Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 22: Inspiration and the Overself > Chapter 7: After the Glimpse
After the Glimpse
Retain the glow
Each glimpse is a precious gift to be treasured. But we must also remember that it not only comes, but it also goes. This remembrance should make us treat its aftermath very carefully, very delicately, and very watchfully.
When these rare glimpses are granted, take from them as they leave all that you can get--all the strength, the wisdom, the support, and the goodwill that they can hold.
He has had the glimpse. The after-period is important. For as he returns to his ordinary self and to the ordinary persons around him, the opportunity is offered to make an adjustment, a fresh start by the light of what the experience revealed.
The great experience is soon over; the released insight lasts but a few minutes or hours, but its memory lasts long. It is a delectable foretaste and warming anticipation of what his continued spiritual development may bring to man. It lifts him far above himself and out of his ordinary state of consciousness, yielding sharper understandings and creating deeper sympathies.
He returns from his first initiation into the egoless life with a rich cargo. He carries the stability of peace. A strange feeling of safety takes possession of him at that time. He knows neither care for the uncertain future nor regret for the unpleasant past. He knows that henceforth the life of his being is in the hands of the higher self, and with this he is quite content.
Once he has attained this inner realization, the student should cling persistently to it, for the world's multifarious forces will come to hear of it and seek to drag him away.
To get up and move too soon after the glimpse has come to an end is to lose some of its heavenly afterglow. To refrain from any movement, keeping still and being patient, is to enjoy that glow till its last flickering moments as one may enjoy the last moments of sunset.
His first need is to immerse himself in the feeling, to preserve as much as he can of the glimpse.
Print every detail of the Glimpse on your mind.
It is a useful practice to write down every detail of the experience while it is still fresh in the mind. The record will still be there when the joy is gone.
The fragrance of this peace lingers on long after the glimpse itself is over.
The holy feelings generated by the Glimpse ought to be protected against the world's disintegrating power and shielded against your own tendency to dissipate them by hasty violent movements or needless irrelevant chatter.
Immediately after the glimpse no word should be spoken or it may be lost the more quickly.
After such a glimpse there is enchantment in the air. The annoying or disagreeable happenings of the day fail to remove it.
When the inspiration derived from the glimpse is upon him, the unexpected and the unpredictable may happen for his benefit; but when it is gone, he is no more fortunate than his neighbour.
The glimpse goes and the habitual daily self returns. The single and simple largeness of the one is lost in the innumerable trivialities of the other.
As the glimpse fades away, he takes the ego back into consciousness again.
But the glimpse may not stand alone in its own full purity: he may put his own ideas into it as an accompaniment without knowing that he has done so.
The spiritual event, the mystical experience, is there but its presentation to the conscious mind--manipulated by his personal tendencies to an extent which exaggerates their importance--creates a mixed result.
But the glow of this transcendence lingers in the heart for long after its actual manifestation. It suffuses him with unearthly happiness and fills him with solemn reverence.
When this mood is fully upon him, he may find it hard to talk to anyone for some time afterward.
He emerges from the experience feeling surrounded by peace and protected by supernormal powers.
The glimpse vanishes, slowly with a few, quickly with most, leaving its effects in his recognition of greater possibilities in life and grander ones in himself.
He comes back from the glimpse not only renewed in grace but purged in character, not only less egoistic but more detached, hence calmer. It is only a mood, of course, and may vanish in a few minutes, hours, or days. But whereas most other moods pass from memory and are unrecallable, this kind is unforgettable.
This wonderful and memorable experience, call it Void or call it God, will for some time afterwards become a kind of background to the events of his life and to him, himself.
Illumination arising from suffering seems to last longer than that arising from happiness because the latter is easier to lose. One is likely to become careless with that which comes from happiness.
Whatever the height reached, the glory felt during the glimpse, he still lives on as a human being after it has passed. Thoughts reappear, ordinary emotions are felt again.
The uplifted consciousness falls back, the rapturous moments pass away. He must then revert to the ordinary animal-intellectual life of everyday, to all the human implications of his existence. Why try, vainly, to deny them?
He has seen some truth and may want to share it. But in what manner can he communicate that which is not intellectually measurable?
If the glimpse does not last, if a man discovers, or rather comes back to find, that he still is man, he should be pleased that it came at all.
It is not easy and it may need a long period of practice and remembrance, but something of this afterglow may be kept and retained even amid the turmoil of the world's work.
In those glorious enchanted moments which immediately succeed the glimpse, almost anything seems possible.
The glimpse comes to be treasured in memory as something very precious and quite unique, most intimate and not freely talked about with others.
Slowly and dimly he will become aware of his surroundings and his body. Little by little he will struggle back to them as if from some far planet. The recovery of consciousness will be only intermittent at first, only in brief snatches achieved with difficulty. But later it will be held and kept for longer periods until it remains altogether.
The afterglow of this experience may be a sensation of its curative power, leaving nerves and heart healed of their troubled negative conditions, or of its purifying power, leaving the mind freed of its undesired and undesirable thoughts.
