Radical Transformation of Consciousness
Written by Rev. Dennis Shipman (c) 2010
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In the American social revolutions of 1969, in the weeks that followed my experience of Oneness, I was enduring my own revolution. It wasn't like the violent outbursts of civil rights battles or college campus demonstrations against the Vietnam war, but it was just as apocalyptic.
I found myself shifting between amazement, reflection, contemplation, and shock. My entire being – mind and thoughts and emotions -- was undergoing a complete, radical transformation of consciousness from the impact of Oneness. It completely reshaped my entire approach to life.
For the next eight years, which I call the embryonic stage, the impact of enlightenment worked its magic in me. It was an intense re education, re learning period, to un-learn everything I learned, or rather, learn everything over again in relationship to this grand experience. It transformed my thought process from dualistic thinking to thinking in Oneness. It transformed my emotions from fear to Love.
I walked with my feet on the ground, but all the while, my whole awareness rested in Divine consciousness. My mind and heart felt like they were in training somewhere else in the universe. At home, my mind recharged itself in the fond remembrance of the Vision. Gazing at its triumphant splendor, its awesome stillness and brilliance branded itself into my memory. A deep reverence of thankfulness and gratitude percolated in my heart.
The new learning was geared to answering the question, ''How does everything I see in the world relate to the experience of Oneness?'' My entire being, all my thoughts and feelings, were riveted into discovering the nature of this relationship.
This whole process of psycho-physiological-emotional-spiritual transformation has stayed with me, and continues today. Since I have discovered it to be an evolutionary energy, I believe it will be with me for the rest of my life and beyond.
I realized the extent of my social conditioning, and how deeply my mind had been severely mislead, either knowingly or unconsciously, by different sectors in society. I'd seen the core of Life and it was radically different from what I had been taught and conditioned to accept. Now I had to reconstruct everything, my whole life, in relationship to Oneness. It was a new orientation to life, and I had to transform all the old conditioning into the new consciousness.
My perceptions of the world changed, first. Everything felt related to me, as if there was a kinship between me and the objects of my perception. This feeling grew stronger as time passed. I felt closer to Nature. I could feel the common Source of consciousness that flows in me also existed in every tree, rock, flower, hill, mountain, lake, pebble of sand, and wave in the ocean. It felt like I was in them, and they were in me. They no longer felt like distant, inanimate objects. They were sustained by an Invisible force just as I was.
It was the same with the animals and fish and insects. They felt akin to me, too. No longer did I feel righteously justified in arbitrarily killing them. They are sentient beings. They had a right and purpose here on earth, just as I did. But, I did not have the right to misuse them or damage their environment. They felt sacred, precious to me.
It was the same with people. I felt deeply related and close to them. I knew beyond a doubt that the radiant Light in me existed also in them. I discovered an increased sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of others, and came to see how the eyes reflect our different states of consciousness, how they truly are the windows to one’s inner being. Because I felt more in touch with them, I was able to identify with their joys and problems. This expanded sense of compassion let me see the undeniable fact that they had always been my brothers and sisters. No longer did they feel separate from me. No longer did I feel it was me communicating with a separate individual. I was them, and they were me.
The vision of radiant Light was stupendous. Up until this transcendent moment, whenever I closed my eyes I always saw darkness. This is a universal experience for all of us. We see it when we go asleep, or when we enter a dark room. It's color is coal black and many of us are afraid of the dark. We seem to loose our sense of direction in the dark. This is a common experience.
You can imagine my astonishment, when I least expected it, a brilliant Light flashed into the darkness of my inner vision, in my consciousness, like a bolt of lightening from nowhere, with my eyes closed! There ''within'' I stood in the presence of exquisite radiant circle of Light, feeling sublime joy and bliss, and the knowledge of Reality was downloaded into my human system.
Religion teaches that every person has a soul, but what does the Soul look like? Psychology teaches us that every person has a mind, but what does the mind look like? Who has ever seen it? When you stand in the Divine Inner Light, as I did, you transcend the concepts of religion and psychology, and the core of your Inner Being reminds you what mind and Soul ''is.''
