These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.Awakening. Salvation. Enlightenment. Gnosis. Experiencing the "hymn of dialectic." Transcending. The sensation of Oneness. The Peace that passes all understanding. In this essay I am going to write in the voice of a person who has had this experience, and I am going to call it "the experience."
People sometimes ask me whether I believe in the experience. I can only say that the experience is not something that can be understood or explained, and can only do my best to communicate that single fact over and over again. As far as I know, there is no prerequisite knowledge that one must gather before having the experience. There is no essential vocabulary. No academic degree can promise anyone the experience.
Before I had the experience, there were many things I did not believe in. I did not believe in "God" or heaven or reincarnation. I did not believe in Marxism, and I resisted things like "postmodernism," anarchism, capitalism, and so on. Indeed, I disbelieved in almost everything on the eve of having the experience.
Since then, I have read accounts of other people's experiences. Most of them seem to have had a slightly different apprenticeship on the way to the experience. Instead of adamantly disbelieving in as much as they could, they were what I call "constricted believers"--that is, they believed very strongly in one dead tradition or other. They generally called themselves "Atheists" or "Christians" or "Muslims" or "Advaitists" or "Jainists" or "Buddhists" or whatever.
Despite our differences on the way to the experience, I have found that there is absolutely no disagreement after the experience about what the experience is, or whether it exists.
But as I have said, people who have not had the experience occasionally ask me to defend the path I took to get to the experience. And no matter how hard I try to make it clear that the way one takes is laughably unimportant from the perspective of one who has had the experience, it seems that my questioners cannot help but focus on my path instead of the experience itself.
People who are "path-obsessed" are themselves the cause of the tradition that involves an "experienced" mentor/teacher/guru/shaman telling a student to jump through a given number of hoops in a particular manner: "Go outside and find 'your' spot on the front porch. I will not teach you until you have found your spot. Make sure to sit cross-legged (right leg on top) when you find your spot." The master's intention here is nothing other than to shake the path-obsessed student of their obsession with the path. As somebody who has had the experience once said, "The way matters but little; the will to arrive suffices."
But the path-obsessed are nimble and graceful compared to the stubborn mules who refuse to believe there is any "experience." These I call the "Intractables." Refusing to believe that there is anything on the other side of the ocean, the Intractables refuse to embark on a voyage; and by their refusals, they obliterate their natural curiosity to know what's on the other side. The Intractables would sooner look me in the eye and tell me that my own experience of the experience must be a kind of madness, or a chemical imbalance, or something of that nature -- anything rather than admit there may be land on the other side of that vast ocean. [Sidepoint: caution: this is only a metaphor... we should remember the reminder given to us by another of those who had the experience: "They also serve who only stand and wait." The other side of the Ocean may well come and get these Intractables.]
Or, if they be that rare case, not "believing" in the possibility of the experience, but disciplined enough to admit the possibility that I have experienced something they have not, they will have sculpted themselves into a perfect mystery to me. For my thesis will always be: "This experience has occurred at least once. I know it from experience." And for those wise enough to not argue that point, the experience may be closer to them than they know. Of these I ask only, in good faith, tell me what is in your heart--speak that.