The other day, I was reading Charles Tart’s The End of Materialism, and he quotes in full an account of a profound mystical experience that a man named Allan Smith had. Smith was a promising young researcher on the nature of anesthesia, and an atheist, when one day in 1976, while sitting at home watching the sunset, he had an overpowering experience of union with God. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here is the paragraph that struck me the most:
The benign nature and ground of being, with which I was united, was God. However, there is little relation between my experience of God as ground of being and the anthropomorphic God of the Bible. That God is separate from the world and has many human characteristics. ‘He’ demonstrates love, anger and vengeance, makes demands, gives rewards, punishes, forgives, etc. God as experienced in Cosmic Consciousness is the very ground or ‘beingness’ of the universe and has no human characteristics in the usual sense of the word. The universe could no more be separate from God than my body could be separate from its cells. Moreover, the only emotion that I would associate with God is love, but it would be more accurate to say that God is love than God is loving. Again, even characterizing God as love and the ground of being is only a metaphor, but it is the best that I can do to describe an indescribable experience.
When the experience faded, he said,
Immediately following return to usual consciousness, I cried uncontrollably for about a half hour. I cried both for joy and for sadness, because I knew that my life would never be the same.
He lost interest in his research work and left his university faculty position. He says that he “eventually earned a M.A. in Consciousness Studies and another in Theology. Since Cosmic Consciousness, I have not had a ‘career’ in the usual sense of the word.”
When I read the line, “The universe could no more be separate from God than my body could be separate from its cells,” I had an insight. It’s extremely basic—Spirituality 101, really. But it made a little piece fall in place for me. For some time now I have been deeply taken with the thought of God’s Love. God in the Course is unbelievably loving; and when I say “unbelievably,” I mean it literally. I can’t quite get my belief to wrap itself around the extreme lovingness ascribed by the Course to God.
This line helped me with that. If, metaphorically speaking, I’m just a cell in God’s body—if I’m simply a part of God—then of course He would be genuinely and purely loving toward me. What else could He be? At that point, my interests would be His interests, since I’m part of Him. Our interests wouldn’t just dovetail, it wouldn’t just be a lucky win-win situation. Our interests would be truly the same, because our being would be the same. It would therefore be impossible for Him to in any way take advantage of me, or give me false promises, or be untrustworthy, or disrespect me, or not care about me. All those things only make sense in relation to someone who is apart from you.
I know, I know, this is really basic. But it’s surprising how often those basic things still need to sink in.