Finally, I would like to tell a little of the story of how I was taken into the land where the angels sing, where I feel the nature spirits welcome me, and how I have seen the darkness grow across the world.
One Spring, when I was fifty-five, I became very tired from teaching, exhausted, with nothing left to give, no resources. I remember the moment, sitting on my bed in a cottage in the mountains after leading a retreat in Switzerland for over three hundred people, crying inwardly, “I can’t go on! Something has to change. I need help.” And, of course help did come, but not in any way I could have imagined. Change did come, but a change so intense and unexpected it took me many years to understand. Later that Summer I was taken in full consciousness into the world of light, and I lived there fully for two weeks, remaining in the physical world and yet seeing it from the plane of light.
I was giving another retreat at the time, and I remember I would walk very slowly from my cabin to the meditation hall, fully present in the world of light. There were beings of light all around me. I was not in this world; rather, I saw this world from a place of light. And then, when I started to teach on that third day, the light was so intense it almost fried my brain, literally. The light was burning inside of me. Light upon light. Too much light. I remember later lying on my bed with my whole consciousness burned out, closing my eyes into a searing blaze of light. It was frightening. I wondered if I could ever recover. Human beings are not meant to live in this light. It is too bright, too intense. It burns up everything. I stopped teaching. I hardly know how I got home.
In this experience—painful, confusing—I was taken into a vastness beyond any horizon, any sense of self. Thirty years earlier, when I was twenty-three, I had been awakened on the plane of the Self, a timeless dimension of peace and bliss. But this was different, an immensity of love and yet beyond any love, beyond both form and formlessness. And yet it was present, within and around me. It came into my life, into my consciousness, into my days and nights, like a whirlwind—destroying any sense of spirituality, leaving me battered, bewildered, humbled.
And through this Other that has no name I found that I had access to the place where love is, what I describe as rivers of light and a landscape of love. Most people only experience this inner landscape after they die, when the physical body is left behind and they travel into the light and unlimited love that is our true nature. I had been taken here while still in the physical body, with my consciousness changed beyond my understanding. And that is where I remained for many years: in a world of light while still walking in this world. Staying with my two feet on the ground, knowing nothing except the power of love and the presence of the unknown. And the outer world in which I walked I found growing darker and darker, as our environmental crisis accelerated, the voices of racial and social injustice heard more loudly.
Some people, responding to my writing, say that I am looking too much to the darkness and not enough to the light. But in truth I was taken so much into the light—a light that is all around me, that is the air I breathe, the love that sustains me—that I no longer know how to “look to the light,” because that is where I am. Instead, walking the streets of this world, I find the mystery is how darkness covers this light, trapping people in the illusions and misconceptions by which they define themselves and their lives. How is it that the light is so incomprehensible, when it is the substance of our soul, the fragrance of every sacred breath? And how is it that we have walked away from this light, from the truth of our divine nature?
I understand that in this world we cannot just live in the light, in the joy, or even bliss of our true nature. My own experience has shown me this—it is just too intense, it burns too much. But the way the physical world obscures this natural state is for me one of the greatest mysteries, something almost incomprehensible. More and more I understand the ways of light, the simple wonder of divine love, the sunlight of pure consciousness. I see how the power of light and love is waiting behind the clouds of this world, behind the curtains with which we surround our self.
Yes, I can see that this world is covered in darkness, a strange swirling mist that creates so much confusion, so much misunderstanding of our self and of others, even anger and violence. I even know how this darkness feels—I have felt its pain and constriction within myself. And yet at the same time it seems so unreal, even though it is what people call reality—people for whom the light is mostly unseen.
And so I am left stumbling between the worlds. Maybe I have been too long in the light, too long immersed in meditation, too long watching the currents of divine love. Because what happens is that in these days even the traces of darkness create a deep anxiety within me, as if I am unable to understand how they really belong to us.
And yet more and more I see this darkness, not just the personal darkness of our shadow, our personal failings, but the collective darkness of this civilization that is brutally destroying the biosphere for no other reason than greed and profit. And I do not understand how we have chosen to live like this. It seems incomprehensible. To abuse this beautiful Earth for a few material possessions, to destroy it for future generations. Even in recent years, despite being more and more aware of the effects of our actions, our way of life, we have increased the carbon we put in the atmosphere, the plastic in the oceans. Meanwhile social media and its algorithms distort our perception, separating us further and further from any sense of reality. Did we choose to live like this, or was it our destiny?
So I long to return to the simplicity of the light, the love, even as I am more and more tired from stumbling through the world. Five years ago I stopped teaching, burned out, drained after thirty years. And then the pandemic came, and I was relieved to just walk the trails and beaches near our home, nature giving me a sense of balance and belonging. And after the pandemic I found myself happy to remain a recluse, understanding less and less of the world away from our small community here on the coast, taking my morning walk by the lagoon, maybe seeing a coyote in the first light, or feeling the presence of the devas in the garden, watching the red-headed woodpecker chase smaller birds away from the birdfeeder.
And in my meditations and prayers I watch the world, even as I follow the news during the day. And I know that this is the end of an era, a time of radical uncertainty that could lead to social breakdown, collapse. One day, far into the future, we will look back on this time with amazement. That we walked so unknowingly into the coming days, that we waited so long, that we hesitated until every opportunity was almost missed. And when the darkness came we did not recognize the signs we had been shown. We did not recognize how the ground under our feet had shifted, how our inner and outer alignment had changed. Not only our awareness, even our dreaming had been censored.
As I watch the tide rise and fall in the bay outside my window, I am more and more aware of how long forgotten for most of us are the days when we walked in harmony with the Earth and Her many inhabitants, when the songlines of the Earth and our own soul sang together, when Her mystery spoke to us. And in my heart there is the sorrow of how we will have to walk over a broken land for generations until we return to this heritage, when Spring can come again after a long Winter. And I wonder how it will be for my children and grandchildren, how it will be to grow up and grow old in this dying.
So I try to tell stories of this time before time, to keep alive the memory of a past which I hope also belongs to the future, when the worlds will once again come together, when the angels and devas that have become the companions of my old age will be a part of a reawakening world, an animate Earth becoming fully alive. I also tell these stories to keep something alive within my own heart and soul, as I live in a world that becomes increasingly alien.
Maybe I am just a mystic who has travelled too far in the inner worlds, growing old in a world that knows nothing of these things, one that recognizes only a tangible, physical world, or the strange in-between online world made of ones and zeros, that has devoured so much of our attention in the last decades. Maybe I am just nostalgic for a simpler, lost time, when the hedgerows were full of birds and butterflies and wild plants. But in my journey I have come to see what is essential to our human nature, the light and love that sustains our soul and even the cells of our body, although our science has no knowledge of this. As I have said elsewhere, this world is not as we think; it is made from a substance that is not of atoms or particles, and in its depths there is a hidden song. Maybe at some moments in my life I have touched this substance, caught a line of this song. Maybe I have felt the heart of the world in my dreams, or while walking one still early morning. And in these stories I try to share this experience that life and love have given to me.
Like all of us growing older I know that soon, in a few years, I will leave this shoreline, take the simple boat that is already waiting. My bags are packed—the few experiences my soul needs to take with it—and other horizons beckon. I have lived and loved, and tasted the truth that runs through creation. I have watched the hills here turn green after the first rains and then golden in the Summer, and am reminded of the words of a Japanese death poem:
you change and change
back to your primal color