The glimpse leaves an afterglow of truth, a reassurance of support.
His heart will be warmed and his will moved as a consequence of this experience.
The test will come when he has to descend from the mountain-peak of meditation into the valleys of prosaic everyday living. Can he adjust the greatness he has seen and felt to this smaller narrower world or will he lose it therein?
The closer he comes to the Overself the more reticent he becomes about it.
Even though the glimpse is so impressive, the subsequent activities of the day put it out of his mind until he is able to relax, perhaps at bedtime.
When the spark of inspiration fades out, new ideas often go with it, or if they come, the power to utilize them escapes him.
If the glimpse slips away from the great calm, where does it go? Into the ever-active outward-turned thinking movement.
From this inner world of Essence we descend to the outer world of Experience.
Possible negative after-thoughts
Most questers experience this momentary elation, this cosmic paean of exultation, at some time. In some the wish to re-experience it becomes a craving which causes them to lose their balance, to be repeatedly depressed and unhappy at its loss. Thus what was intended to increase their happiness becomes a source of further misery!
If he is young in the life of the Spirit, ignorant of its laws and inexperienced in its ways, he may take the fading of the Glimpse amiss. He may complain too long or bemoan too much, thus inviting that dread experience, the dark night of the soul.
His own great joy in the glimpse is natural and inevitable, but if he clings to it to the point where it is succeeded by great disappointment when the glimpse disappears, then it is merely another mood of the personal ego. In that case he will certainly be left feeling empty when it leaves him, and he probably will be troubled by the thought that something has gone wrong.
It is a common mistake among those who have this glimpse for the first time, and even for the second time, to expect it to last forever. But when they find that it has no more immortality than the other experiences of the human mind, they suffer needlessly, not understanding, bewildered.
To bestow this glimpse upon someone with no previous preparation for it, with an undeveloped psyche and an imperfect character, someone too backward spiritually to profit properly by it, may be to bestow a dangerous gift. It is likely to be misused as it is certain to be misconceived.
If the experience is not fully understood, or if it comes to one quite unprepared for it, or if it comes too prematurely, it may be half-misunderstood and its teaching half-misconceived. In that case the will to act may become paralysed, the mind over-conscious of futility and evanescence.
These holy visitations ought not to make him conceited or proud or fatten his ego or make him lose his wits. If they do he is in spiritual danger so that what ought to be a blessing becomes a curse.
These visitations of a higher presence may deceive him into thinking that he has reached a higher degree than he really has. If so, he may expect their light and strength to abide permanently with him. In that case he may plunge into emotional reactions of gloom and disappointment when they ebb. It would be better for him to receive them gratefully as well as to regard their passing as tests of his resignation to the higher self and of his trust that its inner working is not mistaken. It knows quite well what It is doing in and for him.
To have had the glimpse and yet to ignore it in subsequent life, or to utilize it only for the purpose of exalting the ego, is deliberately to tell a lie to oneself, consciously to be unfaithful to truth.
When a person gets this experience without guidelines and in total surprise, within a family living in the common ignorance of such matters, he may let bewilderment come in to destroy the new lucidity.
After the glimpse has passed away--and a warning that it usually does so is needed by beginners--either thankfulness for the visitation or discouragement by its loss may set in.
He waits for an inner event that shall be thrilling and spectacular. He does not wait for one that shall be as gentle, as silent, as the fall of dew, so of course he is disappointed and falls into some kind of negative thought.
Such moments are so precious that, when they are found to be irretrievable, a deep melancholy often settles on a man.
Since people are not accustomed to these glimpses, they are easily swept off by the first few into emotional extravagances.
He approaches these moods with delight but remembers them with despair. They are cored with happiness yet he feels frustrated by their evanescence.
A wiser attitude understands that there is no need to grieve because the flash has gone, the ecstasy faded, the light shut out again. It knows that the Overself is still with him, even though these emotional or egoistic reactions try to trick him into believing otherwise.
A few days pass. The experience itself has now lodged in the shadows of memory. What is left to him as the after-effect of the Glimpse? What does he really possess as the gain from it?
Only those who have felt it can know the completely satisfying nature of the love which flows to and fro between the ego and the Overself at such enkindled moments. They may be gone the same day but they will reflect themselves in a whole lifetime's aspiration thereafter.
The fact remains that the awakening to the Overself leaves great witness and striking testimony that it has passed over a man's head. It brings new and subtle powers, an altered outlook upon people and events, and a deep calm in the very centre of his being. When he is given his primal glimpse of the spiritual possibilities of man, he is immeasurably exalted. When he discovers the dynamic power of the Overself for the first time and hears the beautiful hidden rhythm of its life, his heart becomes as the heart of Hercules and for hours, days, or weeks he walks on air. He begins to price his fleshly desires at their true worth and treads them under foot. He has been permitted to taste of the spirit's fruits, and he knows that they alone are good.