All of my waking hours were spent thinking about the purpose and significance of Oneness. At work, I couldn't think of anything else, yet my productivity didn't suffer. In fact, my speed and quality increased. I was surprised to discover my power to concentrate for long periods without fatigue increased dramatically. It was no problem for me to sit in meditation for two hours. A three-hour meditation felt like a nice stretch. An eight-hour meditation felt like a real meditation. Whatever I seemed to be doing outwardly, within the depths of my being, I was always contemplating the significance of the experience of Oneness.
Sometimes when outdoors, I'd put my attention on a nature scene and focus on the remembrance of radiant Light. Within a few minutes, as I sat motionless observing the scene, my whole field of perception turned into a kaleidoscope of rainbow colors. The terms “etheric vision” and “aura” had not yet entered my vocabulary, still the power to see nature's subtle energy fields that are usually invisible with normal sight was granted by the vision of Oneness.
Seeing these subtle energy fields remained strong in me for about eight years, then gradually faded away. I discovered after years of raising my awareness through meditation and living a spiritual life, the power of etheric vision began to return.
I was shocked the sacred ecstasy of Oneness happened to me, or was it “for” me? Moreover, I was astonished that such Sublimity could ever exist. The Catholic religion never taught me about it, and I never suspected it was there. It came totally unannounced, without any fanfare, and when I least expected it.
It was a revelation, to be sure. It not only answered all the questions and doubts I had stored up in twenty-three years of living, but it had given me more food for thought than I could ever digest for the rest of my life.
I felt the greatest happiness, most secure and trouble-free I'd ever felt in my life. At that moment, I was full of bliss and love, and it was endless. I knew beyond a doubt that there was a purpose and reason to life. I believe there is no greater Experience a human being can hope for than Oneness. It is more satisfying than all the money and political power in the world. It's more breathtaking than the wonders of the world or an astronaut's view of earth from outer space. It’s beyond compare.
Like a friend from a long time ago, this very bright, warm, loving Light felt very, very familiar to me, as if I had seen and known it before. It wasn't dead by any means, but very much alive. I felt completely at home within its radiance.
The vision was very natural. Extraordinary, yes! Yet, as natural as eating or breathing. That was one of its most amazing qualities. It didn’t feel uneasy or like a stranger, or supernatural, at all, just very natural.
It left no name. The only name I had for it at the moment was ''radiant, inner Light.” I believe it will always remain nameless, unless it chooses a name. Names are not necessary in Oneness. Spirit knows its own. In Oneness, we know who we belong to. It is the elixir of elixirs, the ''creme de la creme'' of the human condition. It is a glimpse of the Love essence within you, and it is Divine Love at first sight.
The Light of Divine Love (Oneness) is incredibly gentle, beyond our wildest imagination. It does not possess a hint of harm or abuse. I felt fulfilled, and completely safe within its power and influence. In its sweet Presence, there was nothing I wanted to do but gaze at its majestic beauty and absorb the feelings of contentment and bliss.
I accepted the vision as being a part of myself. That was the odd thing. It felt as if I was participating in a sharing with myself, my real self, the Indwelling Spirit. At that moment, when I exclaimed exuberantly, "Oh! Is that the answer," I experienced the first total acceptance of my real identity – Radiant Light, Boundless Love, Divinity Itself. I didn't know then how life would radically change for me.
My search began on a small scale with a selfish motive. I was interested in myself. Who am I? Where am I going? What is life about? Does God exist? I think this is the way most spiritual quests begin: with the individual, by oneself, for oneself. And, I didn't call myself a seeker after wisdom or enlightenment or any other such label. What kept me going was the intense desire to get my questions answered.
Question. Question. Question.
I was taught this questioning is a taboo in the Catholic religion. I believe most of Christianity believes this to be true. I'm sure they reason that if you question you will lose your faith, or worse, your Soul. That's not what I discovered. I found if you question their authority, if you question the roots of dogma and doctrine, if you question the purpose of your social conditioning, if you persevere in your search to get your questions answered and don't stop, the Creator has no choice but to answer you.
