The video here shows an interview with John Franklin, the former Secretary of the Alister Hardy Society, describing one of his own spiritual experiences. He also gives a summary of the work of the Religious Experience Research Centre and the implications of its work.
The second video is of Pam Reynolds discussing her Near-Death Experience, whilst the third video is of Jill Bolte Taylor explaining how a stroke resulted in a spiritual state of awareness.
Also available is an account of Dr Robert Forman's own experiences of the spiritual path. Dr Forman is the founding editor of the Journal of Consciousness Studies: controversies in science and the humanities and author of Enlightenment Ain’t What it’s Cracked Up to be: A Journey of Discovery, Snow and Jazz in the Soul (2011)
You can read further examples of spiritual experiences below. These extracts are from accounts of spiritual experiences from the archive of the Religious Experience Research Centre (RERC).
“I was out walking one night in busy streets of Glasgow when, with slow majesty, at a corner where the pedestrians were hurrying by and the city traffic was hurtling on its way, the air was filled with heavenly music; and an all-encompassing light, that moved in waves of luminous colour, outshone the brightness of the lighted streets. I stood still, filled with a strange peace and joy, the music beat on in its majesty and the traffic and the pedestrians moved through the light. They passed on their way, but the music and light remained, pulsating, harmonious, more real than the traffic of the streets. I too moved on……till I found myself in the everyday world again with a strange access of gladness and of love.”
“In utter disillusionment with self and church, I came to the ‘end of my tether’. In a state of intense, inner wretchedness, of such intensity, that my mind seemed on the point of breaking, I got up at 4am and began wandering aimlessly in the wooded hillside. This went on for some time until, unexpectedly, the words of Psalm 130 sounded clearly in my mind… ‘And plenteous redemption is ever found in Him; and, all his iniquities, He Israel shall redeem.’ With those words light seemed to envelop me, and there flowed into my desolate heart such a flood of Love and compassion that I was overwhelmed by the weight of it. It was stricken by such wonder and amazement that I burst into tears of joy; it seemed to flow through my whole being with a cleansing and healing virtue. From that moment I knew that Love was the nature of reality. I was fit and well again. The experience is as real today as it was then………..The awareness of Love fills one’s being with tremendous strength. One is weak but at the same time very strong . It is a very unusual feeling.
“I was sitting one evening, listening to a Brahms symphony. My eyes were closed and I must have been completely relaxed for I became aware of a feeling of ‘expansion’, I seemed to be beyond the boundary of my physical self. Then an intense feeling of ‘light’ and ‘love’ uplifted and enfolded me. It was so wonderful and gave me such an emotional release that tears streamed down my cheeks. For several days I seemed to bathe in its glow and when it subsided I was free from my fears.
“I didn’t feel happy about the world situation but seemed to see it from a different angle. So with my personal sorrow. I can truly say that it changed my life and the subsequent years have brought no dimming of the experience.”
“In 1956 at the age of 23 my husband and I were walking the cliff path from St Ives in Cornwall to Zennot. It was a bright sunny day in September, bright but not a garish mid-summer sun. My husband was walking his usual forty yards ahead and disappeared over the prow of an incline, so to all intents and purposes I was entirely alone. Although there was no mist the light seemed suddenly white and diffused and I experienced the most incredible sense of oneness and at the same time ‘knew what it was all about’ it being existence. Of course, seconds later I hadn’t the faintest idea what it was all about. However it struck me that the oneness was in part explained by the sensation that the air and space and light was somehow tangible, one could almost grasp it, so that there was not a space which stopped because my human form was there but that my form was merely a continuity of the apparently solid space.
“The experience was unbelievably beautiful, and I will never forget the quality of that bright white light. It was awesome.”
“One night of, I should think, neurotic misery I suddenly had an experience as if I was buoyed up by waves and waves of utterly sustaining power and love. The only words which came near to describing it were ‘underneath are the everlasting arms’ though this sounds like a picture, and my experience was not a picture but a feeling, and there were the arms.
……it came from outside unasked. No wishful thinking was involved, my unhappiness did not matter if the world was sustained by love in that way.”
“Briefly speaking the experience is of deep peace a feeling of well-being when everyday life is reduced to a trivial level. I loose (sic) track of time and may be two or three hours sitting still experiencing a peaceful joyful sort of feeling. I seem to become insulated from the outside world, sound for instance is not noticeable and it is only as the feeling withdraws that I become conscious of my surroundings which at that time always seem imbued with great beauty, even ordinary objects.
These feelings can sometimes be brought on by music but more often occur when I am alone and quite frequently when life seems tasteless and dark. It is as if the feelings come to give me comfort and strength to go on. I have not found a way to induce these feelings though I have tried meditation and prayer, neither work for me……….
“I find it difficult to describe my experience, only to say it seems to be outside of me and enormous and yet at the same time I am part of it, everything is. It helps me to live and to love others. It is difficult to describe, but in some way because of this feeling I feel united to all people, to all living things.”
“My experience happened some years ago……..it happened during a period of prayer that I found myself going through a tense physical struggle somewhat similar to childbirth. I became suddenly aware of light rays about me.
“It frightened me, thinking that I had entered a forbidden realm by mistake.
“But what happened to me was most wonderful. I actually felt that I was in tune with the entire universe. I became imbued with a feeling of unity toward all mankind. That feeling to a certain extent has stayed with me. It was a startling experience and I honestly felt that I had made a new discovery……..there is no doubt in my mind that God is a reality.”
“I was listening to music….and from the first few bars found myself in unusually complete unity with it i.e. there seemed to be a conscious, or rather, self conscious stage between me and it. This resulted in my, for the first time, getting the so-called message of the music. Being flattened by it would be more accurate as the experience was in no way nebulous, to the extent that one could literally write down the ‘message’, though it sounds pretty silly. ‘Things were like this once but don’t worry, they still are in this music’. To enlarge, one was being given the most pure, open, radiant, unbounded love, expressed with perfect beauty (the beauty was love somehow) with no qualifying clauses and without a shadow of asking anything in return; generating a consequent feeling of gratitude and that one could never ever deserve it. The effect was of a humbling re-discovery of the ‘first principle ‘of existence which one just cannot live up to in everyday life……”
“I have experienced a heightened awareness and this has enabled me to become extra-sensitive to surroundings, people etc. This has given me an increased perception of being in a state of ‘Oneness’ with circumstances and people but at the same time I have at the same time a definite awareness of my ‘a-lone-ness’. At times I have an experience of expansion and a feeling of suffusion from within me- an expanding consciousness of myself and an intensification of my inner awareness which brings a feeling of union and relationship with creation.”