A sense of being lifted up from all worldly cares will pervade him for some time as an afterglow of this experience. The gracious feeling swims away again and leaves him not forlorn but forsworn. He will never again be alone. The remembrance of what happened is by itself enough to be company for him the rest of his life.
The feeling that he belongs to THAT to which all the universes also belong, is with him the moment the glimpse is over. If, as a full realization, it passes away with the experience, an afterglow remains as a residue, a strong conviction persists for years later.
The Glimpse which discloses heaven refines the mind as it does so, otherwise the two would remain too far from one another to make vision possible.
Whoever has had this beautiful experience, felt its glorious freedom and known its amazing serenity, has had something which he will always remember. Even after he has fallen utterly away from both freedom and serenity, when darkness bitterness or degradation are his melancholy lot, the knowledge that a life of truth goodness and beauty is somewhere and sometime possible will continue to haunt him.
The glimpse, when finally it does come, compensates for all the struggles and difficulties of the years that precede it. He can look back upon them with complete detachment, perhaps even smile at them. Even the sufferings seem no longer what they were, but diminish into unimportant little incidents.
Yes, the Glimpse will gently go away, its fine exaltation will subside, but neither its lustrous meaning nor its loving memory will ever be forgotten.
Even merely knowing that he has had such a glimpse gives him some kind of reassurance about life, some little security within himself, some degree of faith that a higher power is taking care of the universe--and hence of himself.
It may seem incredible that so short a glimpse should leave so large an effect, so misty a comprehension should give so profound a revelation, but so it is.
The isolated glimpses will have this effect, that they will not only whet his appetite for farther ones but also for a lasting identity with the Overself.
Ambition may remain but its objects will not. How could they when their triviality is so glaringly exposed by the Glimpse?
If the beauty of his experience penetrates his heart deeply enough, it will not fail to bring about a change in his life. It will also point out the direction in which the change is to be made.
The insight, once caught, and however briefly, will leave behind a calm discontent with the triviality of ordinary life, a lucid recognition of its pathetic futility and emptiness, as well as a calm dissatisfaction with the man himself.
He will, at the least, win an enlarged conception of life and, at the most, an ennobled character. Better still, he will feel for the first time what it is like to attain an inner equilibrium.
The glimpse may give him a dynamic charge of power, or leave him bereft of all aggression--depending on the particular need or phase of the moment.
The door of his inner consciousness has opened; the regeneration of his moral nature has begun. The truth will come into the innermost chambers of his consciousness, sometimes abruptly but sometimes sluggishly. And because it comes in this way, because it comes from the god within him, it will be dynamic, creative, powerful. As he becomes aware of this sublime influx, so will he soon become aware that character is altering with it, and so will others become aware that his conduct is shaping itself around nobler standards.
When a man discovers that he himself is the bearer of divine forces, he ceases to run hither and thither in search of other men.
Once the soul has revealed her lovely self to him, he cannot help adoring her, cannot help the feeling of being carried away in lifelong pursuit of her. The attraction is not of his own choosing. It is as natural and inevitable as the movement of the sunflower towards the sun.
If we can gain the power to enter the Presence, it will work silently upon the reform and reshaping of our character. Every such entry will carry the work forward, or consolidate what has already been done.
He begins to look on the world afresh, as if for the first time. But it is the beauties, the harmonies, the inner meanings, and the higher purposes that he now sees. He becomes more attentive to the attractiveness of Nature, observes her colourings and forms with new delight.
If the glimpse ends, its memory does not and will always be preserved. Those who forget have only let changes in character or circumstance push it down out of sight for a period.
For a time the thrill of having had the glimpse inspires him. But it soon fades and then he becomes dependent upon his simple memory of it.
Even after he sinks back to his former state, the mystic who has had a flash, a glimpse, a revelation, or a vision of something beyond it can never be exactly the same as he was before. The light cannot fall upon him without leaving some little effect behind at the least, or some tremendous change at the most.
One of the purposes of the glimpse is to make the man aspire that he shall be made worthy of its coming again.
If the first contribution of memory is an unconscious one, intuitively reminding man of what he really is but seems to have lost, the second is a conscious one. It is to keep up his interest in the establishment of the higher awareness and to stop him from forgetting the pursuit of this goal. That is, it is to keep him on the Quest.
These experiences if taken aright will lead him not to spiritual pride but to spiritual humbleness.
Because he has been once illumined, the darkness can never again be total darkness. He will know that the possibility of light flashing across it always exists.
No one can know in advance how long it will stay with him. It is here out of nowhere and nowhen, and then gone away the next hour. The visitation may or may not be repeated but because it is nothing that he has achieved, the repetition is outside his reach to control. Thus begins a lifelong haunting by what becomes his dearest wish--to repeat, and especially to continue in, this magical transformation.
The glimpse is impermanent, its satisfactions fugitive; but it leaves behind a residue of hope and revelation which the impermanent and fugitive pleasures of the world can never do.
