...in 1976 when my second "permanent" relationship began to fall apart. Friends of ours in similar circumstances had attended an "encounter group" — a new form of personal therapy then very fashionable — and had put their relationship back together on a very sound footing. We decided to do the same, but the experience served only to confirm that we were indeed at the end of the road as a couple.
For both of us, however, the experience was life-changing.
In my case, I emerged one evening on the group from an extremely powerful "primal therapy" session and as I returned to an awareness of the group around me I was also instantly aware that something had changed.
I felt an enormous peace, as though I wanted for nothing.
As I looked around, the members of the group were transformed in my sight. They were just there, but bathed in a kind of golden light.
In the ordinary way, nearly everything that we experience we then interpret or filter in the light of our expectations about that class of experience, and in the light of our present personal needs or requirements.
(It doesn't matter whether these needs are our "real" needs, or simply a perception which is the result of cultural, political, or commercial conditioning, or some combination. Likewise with our expectations.)
This, by and large, is what "meaning" is, most of the time.
There is nearly always such an interpretation or filtering going on. The only time that such interpretation stops is when the past and the future disappear temporarily from our awareness. Only in that timeless present does unconditioned perception occur.
(This "timeless" state is the goal of most forms of meditation practice.)
Rudolph Steiner speaks of a spiritual gift called the "draught of forgetfulness" that enabled one to approach a new event without this attached "meaning" so as to comprehend it spiritually.
This experience of mine was, as far as I can tell in recollection, perception without interpretation. It was an absolute, unconditioned perception. It was far, far, richer than anything I recall experiencing prior to this. And quite, quite new.
I believe that was my first "mystical" experience. It was certainly the first time I had experienced love which was not founded on sex or mutual need satisfaction. And, let me assure you, there was no other word but love for what I felt as I looked around me.
As I came to frame the experience later, if God was unconditional love, then God I had experienced, directly and internally, and I had experienced Him in a way that had never been part of my conventional religious experience or expectations.
It did occur to me at the time that if there were indeed "something" that life was all about, this was the most promising candidate so far.
this encounter group had provided me with such a profound experience, I began to
explore this new form of psychotherapy in more depth. In all, I joined and spent
18 years in the intentional community, Centrepoint, which grew out of the encounter group
These days, I am less fixated on "explanations" for my experience, but my recollection is that at first, very new in the territory, I hunted almost in vain for maps. Most of my early maps drew heavily on the twin traditions that together structured the emergent New Age, and it was only later that I came to writers such as Evelyn Underhill and Walter Stace, whose signal writings I have made available through this page.