There are of course some famous examples of the more dramatic kind, like Paul’s blinding conversion on the road to Damascus, as described in the New Testament. And later, in the lives of the saints, there are plenty of colourful – sometimes lurid - stories of sudden revelation. Much later, in the twentieth century, the psychologist Carl Jung, a spiritual healer in word and deed, talked of ‘big dreams’ experienced by his patients during their therapy, when vivid archetypal images bearing a powerful spiritual message seem to loom up from deep within the psyche.
But does it have to be like a Hollywood film? AA’s ‘Big Book’, speaks also of spiritual awakening of the ‘educational variety’ – meaning the kind of experience which grows almost imperceptibly day by day, month by month, year by year – and I am sure many will recognise in this their own life-experience. The tiniest events, momentary sensations, can act as ripples upon our spiritual consciousness, producing quite dramatic results over time.
I was listening to a recent archive talk by Unity minister Jim Rosemergy where he tells the story of a young man in the Mid-West who was experiencing a tough time. Deep in confusion and melancholy he sat one day on a lonely rocky outcrop near his country home. It was a foggy day. Nothing seemed clear, inside or out. But then suddenly an American bald eagle flew past. The young man looked up and for a tiny second their eyes met, the man’s and the bird’s – and his life was utterly changed. He had glimpsed a vivid, overwhelming sense of connection, just for a brief moment. There may have been many sad or uncertain times ahead, but this young person was never quite the same again.
When I was in my late twenties – and still drinking far too much – I took a lonely camping holiday, trekking along the Pembrokeshire coast path, with the weight of a comforting bottle of whisky in my kit bag, along with my tent and sleeping bag.
Deep in the night, in the middle of my journey, on a craggy clifftop miles from civilisation, I woke up in my tent, badly wanting to pee! I struggled outside into what seemed the thickest blackness I had ever met. But then I looked up. There were the stars. Tens, hundreds, thousands, millions, trillions of them. I stared up. They stared back. And just for a second there was nothing else but me and them.
Three hours earlier I had gulped down whisky to fortify me for the night. Now I didn’t need booze. I had found something far more important to sustain me.
I can name perhaps another five or six experiences like this over the years, ripples in my everyday life which have gently and imperceptibly brought me to this spot. Spiritually awakened? Maybe. Maybe not quite. There is never an end to this road. But it is the chance moment, the everyday throw-away experience which has marked my particular way. The eye of an eagle met suddenly up there in the sky, when everything else seemed just so much blank white.
Media Producer, Unity UK
Unity in the UK