Those who catch this glimpse are not necessarily better persons than others, not even wiser persons. But, having caught it, the result cannot fail to make them better and wiser. Yet their goodness will not be of a kind that is outwardly measurable by worldly approval, nor their wisdom by worldly success.
The rapturous exaltation soon dissolves in the humdrum toil and play of everyday. But its cleansing remembrance does not.
It is not only desires and lusts which fade and leave him, but even the prying curiosities which express themselves at every level from mere gossip to the majestic investigations of science.
The man who tries for years vainly to transcend his human nature is released by this experience. He no longer tortures himself practising excessive asceticisms.
The stillness ends his quest, or rather its struggles and strivings; but if it passes away, as it usually does, he will at least know now what to look for again.
It will affect him to the extent that he will always venerate its memory.
The remembered glimpse helps him to go on living, because its recapture is both a possibility and a spur. The one gives him hope, the other determination to provide conditions which may renew it.
He must come to see that, by valuing and applying philosophic attitudes to the troubles and vexations of the world, he is truly recalling those moments of uplift and joy which glimpses provide. This is another way, and one of the best, in which they can bear good fruit for him. From these delicate dreamlike experiences he can draw strength and courage to endure either the world's buffeting or his personal difficulties.
It is a spiritual miracle, for it not only transforms his character but also releases some latent powers.
Because it gives new hope, fresh encouragement, and the prospect of eventual relief from trouble, the glimpse is like a rainbow in the sky. It reminds him that a providential love is still behind the world and his own existence.
The more glimpses he has, the more will his desires be taken from him.
The after-effects of the glimpse are sometimes widely opposite. One person swells with pride, exults in the fact that he has been granted it, where another will be made humbler by it.
The glimpse will help him to live through the dark periods that may come, when otherwise he might succumb to despair.
The remembrance of most of those years spent in the world is dim but the remembrance of these exquisite interludes is vivid.
He will remember it as a momentary benediction, something to be saved from the tragic inexorable fleetingness of life.
This alone could be the kind of experience which led Omar Khayyam, who was more mystical than Westerners realize, to write: "The more I drink of Being's wine, more sane I grow, and sober than before."
What he discovers during these deepest possible experiences becomes a part of him.
The more he exposes himself to these moments of alignment of mind, the more will negative outbursts and destructive passions calm down and die away.
The extraordinary thing is that this illumination, the most important event that can happen to a human being, lessens his feeling of self-importance.
The memory of this day will last longer, mean more, and touch deeper than any other.
Ecstasy is not a permanent mark of the mystical experience, but only a temporary mark which accompanies its first discovery. It is the beginners who are so excited by mystical ecstasies, not the proficients. The process of re-adjusting the personality to a future filled with wonderful promise and stamped with tremendous importance naturally moves the emotional nature towards an extreme of delight. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to regard the mystic's ecstasy as something that was merely emotional only. Behind it there is the all-important contribution of the Overself's grace, love, and peace. When the emotional excitement of the discovery eventually subsides, these will then show themselves more plainly as being its really significant elements.
Life can never again be just as ordinary, just as commonplace as before, nor just as if he had never passed through those vital moments of divine uplift. The white-hot point of their inspiration has faded, but it can never be forgotten. It will, nay it must, show itself powerfully in his directive purposes and in the quality of his living.
He will want to keep this awakened consciousness at all times. This aspiration will instantaneously or eventually bring him to tread the Quest.
In the intellectual deductions which he may make after the experience, and when he is viewing it analytically, he may find corroboration of his true beliefs or contradiction of his false ones. But the ego having closed in upon him again, this may happen only partially, or only slightly, depending on its strength.
Every glimpse of the Infinite helps him to let go of the finite, to detach himself from his possessions and passions.
Here is goodness and beauty which worldly objects and worldly creatures do not possess. The man who has once glimpsed them can never again be completely satisfied with the world's offerings, for this reason, but will again and again be haunted by, and attracted to, the vision of this higher possibility for man.
Either ecstasy or quietude may pervade the glimpse; either insight or intuition may follow it.
The glimpse has several results: it awakens sleeping minds, it encourages questing minds, it inspires earnest minds, and it quickens growing minds.
The feeling that time can wait is rare these days but it does come when the glimpse comes. Then the realization comes that it is foolish to hurry to appointments, datelines, work, or shopping and better to move more leisurely toward them or even loiter on the way.
Those few tranced moments of beatific calm will nourish him for many a month, perhaps even for some years.
Some are willing to take up the discipline if it will help them recover the first radiant excitement of the glimpse, the overwhelming greatness of that brief intensified existence.
One important effect of the glimpse is to show him how wonderful life could be if there were frequent and easy access to this diviner region. For this spurs him to seek ways and means to bring about its recurrence.
Even if it happens only once or twice in a lifetime, such a glimpse acts as a catalyst which pushes the man into making changes.
The glimpse will always be an incandescent memory in his life, a token of grace to prove that reality does dwell somewhere behind the seeming fatuity and illusoriness of the world's life.