In the eyes of the church, I'd become a lapsed Catholic. That's ironic because there was a time as a schoolboy I couldn't see anything else except being a Catholic. I didn't intend to fall away from the Catholic Church. I just responded to what was put in front of me. The world I grew up in didn't make sense to me. Something seemed to be missing and out of alignment, yet I couldn't put my finger on it. What was out of order? Why didn't more love, sharing and brotherhood exist? Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? Why isn't there more happiness? As the questions came up, they prompted me to find the answers.
When you stand in the Light of your mind’s eye, in the experience of Oneness, it awakens the mind, and all your questions about life are resolved in one answer. The intellect knows a power greater than itself has entered its domain, and it wants to know how that can be. What kind of benevolent power can come and go by its own freewill without the control of the intellect?
Oneness is available to all of us.
Nothing in my Catholic upbringing prepared me for such an inner revolution. In all my years of religious education, I never heard once either from a priest or nun about the possibility of Oneness or mystical union as it’s known in Christianity. I believe most of Christianity doesn't even talk about the possibility of this happening. Yet, Jesus said, ''The kingdom of Heaven (God) is within you'' (Luke 17:21). It's not found outside of yourself, as if it’s located in a heaven somewhere in outer space beyond earth's atmosphere.
No one in my family or friends knew anything about the experience of Oneness. In fact, when I got up enough courage to tell my parents about the Experience, they were dumbfounded. They couldn't believe this was coming from their son. I had never spoken to them like this before. They just couldn't believe their ears.
About a week after my experience, I told two of my best friends. They looked at me as if I were crazy. They wanted to believe me, but the credibility of it was difficult for them to accept. Their disbelief jolted me, and it was the beginning of a hard lesson for me: Only you and the Indwelling Spirit know the truth about your awakening. If you tell the rest of the world, it will react in very different ways.
Oneness awakened me to the magnificent Presence within, and I wanted to share this knowledge with everybody I talked to. Why not? It's unthinkable to me not to share this great discovery! It took a while for the realization that not everybody wants to hear about the reality of Oneness. I learned there is a great deal of superstition surrounding the subject. It deeply saddens me because the experience of radiant Light of Oneness is the greatest moment in the history of a human being's life. The Experience is quite extraordinary, beyond compare to be sure. But, whether its fear or attachment to materialism or something else, it is we who push away the Presence within us, and turn our backs on the One who can help us the most.
Many years later, I did find someone who had extensive experience in the area of Oneness. She had lived in a spiritual order for most of her life, and her opinion was highly valued by many individuals around the world. She confirmed my experience of Oneness was real, and sent me a letter saying, ''God grants glimpses of Himself in order to encourage His child to love, seek, and return to Him.''
I also met with one of the brothers of her spiritual order, and he told me, “No one can understand what you’ve seen, so don’t waste your energy trying to tell them.” As you can see by this writing, I didn’t take his advice. I’m trying to change your perception of yourself that the experience of Oneness is closer than the air you breathe, closer than your heart beat, and is in fact, the essence of your life! I want you to know how magnificent you truly are, how profound and lovingly powerful the Light within you truly is. You can rest assured that you are completely accepted by the boundless unconditional Love that exists within the center of your being.
I discovered my ignorance on the subject of Oneness was profound. It appeared I was on my own, alone in my quest. I had to intuitively dig for the answers. It was the turning point in my life, and it signaled a new reference point for me – so, I began to follow my guiding Light.
Almost immediately after my awakening, I took a deeper interest in meditation and the spiritual teachings of India. I was searching for a path that could evoke new inspiration and meaning in my life. This search led to two conflicts. First, I was still strongly outer-directed, in spite of my great inner awakening, and I was still looking for an outside authority to tell me how to run my life. I didn't realize this was self-sabotage. This is a typical co-dependent response for those of us who have given our power away and rely heavily on outside authority figures for guidance and advice. When we give away our power, we become powerless and we don't realize we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and unhappiness.
Secondly, the authority of the Catholic Church still loomed impressively in my mind. Though I was dead to its rituals and dogma, I was still very loyal to the essential spirit of Jesus Christ pervading Christianity. I didn't want to lose my Soul by changing my beliefs. I was operating out of fear. It was an irrational fear, yet very real for me at the time.
