This seemed rational enough. At about the age of 12 I meditated each day for the summer the majority of summer recess; starting at a half hour and increasing up to 2 hours long. After about two months of daily practice in total silent darkness I felt deep psychological and emotional effects early on. It went deeper than what these words cover.
In the silent awareness of my mind compartments of consciousness open that I can not describe. Suffice to say that it was like waking out of a groggy dream into clearness and bright elation. Nothing I had read prepared me for this. It was far, far more than just mental peace and high concentration!
These experiences with meditation opened a much wider model than scientific materialism allows. I still did not believe in anything, but I had direct experiences that scientific materialism not only fails to explain but denies is possible. I didn’t deny conventional science but I knew from experience that there was more and I saw no reason to make leaps of faith. I was still grounded in skepticism, you see.
Though the I never forgot the higher states of consciousness I operated in during my summer of meditation. I spent my adolescent years like a normal adolescent but with this subtle level of knowledge that these deeper levels of awareness exist. But for the most part I was interested in what other teens are interested in with a little more interest in science and art than the average kid.
At the age of 18 I got high on cannabis. I observed that the experience of a cannabis high contained analogous elation and perceptual changes as meditation but without the clarity and higher consciousness I experienced on meditation. in fact in some ways it was the opposite of meditation because a cannabis high involves a lot of ‘fuzziness’ or confusion whereas meditation should bring clarity and understanding.
Later that same year I flooded my brain with roughly 1,000 milligrams of the neurotransmitter alkaloid 4-PO-DMT (which is just a variation on common serotonin which is an other neurotransmitter that is essential for healthy brain chemistry). DMT is an other neurotransmitter produced in the brains’ pineal gland. But this was 4-PO-DMT. It is essentially normal brain DMT but with a 4-indole appendage to the molecule. Although it works almost exactly the way that serotonin does, its effects are unbelievably spectacular.
At the earlier stages of my ‘trip’ I had the same experience I had during meditation years earlier. But shortly into the trip I went even deeper and had an experience of total illumination or enlightenment or sat chit ananda or oneness or whatever you prefer to call it.
In early adolescence I started to have “out of body experiences” or OBEs. Sometimes it was just regular “astral travel” type stuff. But sometimes I started drifting to the light, the light at the end of the tunnel. I never went into the light because I figured that’s for when I die. But it’s the same light. These continued to occur occasionally throughout my life.
Towards my late 20s I started having out of body experiences more and more. It was getting to be at least once per night. That’s when I had my first grand mal seizure that was triggered by a rare type of brain tumor called oligodendroglioma. I was medically dead for a few minutes and had that classic near death experience (NDE) of floating above my body and going towards the white light.
Since then I have had a few seizures and out of body / near death experiences.
Those are my personal empirical experiences.
Many others have had these experiences with meditation, psychedelics, ‘astral travel‘, death and so on. Many people have totally conscious experiences of being out of their body and/or merging into the infinite light while they are technically dead and their brain activity is zero. Not only do people retain consciousness while flat-line-dead but also while their is no activity in the brain. Consciousness is not brain activity. Brain activity merely connects consciousness with matter, location, space and time.
This is interesting to know but it is nothing compared to the actual experience of it. One thing I know in life is that this experience is infinitely greater than anything in life. In fact, death freakin’ rocks!
I am not at all afraid of death. I have been blessed with experiencing previews to death a few times. These have been indescribably wonderful experiences. Dying is a lot like being born but a lot better.
When we are born we scream. we totally freak out. I think we cry and scream because we come from a warm, safe, cozy place of total comfort and oneness into a scary, loud, cold, blaring, confusing world of separation, pain and constant unfulfilled needs and desires. But when we die is as if we return to a place of total love, total comfort, oneness, total cessation of pain and fulfillment of desires and so on.
One big difference is that we don’t go from blindness to harsh light as we do with birth. The light of life is like total darkness compared to the light at the end of the tunnel. But for some reason that light is not harsh at all. Also that light is more than light. It is LOVE. It is ecstasy. It is the light of infinite consciousness.
There is a phrase in yoga, a mantra “sat chit ananda” ( सच्चिदानन्द ) which roughly translates to existence, consciousness, and love/bliss. This light is all existence (don’t forget that all matter and energy is from light). This light is supreme consciousness (omniscience) or the one mind that is the sum total of all awareness or the mind of god or whatever you want to call it. This light is also infinite Love, infinite bliss.
This is what I experienced empirically in meditation, peak psychedelic trips, astral travel, and death. All these are essential in what science writers are currently calling “neurotheology“. I think this should be called “neurometaphysics” but I suppose that is what my career will be all about; bringing the meme neurometaphysics and all it implies and entails into the social mind, riding the crest of the zeitgeist.
In posts to come I will go deeper into all this from various angles, scientific, mystical, religious and so on. I have a lot of reading to do so that I can give you more than my own personal experiences about it so there will be a lot of time passing between posts.