Henceforth, either prominent in his everyday consciousness or hidden in his half-buried subconsciousness, there is the ever-present aspiration to renew this wonderful experience.
The man who enters this state while still a criminal will abandon crime after coming out of it.
The glimpse brings release from doubts, burdens, fears, depressions, and other negative conditions which may beset the ego. This is most welcome. But only seldom does it last long. It is a momentary or temporary condition. It is never totally or permanently lost; there is usually some kind of residue, if only in memory.
The glimpse will fill his heart with a beautiful peace, his head with a larger understanding; but it will end and pass away, for it is only a glimpse gained for a few minutes' space. Nevertheless, memory will hold for years its wonderful afterglow.
He has introduced a new principle into his life, one which is going to bear fruitful consequences in several different directions.
He may have to weep for a mere glimpse of the soul. But this got, he will certainly weep again for its return. For he knows now by unshakeable conviction and by this vivid demonstration that the durable realization of the Soul is what he is here on earth for.
These lovely gleams, which gave him such joy and dignity, will flicker out and the spiritual night in which most men live will once again close in upon him. Nevertheless they have added a new kind of experience to his stock and revealed a new hope for his comfort.
But when the years have passed and middle life falls upon him, he will remember those early flashes of something grandly exalted above the daily round, and, remembering, may seek out ways and means of recovering them.
A flight into the stratosphere is a strange but fascinating experience for the first time but not so strange nor one-hundredth so fascinating as a flight into a higher level of consciousness. And if it happens not on some mountaintop surrounded by enchanting scenery but on a crowded noisy bustling and tumultuous city street, one is not only keenly conscious of the alteration within oneself but also feels that the world around as well as the people in it have altered in some mysterious way, too.
However fantastic may be the practical consequences of this experience, due to its wrong interpretation by the mystic himself, the essential worth and intelligible meaning of the intrinsic reality out of which it arises still remain.
It not only brings about a stupendous change in his view of life but also a corresponding change in his moral conscience and character.
In that great light he sees his old self as sinful, and so rejects it, his old character as defective and deficient on every side and so amends it. The rejection soon becomes habitual while the amendment is made swiftly enough.
The glimpse astonishes some persons by its startling reversal of some of their cherished notions, beliefs, and opinions.
The glimpse gives a man the feeling of a newness as if he were beginning a new kind of life with a new attitude and a new ethical code.
With this growing feeling for spirituality may come, in some cases, a new feeling for refinement, an aesthetic appreciation of the beautiful; in others, it may be some virtue or quality which reflects the sensibility or inspiration.
It is a power which affects him in a strange way. At one and at the same time it isolates him from his fellow men, yet unites him with them as well. He is isolated because this functioning on a higher level of consciousness makes him feel like some strange visitor from outer space, just arrived on our ancient planet. But he can enjoy the sense of Being whether isolated or surrounded by others.
Although he may quite precisely and clearly understand what is happening to him, an extra-worldly awareness develops in parallel to the spiritual development. It is a feeling of what other persons are, their mood at the time, their general dispositions also.
The times when he is brought into memorable awareness and reverent worship of the true God, the moments when the illuminative flash permeates him utterly, may have far-reaching effects on his later years. For he can then see the ego's life as it really is and make new decisions concerning it which could only have been arrived at when out of the ego's clutches.
He comes away from these glimpses hushed into peace, awed by their mystery, and filled with goodwill to all beings. This attitude towards them is an absolute imperative, but it does not mean that he is to put himself in their hands, at their mercy, by submitting to their desires, yielding to their faults.
The glimpse gives us new life and assists in the process of redemption, of what is called salvation in religious circles, but what happens when it is lost again? Well, something is left over, obviously the memory of it, but something more, difficult to describe, because it is in the subconscious.
It is to these glimpses that he must return again and again, or rather to the memory of them, so they will give him support and will help him in his hour of need. He must love them and live by them in their light and not let them get lost in the limbo of utter forgetfulness.
Uncertainties and fears beset the ordinary man. They come up in spite of himself, whether they refer to his fortunes or his health, his business or his relationships. In such a situation whatever peace of mind he finds does not last long and cannot unless he has looked for and found, at least from time to time, a measure of communion with the Overself. Even a glimpse, a single glimpse, which may happen only once during several years, gives him a measure of support whatever thoughts appear and disappear during the interval of years.
The glimpse goes, but it remains in his mind as a point of reference, a criterion for the future, something with which he can compare his ordinary existence and his ordinary attitudes.
The simple discovery of what he really is leads to large implications. He sees his aims in life, his goals and ambitions, his desires and attitudes, under a different light. The glimpse itself passes but the memory remains and the effect upon them is disturbing. He begins to feel a new unease with them.
The Truth itself is a cleansing agent, although its work on the emotions and thoughts and tendencies may be quite slow in many cases, because it is on a deep level. In some cases its effect is sudden, dynamic.