I had other irrational fears. Coming from the Catholic religion, I had forged a close relationship with Jesus. I loved studying the life of Christ and the lives of the saints. I didn't want to displease Jesus or God by giving my allegiance to a guru.
At this time, I still believed in hell-fire damnation in spite of awakening to Oneness. There was no way for me to know how much inner power I had given away to the Catholic religion and its dogma of sin. However, standing in the Light, I felt the incredible power of its holiness and love that communicated to me very clearly that fear and sin and hell-fire damnation do not exist in Oneness – which is our true nature.
And, what about meditation? I had never meditated in my life! Was it safe? Is it like prayer? It didn't look like it. It involved sitting on a chair or cross-legged in a lotus posture, back straight, eyes closed, and the body motionless. I had always prayed on my knees with my hands folded across my chest, and eyes raised to a crucifix. Should I trust meditation? How did I know I wouldn't end up like a zombie? I had a lot to learn about meditation and healing my inner life.
The first time I heard about Self-Realization Fellowship was on a surfing trip in 1963, six years before my Oneness experience. I found it at the well-known “Swami's surfing spot” in Encinitas in the San Diego area. It was named in honor of Paramaribo Yolanda's spiritual retreat, perched atop a 150 foot cliff above the sea. At the edge of the cliff, my friends and I often checked out the surf. Little did I know that years later I would return to this secluded retreat for spiritual renewal.
Self Realization Fellowship calls itself a church of all religions. It was completely new to me. What also captured my interest was the fact it displayed a picture of Jesus on the church altar along with other meditation masters who taught Yogananda. I had never seen the picture of Jesus displayed anywhere outside Christianity, and this was both intriguing and refreshing to me. Yogananda revered Jesus.
Self Realization Fellowship Church was founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda from India. He left his body in 1952. He is acknowledged as a fully self-realized master of meditation and Oneness, and considered a saint in India. He had many powers of the Soul, including the ability to leave his body and return at will. When he left the Earth-plane, it is said he did not die. He went into ''mahasamadhi'' (ma-ha-sa-ma-dee) -- a yogi's final exit from the body. He left his body after a speech at a dinner given in his honor in Los Angeles. In his book, ''Autobiography of a Yogi,'' (translated into eighteen languages) the directors at Forest Lawn Memorial Park testified that his body remained incorruptible during a period of twenty days before it was laid to rest. There was no visible sign of physical decay, no odor, no mold or drying up of body tissues. He was 59 when he made the transition.
India regarded Yogananda as a saint, and its government issued a commemorative stamp in his honor. During his lifetime, he founded the religious orders of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India in 1917, and Self Realization Fellowship in America. In 1918, he established his first school in Ranchi (India) where the society's headquarters are located. Today the society has four colleges and seventeen schools all over the country. From his humble beginnings in India, the teachings of the scientific path to God spread to millions of people in America.
I found one of the primary goals of SRF was to show the similarity between the original teachings of Jesus and India's bible, the Bagavad-Gita. This stimulated more questions. The original teachings of Jesus? What were those? Didn't the Catholic religion have a monopoly on this already? Did I miss something? What was the connection between Jesus and a church of all religions? Didn't Jesus already have a church? Was He looking for a merger? In time, all my questions found answers.
I thought I knew a lot about Jesus from my Catholic education, but I discovered I didn't know about the consciousness of Jesus. I knew what the Catholic religion had taught me about the chronological Jesus, but they never went into the consciousness of Jesus. What kind of consciousness does a Christ have? If we could stand inside the mind of Jesus, what would we see? What would we feel? How did Jesus view salvation? How did He create miracles? What is Christ-consciousness?
Note: You might enjoy reading the book review Jesus: My Autobiography. In this channeled book, in Jesus’ own words, he tells the true story of his mission on Earth, and how Church authorities perverted his teachings, and the astonishing method he used to cheat death.
At Sunday lectures, I heard strange words I never heard before: Yoga, meditation, the third eye, reincarnation, samadhi, karma, and chanted OM. It fascinated me. What grabbed my curiosity was Yogananda's scientific approach to religion. That was new! His teachings said it culminated in the attainment of a direct experience of God. This intrigued me. If a person could attain a direct experience of God, this would provide conclusive evidence of the existence of God. This goal was the utmost importance to me.
