Realizing that one is told these days not to talk of spiritual "experiences", and also realizing that I have seldom paid much attention to what one is told not to do, I am going to talk about a couple of "my" experiences.
I have been going to write this for a while, but have hesitated, not just for the above reason, but because I have thought that "my" experience might be seen as "silly" by many who look for "big, earth-shaking experiences." I grew up with a great sense of understanding that there was something "going on" that most did not understand, but recognized in the back of their souls. I was told about God, but had a sense that nobody really knew about "him". I always felt that, if God was all they said he was, we should hold him in our minds first of all things. It was clear as a child that this was not the case with most people, even those who talked about him a good deal.
I found a "friend" in God, and carried him around with me. I had no doubt that the "kingdom of heaven" was, as Jesus said, within me. I learned a game on my own, in which I could ask a question, and then open a random page in the Bible, and find an answer. No one but me was aware of this. I am a very shy person, and was an even shyer child. My life was a very secret one. Even my parents knew little of my personal, "secret" life. When I reached my teens, I became more and more agnostic. This happened because I began to question everything. This happened because one day my high school American History teacher was out sick, and the teacher who taught Philosophy took the class for one day. He talked of Descartes, and at once a whole new world opened up for me. People actually thought! They actually thought about thinking! How wonderful that was. And although I still felt that there was "something" beyond my self, within myself, God became a casualty of reason.
I lived as an agnostic from my middle teens until my early thirties when a transformation of sorts took place. I had read and studied philosophy and the occult, and some Eastern philosophy during that period, but nothing effected me in my soul until I picked up a copy of The Cloud of Unknowing. That little book on Christian Mysticism changed my life. This happened to be my 33rd year, and I realized that this was the same year of life that the Christ was crucified. During this time I had my first significant "spiritual experience". While sitting in a darkened room in deep contemplation, I was given a vision of the crucified Christ. This was not some wonderful crucifix or glorious vision, but the presentation of a dirty, bleeding, dying man. All the pain was revealed, all the suffering was felt first hand as I stood before the cross. This was the answer, this sacrifice. This was what I was called to do, and it was frightening. I was prepared to give my life also, but I had been with my Partner for 12 years by that time, and did not want to separate from him, so I sought spiritual counseling from an Episcopal Priest. This led to reading much Thomas Merton, and to make a long story short, led eventually to the formation of the religious community my Partner and I began in Lincoln, England. As I have said elsewhere, the Church of England was not prepared for two Gay men to begin a religious community at that time, and even though we had the support of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral and the Bishop of Lincoln, the community was forced to close, and our home for "lost people" was closed.
This tragedy was devastating, and pushed me away from the established church. Even before the community was destroyed, I had begun to read about Ramakrishna, and later Ramana Maharshi. I loved the eccentricities of Ramakrishna, but Ramana captivated me, and gave me answers not found since reading The Cloud of Unknowing. When we returned to the United States, I found Nisargadatta Maharaj in the library, while looking for books on Ramana, and I fell in love. After reading all I could find on Nisargadatta, and much of Ramesh Balsekar's writing, I felt that the intellectual understanding was there, but I missed the love that I had found in my return to Christianity.
All my life I have experienced waves of love and gratitude that would come over me, and bring me to tears. This would be caused by almost anything, a baby's laugh, a beautiful sunset, anything. Now, with the idea of "oneness" firmly in my mind, I began to wonder, how can I feel love when there is only one. God, at this time, had become a reference only. Nisargadatta referred to God occasionally, but I had no sense that he "believed" in God, but just used the term for convenience. Still the "feeling" was there in me. How can I love God when no such being exists outside of my mind? This troubled me. One day, while working as a Apartment Manager, I was sitting in my truck, waiting for my partner, who was shopping. There had just been a rain storm and the clouds were breaking up, and it was wonderfully beautiful. My eyes filled with tears as a wave of love flowed through me. But this time, instead of the troubling doubt or questions that God and I are separate, the conviction that I WAS the Love overwhelmed me, and has never left me since. I realized that there was no God, no me, just this "connection". The "space" between thoughts of God and I was Love in all it's flow, all it's creative movement, and I am that.
From The Cloud of Unknowing to the cloud of understanding, I had come full circle. Ten years after this experience, I wrote this all down in a book in which I re-wrote the Rule for the Community of the Living Sacrifice in view of this new understanding. Now ten years after that, I have crawled onto Facebook, and have started to share.