At the very least the glimpse leaves a beautiful memory, at the most a divine inspiration.
In our best moments, we discover that we are not really alone, for with them comes our best self. It is our guide and comforter.
The experience may seem to happen by chance, its duration may be little more than momentary, but the impression left may last a lifetime.
The glimpse is also a therapeutic experience.
How can anyone who has gained entry into this sublime state ever again fall into the error of materialism?
It has not even the value of a dream but only that of the memory of a dream! The experience is devastating towards his concept of reality.
When the Overself takes full possession of him, it will change his personality and outlook completely.
The dynamic inspiration imported by this experience will continue long after the experience itself has ceased.
Life will be very different for man when, at long last, he recovers the sense of his own divinity.
When man is touched by the power of God, he is called a "Son of God."
Nothing can hold the experience. It evades his mental grasp, eludes his emotional hold. The Glimpse falls away and cannot be retained. But the minutes or hours during which he was exposed to it will long be associated in memory with a great joy, a grave stillness, and an acute understanding.
He longs to renew the glimpse but finds it beyond his power to do so; without it, the days seem futile.
There is this value of these glimpses at least, that forever after the man possesses their standard by which to judge all other experiences in life.
The Overself, like the horizon, receded each time he came nearer and claimed it, but gave him sufficient tokens to lure him onward still again.
The more he tastes these delightful unions, the less he will be able to endure these inevitable separations.
These glimpses are received with holy joy and, in later years, remembered with sweet nostalgia.
The years will follow each other and his impressions of this divine day will blur. But its tremendous meaning will never blur.
In this supreme moment he feels that so much in his life which mattered greatly now matters little, so many desires, aims, ambitions, and values now fall in the scale of things. The mood passes, his feet descend to earth, but he finds that at the back of his mind he is a little suspicious of them, a little sceptical of their promises.
A few minutes of the glimpse compensates fully for the lengthened years of dull mediocrity and triviality, reconciles him to the past's sufferings.
The heartbreaks of life may be compensated by these glimpses.
Out of the inner quietude have come the great decisions, the miraculous healings, the memorable awakenings, and the end of sorrows.
It is an experience he shall remember when all else is forgotten.
He who is uplifted by this power will understand where others only condemn.
The memory of this lovely foretaste will haunt imagination and taunt desire. He will long to recapture the experience but will suffer under the feeling of its elusiveness and remoteness.
Who can forget his first experience of the Glimpse? What a memory of gentleness, beauty, wonderment, and deeper understanding it leaves behind!
The glimpse sustains ideals, nurtures hope, and supports faith.
This balmy and relaxed experience may nevertheless have drastic and dramatic consequences. For it may drive the man to repudiate his former way of life and to initiate a reorientation of thought, habit, and conduct.
To lock awareness to one of these glimpses even for a minute, without wilting, unmoved, is the highest form of concentration. It yields new power for his future life, and leaves an unforgettable stamp on his past life.
The glimpse makes him feel exalted and strengthened, even though it thwarts his ego and weakens his lusts.
A Glimpse gives him the confidence that he is walking the right road and encourages him to go forward.
Even a little glimpse may lead to a momentous decision. For it is the quality of consciousness which is important.
With each glimpse he will see life differently.
When he finds, as all aspirants do, that he cannot keep this feeling or even recover it whenever he wants to, he may become wistfully nostalgic for it or even sadly mournful.
The ordinary attitudes toward life suddenly desert him and no longer exist. New and strange ones just as suddenly arise within him.
It leaves a firm and ineffaceable imprint on memory.
Sometimes experienced, always remembered, the glimpse has marked him for life with some positive and benign signs.
These glimpses serve several purposes. First, they uplift the aspirant's heart.
It is as if he has turned into another man, someone who still is but no longer seems himself.
Most seekers get experiences of mystic illumination at some time or other, but these are not essential. They are transient and they pass. They are intended to entice seekers away from too much materialism and then they vanish.
Accept the historic fact that you had these experiences and glimpses--dozens of them--which revealed the Soul. What of worth life has given still stays in the mind, can still be recalled and be found there again.
Such revealing glimpses come too infrequently. Their rarity makes it hard for common and familiar experience to dislodge them from memory, no matter how hard the pressures and strains of daily living may be.
Even if the glimpse does not heighten the feeling that here is a signal from something real, his own further or deeper study and the testimony of historic figures will show him that he is on the right track.
Such is the magic of that passing-over to the higher consciousness, that the most sinful character of the most sorrowful life is transformed overnight. Virtue redeems the one; serenity heals the other.
The nostalgia which keeps on calling us back to those lovely moments is worth heeding.
Man cannot live in memories alone. He will soon or late feel the need to become that glory which he remembers so well. It will not let him forget, whatever pleasurable or painful experiences he passes through.
Marks of authenticity
For proof that the glimpse is a genuine fact and not a hallucinatory one, not only ought the experience itself to be analysed but the after-condition ought to be studied and the subsequent behaviour ought to be noted. Does it show less attachment to the ego and more devotion to the Overself, less emotional disturbance and more mental tranquillity?