It is humorous and ironic that before I came to SRF, I already had a “direct experience of God.” However, since I was unfamiliar with the vocabulary used to describe such a profound event, I didn't associate my Oneness experience with a direct experience of God until later.
Once the connection was made, I realized my experience of Oneness and radiant Light was the same energy that Yogananda spoke of in his teachings, and that Oneness is a universal Reality. It has existed in human beings since the beginning of human history, and can be experienced by anyone on earth.
When I reached this realization, I discovered the radiant Light in me was the same radiant Light in Jesus. Then I understood His message: ''The light of the body is the eye. When thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of Light'' (Matt. 6:23). Jesus was referring to a direct experience of God, the radiant Light of Oneness in the mind's single eye at the point between the eyebrows. The realization went a step farther: Jesus, Yogananda, Buddha, myself, and many writers, poets, philosophers, mystics, and people from all walks of life in the world's history have experienced the same radiant Light of Oneness in the mind’s eye.
When I reached these realizations, I knew then just how far the Catholic religion and Christianity had strayed from Christ's original teachings. They were looking in the wrong place for salvation. It had nothing to do with sin, dogma or hell-fire damnation.
At SRF, it was the first time I came in contact with India's spiritual philosophy – the Vedas. For centuries, the mystics of India have been working diligently and meticulously to discover who we are and what God is. Their ancient discoveries have been written down in the Vedas (VAY-duhz) -- India's spiritual philosophy. The Vedas are the oldest sacred books of Hinduism – probably the oldest religion in the world. Its roots date to pre-historic times in India. They were handed down orally centuries before a sage, Vyasa, began writing them down, circa 3000 B.C.
The Vedas declare there is only one God and God is found within you. Creation is essentially an illusion. The word Veda means knowledge, and India offers the world a universal science of religion that contains the spiritual knowledge of how to prove the existence of God within us. The answer is found in the Kundalini (COON-dah-lee-knee) or Lifeforce Energy System.
During the remaining weeks of summer '69, I began reading Yogananda's ''Autobiography of a Yogi.'' It's a book about his search for God-realization. I was intrigued by the fact that Yogananda taught a scientific path to God. I'd never heard that before. His book is fascinating, provocative, and illuminating. Early in the book, I made a startling discovery that began to win my confidence towards Yogananda's point of view.
In the chapter, ''An Experience of Cosmic Consciousness,'' Yogananda describes his personal experience of Oneness. Melodic chords of emotion struck my heart as I read how his vivid experience paralleled my own encounter: how his ''body became immovable; his breath drawn out of his lungs as if by some huge magnet; soul and mind lost their physical bondage to the body; he was cognizant of an intense awareness in which he knew that never before had he been so fully alive; his sense of identity was no longer confined to the body but embraced all the atoms of the universe; and, when the celestial experience passed, he felt an unbearable disappointment upon realizing that his infinite immensity was lost; he was once again limited to the humiliating cage of a body which did not easily accommodate the Spirit within.''
Vivid memories of my awakening burst within me as I read Yogananda's phrases, such as: ''The unifying light'' . . . ''oceanic joy'' . . . ''exhaustless bliss'' . . . ''revealing the law of cause and effect in creation.''
I knew exactly what he was talking about. The similarities of an experience of Oneness were startling. Just reading these descriptions rekindled a feeling of ecstasy in me. I closed my eyes and became still, recalling the Presence of inner Light, and rejoicing in that divine image. Within that stillness, I asked for guidance and soon the conviction came in the pit of my stomach that the answers I sought in relation to the meaning of the radiant Light were unfolding like the petals of a flower.
I stayed with Self-Realization Fellowship for 10 years, all through my embryonic stage, and accomplished a lot of healing. It gave me a solid base to understand my Oneness experience and the spiritual path, for which I am eternally grateful. I shall always revere the spiritual teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, and the spiritual wisdom of India.
"Ask, and it shall be given you; Seek, and you shall find. (Matt. 7:7)