Sure. It occurred to me out of the blue in my early twenties. It was in Cyprus, in January 1964, when it happened, during seven years of back-packing around the world.
I had no knowledge of spiritual matters before this, nor was I interested, thinking myself a confirmed atheist with no belief in anything, having been put off by Sunday School evangelists when I was only eight.
After hitch-hiking to Israel and running out of cash, I spent a year there, firstly working as an agricultural labourer on a kibbutz, then as a deckhand on a ship on the Red Sea, a driller for copper in King Solomon’s mines in the desert, a scenic artist for the National Theatre, an assistant elephant trainer in Tel Aviv Zoo, and finally a singer in a night club in Acco. But because another night club owner offered me more money to sing at his place, my first boss told the authorities that I had overstayed my permit, so I had to leave Israel in haste and took a ship to the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, just before embarking, I had my bag and money stolen; leaving me with only seven pounds and ten shillings in my pocket. Thus I arrived at a rather desperate crossroads in my life, not knowing what to do or where to go next.
One evening, I was sitting gazing vacantly at the sea in the Port of Limassol. The sun had gone down. My head was empty of thought. From the corner of my eye, I saw a pack of dogs running along the shore in my direction. Then slowly a strange feeling crept upon me, as if some ghostly hand was creeping up the back of my neck. It tingled its way over the crown of my head. My skin goose-pimpled and the hairs stood up all over my arms. I had the impression of something like a ‘ghostly brain’ being pressed over mine and encompassing it. Then my body seemed to dissolve.
Suddenly my consciousness was no longer limited to the body. It seemed as if it ‘welled-up’ from the centre of my being and was rapidly ‘expanding’ beyond the confines of my ‘mind’ in all directions. I was aware of simultaneously flowing across the land, across the ocean, through the sky and out into space.
Instantaneously I felt my whole being as the universe. Somehow - in a flash - without any linear process of thought, it was impressed upon me that everything that exists, the universe and all beings, was only pure Consciousness made visible, like a film projected on a three-dimensional screen!
And there was no way that anything could be separate from it.
I was the substratum—the inside of everything and everything that appeared in it at the same time. It was as if I had an eye inside every atom (or perhaps an ‘I’) since whatever ‘I’ was, seemed to look out of everything, from out of every piece of matter and every being); I was all beings, material and immaterial (whether solid or of a finer frequency). Beyond earth awareness, I was even within galaxies exploding and imploding,
I was everything that was happening—not that I had any awareness of a ‘me’ at the time—but only as Universal Consciousness. This was not something I thought— it was instantaneously apperceived by a sense of “Am-ness” or “Beingness.” But knowledge of many things ordinarily unknowable was being perceived by whatever it was that was absorbing everything. And I knew that that knowledge was storing itself in my cellular memory: wherever my body was.
In that second of eternity, I suddenly understood the meaning of ‘Omnipresence’ (but without formulating it in my mind). It was instantaneously given Knowledge.
But at that point, unfortunately, a sudden thought rushed up unbidden from my habitual mind: "My God! So THIS is God!" (This is what the priests glibly talk about without any notion of what it is). And alas! - with that thought the whole experience began to dissolve. By this surge of localised thinking, I was already returning to my individual mentality and starting to come out of it.
Although my awareness was still 'out there'—I had begun to return to my body-consciousness. The time I was in that state seemed an eternity. But in biological earth-time, it may have lasted no more than a minute or two. I have no way to calculate. But as I found myself looking out from my physical eyes once again, the pack of dogs I saw just before it happened, were joyfully jumping and fussing around me, as if they had just arrived. And I was filled with wondrous elation.
I hasten to add that this was a perfectly natural occurrence and no drugs were involved.
Years later I saw my cellular consciousness awareness attested to in a scientific journal. And that is only one of the instances in which aspects of the mystical knowledge given in that experience have been empirically verified in later years, even in quantum science.
Meanwhile, my brash, cocksure, intellectual life was turned upside down. My whole conception of the nature of existence and ‘reality’ was changed forever. Over the months that followed, my body gradually rejected tobacco (I was a pipe smoker), then I drew away from meat, fish and eggs, and finally alcohol. I remained vegetarian for the rest of my healthy life. And for the next fifty years, I relentlessly pursued every spiritual path and practice I could find in order to regain the wonder of that experience.
My quest took me to many masters and arduous yoga practices in many lands.
And somehow I did make that crazy, wild, and hairy trip down the whole of Africa.
But that’s another story.
Partially adapted from my book, “Sharing the Quest: Secrets of Self-Understanding”. Inner Garden Publications. ISBN: 978-1-9996327-3-1). Available from www.amazon.es for easy delivery to Portugal.
British mystic, author, psychotherapist, spiritual counsellor, mantra yogi, fine artist and illustrator, theatrical set and costume designer. Founder-editor of Gandalf’s Garden magazine and Community in the London Sixties, and 3 years as columnist for Yoga Today magazine, BBC 4 Scriptwriter, author of four spiritual self-development books and two storybooks for children.