If it is a genuine glimpse, its effect will be seen in his face, his gait, his talk, while the influence, and some of the aftermath, lasts. For his face will be transfigured, his gait will be slowed down, his talk will be restrained and wise.
The Glimpse is in very truth a magic spell cast over a man's whole being so that he neither feels nor reacts as he did before. For a short time he is born again, a new person.
The question whether someone is a mystic or yogi can be answered easily enough once we understand what is his state of consciousness and what the mystical condition really is. All the annals of the vanished past and all the experiences of the living present inform us that whoever enters into it feels his natural egotism subside, his fierce passions assuaged, his restless thoughts stilled, his troubled emotions pacified, his habitual world-view spiritualized, and his whole person caught up into a beatific supernal power. Did he ever have this kind of consciousness? His words and deeds, his personal presence and psychological self-betrayal should proclaim with a united voice what he is. No man who habitually enters such a blessed state could ever bring himself to hate or injure a fellow human being.
What are the signs whereby he shall know that this is an authentic glimpse of reality? First, it is and shall remain ever present. There is no future in it and no past. Second, the pure spiritual experience comes without excitement, is reported without exaggeration, and needs no external authority to authenticate it.
The glimpse also does in part for a man what initiation did in some ancient mystical institutions. It sets him on the road of a new life, a life more earnestly and more consciously devoted to the quest of Overself. It silently bids him dedicate, or rededicate anew, the remainder of his life on earth to this undertaking. It is a baptism with inner light more far-reaching than the baptism with physical water.
The motives and reactions of a spiritually intuitive man will necessarily be on a higher level than those of a man driven by animal and worldly compulsions only.
And once you are reborn in the heart, life will become what it should be--the realization that you are outworking a higher destiny than the merely personal one.
Another noteworthy mark of the true glimpse is its purificatory effect. This is usually temporary but in a few cases it has been permanent.
When he has this first unprecedented experience, when he knows and feels that he is a part of divine being, he is born "in Christ." But it is not for him to stand at street corners and announce to the multitude that he has had this glimpse.
The sustained consciousness of the Overself puts its mark upon a man's face.
They are men with "the shine" on their faces, like the one who descended from Sinai.
He emerges from the old man that he was, from the ego-ridden nature, as a snake emerges from its old skin.
The old self which he has left behind and which once so occupied his interest now seems ugly, bad, and dull. So great is the change in him that it also seems like a stranger, not entitled to bear his name.
However cynical and blasé may have been his attitude in earlier days, it will yield to and melt in the sunny light of this second birth.
Those who have experienced a glimpse of this blessed Reality or, better, established themselves in it, may share its atmosphere with others in silent communion. But on a lesser level, they may also share with them in phrased speech the thoughts it provokes.
The more one becomes familiar with this experience, the easier one can describe it.
He who has been touched by the goddess comes out of his sleep, says the Oriental wisdom. For he has a knowledge which appears as a special and unusual kind of awareness that escapes most other people.
There comes a time when out of the silence within himself there comes the spiritual guidance which he needs for his further course. It comes sometimes as a delicate feeling, sometimes as a strong one, sometimes in a clearly formulated message, and sometimes out of the circumstances and happenings themselves. Not only does it tell him and teach him, but sometimes it does the same for others. Such is the effect of the Divine Life now working increasingly within him.
You are saved the moment this divine power takes possession of you, but not otherwise.
You have been given a glimpse of the goal. Now you must strive to attain that goal. The glimpse itself has enabled you to understand the consciousness and the characteristics to strive for. Both are so subtle that words merely hint at them and may be meaningless. In receiving an experience beyond words, you have therefore been so fortunate as to be favoured with the Overself's Grace.
Merely to enjoy such a glimpse is not enough. It must be turned to use, made into a standard for thought and living, applied to every situation in which he finds himself. He must let its beneficent memory shed peace, goodwill, and kindliness on all around.
The illuminatory experience may come to one who is without previous preparation, seeking, effort, or self-discipline. But if it comes so unexpectedly it leaves just as unexpectedly. The visitant is transient. The effects are permanent. If it be asked why it should come to such a person, who neither desired nor strove for it, when others are unable to secure it despite years of seeking, the answer must be that he worked for it in earlier lives. He has forgotten himself for an interval but the illumination recalls him to the quest even though it passes away: hence the permanency of its moral and mystical results.
What he sees in that sudden flash is to be slowly worked out in his character and conduct during the hours and months of subsequent years. Indeed, every minute offers the chance to transform himself by the smallest of degrees.
What he feels during those moments he has to become during the years that follow.
All his life has to converge upon this divine focus, all his experience has to draw its supreme significance from it.
