Spiritual Awakenings: Scientists and Academics Describe Their Experiences, edited by Marjorie Woolacott, PhD and David Lorimer, in my opinion is such a book. Let me be blunt. The United Nations announced it in 2021: to save our planet from encroaching eco-armageddon, we shall have to change our way of life. For that to happen we have to learn to see ourselves, each other, and the natural world in new ways; with new values and new perceptions. In a word, it will take a spiritual awakening, a re-education of our consciousness, and a new collective imagination.
It needs to be heard: people from all walks of life are reporting extraordinary experiences that seem to inspire new ways of engaging with the world. Stories about opening up to higher dimensions of possibility, indeed, of reality itself. Spiritual Awakenings focuses on scientists and academics that were largely trained to see the world in reductive physicalist terms. The book shows how experiences that challenge if not shatter the physicalist worldview give way to radically new and enticing perspectives. The writers share the experiences that altered their view of reality and changed the way they lived. The point was to try to say it as concisely as possible. Here’s what I wrote, an intro to many powerful statements in a book that speaks to a future of human renaissance.
Experience, Meaning, Evolution
People are changed by their experiences. All my life, since seven or eight, I’ve had occasional experiences I couldn’t explain. I learned that these experiences were called paranormal and were controversial. What good were they? Speaking for myself, they forced open my mind, increased my awareness of what is possible in or beyond familiar nature. Here are three examples.
The first is precognition. In 1981 I was teaching philosophy at City University of New Jersey. In the weeks of early March I had three dreams, each about a week apart, of President Ronald Reagan being suddenly shot and taken down in the street. That’s what I saw in the first two dreams. In the third dream, I saw the President up and beaming with health. I reported these dreams to the students of one of my classes. On March 30, a student phoned me . “Dr. Grosso,” she said, “you’re a psychic—the President was shot!’ “But the president will recover well,” I answered, correctly. Which is what I saw in my last dream.
The second example. In the early 1980s I had a student who projected herself out of her body, came to my house and moved my music stand from its normal place to the center of the living room. But that’s not my second main story, however mind-blowing and true it is. I spent a night in the house of this student, married with children, who were haunted by a ghost who was already seen by nine people. I was awake into the early morning in a room where the ghost was often seen. About 2:AM I heard a gong ring that was hanging on the wall. I did not ring it. I must infer it was rung by the ghost. A warning. A few seconds later, I looked up and a transparent, human-shaped form descended upon me, and for a moment paralyzed me as I sought to cry out “He’s here!”
Now to a third illustration of strangely instructive experience. Now we are in 1971, April 23, 11 P.M.,five days before my Ph.D. defense, after which I become a doctor of philosophy. April 23 was also Jane’s birthday and we were listening to John Coltrane’s The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; looking out the window from the Sixth Floor of our apartment in Greenwich Village (14 Bedford St.), we were astonished to see a cluster of brilliant lights dancing back and forth in the sky about 200 yards above us, in unison, it seemed, with the jagged Coltrane rhythms. The lights then descended in a straight line toward us, swerved away and perched on the dome of Our Lady of Pompei, beamed at us from the dome several times, then shot back before our window, danced around a little, and took off and went North, zigzagging over the Empire State Building and vanished—all in a fraction of a second.
Each of these experiences combine to subvert my commonsense, physicalist view of the world.
Begin with precognition. The damn thing baffles me. How is it possible that my subconscious self was aware that the President was going be shot and would recover? How could that information be doled out to me in a sequence of dreams, before the actual events played out in reality? I don’t know what to say about the strangeness of precognition, and this was not the only time it happened to me. I dreamt of Swami Nadabrahmananda and his chief message to me before we ever met. Precognition throws a veil of mystery on what none of us can escape, the march of time.
So my idea of time staggers about in a shambles, and so, it appears, does my idea of another whopper concept, death. I know from my own experience about the unequivocal reality of at least one of the chief entities in all of afterlife lore: the ghost! A spirit that acts—in my case, attacks. A definite, surreal encounter. So, a baffling datum shakes up my concept of life and death. One fact can topple the Goliath of our most beloved assumptions! So I’ll be a sport and thank the dirty old ghost.
But now how did my third item of joint wonder with Jane and Louie in Greenwich Village expand and energize my picture of reality? So far I’ve noted how my idea of time and death have been stretched out of shape. Time may be an illusion and death may be the gateway to a new world of life, but now my third reality-busting episode cracks open the cosmic egg a little more. I regard my UAP—that dancing light epiphany—another step toward the expansion of possible reality. The lights that coincided with Coltrane’s music were not from anywhere on Earth—of that I’m certain. Whether from some distant planet or, more likely, a hidden dimension of reality, there is reason to believe their technology transcends ours and they seem in ways we cannot understand entangled with religious phenomena. The universe of UAPs and UFOs may well embrace our world as our subliminal mental life seems to underlie our everyday experience. We are, in short, immersed in a multi-transcendent reality.
The third big question, given the extraordinary experiences and what they may mean, what difference have they made to me? How have I been changed? is the question. I’ll answer indirectly by describing some likely changes that would or should result from having the aforesaid experiences and what they might mean.
As far as precognition, my sense of absolute certainty about even the most obvious matters is subverted by logic-bashing precognition. An air of mystery settles over the scene of life as it unfolds, a mood of enchanting uncertainty, a sense that strange things are possible. The ghost I met had the effect of expanding the idea of my journey on Earth as perhaps destined to lead to new worlds and new modes of being. As far as the encounter with Coltrane-loving aliens, again the result is the expansion and complication of the human adventure.
Simply put, how did my experiences overall change me? They forced a huge increase of empathic imagination—a great ally of our much-needed creative advance.
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