The first true spiritual experience I had (that I remember) came about after an industrial quantity of LSD when I saw and felt for the first time that – to quote Bill W – “a mighty purpose and rhythm underlay all.”
It totally changed my perception of life, the universe, and my place in it, but over time - as so often happens - as the experience faded and different experiences came and went, my habitual delusions about the way things are began to reassert themselves.
And my habitual delusions about the way things are run a bit like this: “Why has this happened to me? This is all wrong. Life shouldn’t be this way. You should be a bit less like you and a bit more like me. Fucking people. This is shit.”
And so on, and so forth.
All that resentment and wrong thinking is a definite block to spiritual awakening, or indeed, to a remotely happy existence. That’s why I don’t have a whole lot of time for uptight hippies, no matter how much mantra they chant, or for religious maniacs who think the rest of the world are dangerous heathens to be converted at all costs.
I’ve learnt since that if I think I know anything, I have effectively closed myself off to reality, which changes faster than I can keep up with it, and if I am blocking myself off from reality I am blocking myself off from God, because they are the same.
My self-righteousness, anger, resentment, and fear drove me through an alcoholic hell to the very doors of death, and thank God they did; it was only when I was completely hopeless and utterly defeated that I was able to surrender, to what is.
William James, in his book “Varieties of Religious Experience” wrote:
"Emotional occasions, especially violent ones, are extremely potent in precipitating mental rearrangements. ... Hope, happiness, security, resolve, emotions characteristic of conversion can be ... explosive. And emotions that come in this explosive way seldom leave things as they found them."
No wonder we see so many “wholesale miracles” through the twelve step program. All of the spiritual prescriptions of other paths (surrender, the realisation that God will be found within, self-enquiry, repentance/renunciation, redress, prayer, meditation and selfless action) are put into practical application almost at once; certainly by the time I had been led through the twelve steps by my sponsor (which took about a month), these things were my established and accepted way of life. Since then it’s just been about continuing.
If I continue to practice these principles, I continue to change, and change* is the essence of awakening. I have gone in a few short years from something that I despised, to someone that I’m very happy being, namely me.
If I’m happy to be me, I’m probably going to be quite happy letting you be you, too.
*Change, also, is something that can only happen within. If you think you need to change the world, you probably need to change yourself. There’s nothing wrong with the world. The world is okay. It’s been doing fine for a few years now, and it will still be doing ok when you’re dead.