What we are ordinarily conscious of are the thoughts and feelings of the ego, but there is much more in us than that. There is the true self, of which the ego is only a miserable caricature. If we could penetrate to this, the fundamental element of our selfhood, we would never again be satisfied with a wholly egoistic life--the call of the Quest would come again and again in our ears. And indeed it is through such rare glimpses, such exalted moments, when they become conscious of a presence, higher and more blessed than their ordinary state, that men are drawn to the Quest in the effort to recapture those moments and those moods. The recapturing is done, not by taking possession of something but by allowing oneself to be possessed, not by a positive and affirmative movement of the will, but by a yielding to, and acceptance of, the gentlest and most delicate thing in man's psyche--the intuition.
Another purpose of these glimpses is to show him how ignorant of truth he really is, and, having so shown, to stimulate his effort to get rid of this ignorance. For they will light up the fanciful or opinionative nature of so much that he hitherto took to be true.
The bestowal of a glimpse is not merely for his pleasure and satisfaction: there are certain self-cleansing duties and self-improving obligations which follow in its train. The light it throws into him is thrown on his sins and weaknesses too. He sees them more plainly for what they are, as well as the amendment he must make. But he sees also the forgiveness which grace grants.
The glimpse affords its own proof, supplies its own evidence, certifies by itself the truths it yields. But if its experiencer falls back into his ego and lets its prejudice, opinion, and expectation intrude into those truths, that is his own fault, not the Glimpse's.
A single glimpse will offer all the evidence his reason needs, all the proof his judgement demands that there is a kingdom of heaven and that it is the best of all things to search for.
One of the first consequences of the glimpse ought to be--if it is properly received and sufficiently understood--a resolve to improve himself, to be more truthful and less excitable, for instance.
The effect of a Glimpse upon character may show itself as a passing feeling but it is the business of a quester to show it as a habit of life.
It is of particular importance to every man to whom a glimpse has been vouchsafed, that after it he is summoned to begin his life afresh, to try a new start. If he heeds the summons no matter how unpromising his circumstances are for such a start--and this requires both faith and courage--eventually help will come, a change for the better.
During the glimpse he left himself and found a being within which transcended it. After the glimpse he has the chance to create a conscious relationship between them. His outer life ought to carry the mark of this extraordinary event.
What was seen in the glimpse must now be taken into the heart and mind, the thought and memory, the whole being of the man. Henceforth he is to live and act among other men as one who is marked for a higher destiny then semi-animal, incompletely human, blind existence.
The more glimpses he gets, the more will he want to become like the ideal in all its beauty, and the longer each glimpse lasts, the longer will he seek to use its light and strength to make himself a better man or build a better world.
The glimpse is a memorable experience, but it is not enough. It shows him a possible future, gives him a new world-view, but he must henceforth bring all that into his everyday life and into his whole being. This needs time, practice, patience, vigilance, self-training, and more sensitivity.
Wisdom does not come overnight. It needs time to ripen. But Revelation can come in that way. But its recipient will still need time to adjust to it, and to integrate with it.
What he has learned from the glimpse must be applied to life, to action and attitude. It is not enough merely to enjoy its memory, as if it made no difference.
Most glimpses got through meditation are followed by the surfacing of egoistic tendencies and weaknesses. This is only that their existence may be more clearly seen and an attempt made to get rid of them.
Whatever happens to himself or to others, whether he rises or falls, whether they hurt or help him, let him keep the hope that the glimpse gave him and continue to love the highest, remote though it may seem.
Sometimes the glimpse may pass unrecognized for what it really is, but in later years this is usually rectified.
He can make his little world reflect something of the goodness and beauty he has glimpsed.
Some among us must seek a higher quality of thought and being, a better way of life and action, in obedience to this call which is heard most clearly during the period of a glimpse.
Now and then if the glimpse is granted in response to his patient endeavours, his trust will be strengthened and he will know that he is neither crazy nor wrong to follow this quest.
He feels a personal obligation to carry into everyday living what he has deduced from these golden moments.
When a glimpse comes to a man, from whatever cause and in whatever way, its effects show themselves variously. One very important effect is that whether he wants to or not, and despite negative passing moods of frustration or depression, if the man to whom it has come has consciously entered on the Quest he cannot desert it but must sooner or later enter upon it again.
It is possible for a man who knows of the Quest only through emotional faith or intellectual conviction to turn aside from it for the remainder of his incarnation, but it is not possible for a man who has enjoyed this Glimpse to do so. He may try--and some do--but each day of such alienation will be a haunted day. The ghost will not leave him alone until he returns.
These glimpses are only occasional. They take us unawares and depart from us unexpectedly. But the joy they bring with them, the insight they bestow, make us yearn for a permanent and unbroken attainment of the state they tell us about.
It is important to remember that such experiences may be expected only rarely in most cases, perhaps once or twice in a lifetime, if the person is not consciously on the quest. It is natural to hope that it will be repeated. The first glimpse is given to show the way, to throw light on the path ahead, to give direction and goal to the person. But if the glimpse is only temporary and rare, the metaphysical understanding to be derived from it is the permanent benefit. So seek to get and clarify the understanding.
The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.