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The Wren-Lewis Epiphany
James: This is the account of an Australian man named John Wren-Lewis, who had a “near death experience” (NDE), or what I would call an “experience of the self.” It is quite unusual in that he makes the connection between the experience and his understanding of who he is. He says…
John Wren-Lewis: “The after-effects of the experience, however, were dramatic indeed, and I have found no account of anything comparable in the near-death experience literature. I have been left with a change of consciousness so palpable that in the early days I kept putting my hand up to the back of my head, feeling for all the world as if the doctors had removed the top of my skull and exposed my brain to the infinite darkness of space. In fact the Living Void – which I prefer to call Eternity or Deep Heaven – is still with me as a kind of background to my consciousness. The effect is that I experience everything, including this seventy-something-year-old body-mind, as a continuous outpouring of Being, wherein every part is simultaneously the whole, manifesting afresh moment by moment from that infinite Dark.
“As ‘John’ I seem to have no separate existence, but am simply the Void knowing itself in manifestation, and in that process of continuous creation everything seems to celebrate coming into being with a shout of joy: ‘Behold, it is very good!’ Yet the experience is in no sense a high, for its feeling-tone is one of gentle equanimity. My impression is rather that I am now knowing the true ordinariness of everything for the first time, and that what I used to call normal consciousness was in fact clouded.
“I still slip back into that old clouded state frequently, but this is not a process of ‘coming down.’ What happens is something I would have found unbelievable had I heard of it second-hand, namely, I again and again simply forget about The Pearl of Great Price. I drift off into all kinds of preoccupations, mostly trivial, and become my old self, cut off from the Void-Background. Then, after a while, there begins to dawn on me a sense of something missing, at which point I recall the Void and usually click back into the new consciousness almost immediately, with no effort at all.
“I think this is what is meant by the mystical notion that so-called normal human life is really a state of chronic forgetfulness of ‘who we really are,’ and I suppose my NDE must somehow have shocked me into recognising my identity with Eternity, with the result that my forgetfulness is now spasmodic rather than chronic. Needless to say, I was bowled over by all this at first, and spent many weeks coming to terms with it, during which I found that the new consciousness did not seem to demand any drastic changes of lifestyle. In keeping with its sense of utter ordinariness, I remained recognizably John, and neither my tendency to drift out of the new consciousness nor my ability to click back into it seemed affected in any way by variations in diet, environment or activities, such as meditation.”