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Abnormal States and Spiritual Illusions

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Appendix of Dwelling in the Mirror: A Study of Illusions Produced by Delusive Meditation and How Be Free from Them

When the brain and nervous system are in abnormal states, illusions of all kinds can occur, some of them supposedly holy and wise. But they are still illusions. Wrong meditation produces abnormal states, just as do hallucinogenic drugs. Which is why, as I have mentioned before, in the years of the Hip Era and the Yoga Boom, propagandists continually touted their meditational wares as a means to a legal high.

Here are three very interesting examples of such sincere illusions.


The Russian writer Dostoevsky had a rare form of temporal lobe epilepsy termed “Ecstatic Epilepsy.” Here is how he described his seizures.”

“For several instants I experience a happiness that is impossible in an ordinary state, and of which other people have no conception. I feel full harmony in myself and in the whole world, and the feeling is so strong and sweet that for a few seconds of such bliss one could give up ten years of life, perhaps all of life. I feel that heaven descends to earth and swallows me. I really attain God and am imbued with him.” This sounds quite fine, but he also recorded that his seizures were followed by intense physical and mental disturbances. It took him up to one week to recover fully from each seizure. His chief complaint was that his “head did not clear up” for several days and symptoms included, “heaviness and even pain in the head, disorders of the nerves, nervous laugh and mystical depression.” Such results demonstrated the pathological nature of his experiences–of which he recorded one hundred and two.

In his novel, The Idiot, he relates his experiences through one of his characters, Prince Myshkin. “He was thinking, incidentally, that there was a moment or two in his epileptic condition almost before the fit itself (if it occurred in waking hours) when suddenly amid the sadness, spiritual darkness and depression, his brain seemed to catch fire at brief moments.… His sensation of being alive and his awareness increased tenfold at those moments which flashed by like lightning. His mind and heart were flooded by a dazzling light. All his agitation, doubts and worries, seemed composed in a twinkling, culminating in a great calm, full of understanding… but these moments, these glimmerings were still but a premonition of that final second (never more than a second) with which the seizure itself began. That second was, of course, unbearable.” As also said before, that which begins with sweetness and ends with bitterness is negative and harmless. As Dr. Bronner’s labels used to say: Judge only by the results.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., on June 29, 1870 delivered an address before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard University that was reported in The New York Tribune, in which he related this: “I once inhaled a pretty full dose of ether, with the determination to put on record, at the earliest moment of regaining consciousness, the thought I should find uppermost in my mind. The mighty music of the triumphal march into nothingness reverberated through my brain, and filled me with a sense of infinite possibilities, which made me an archangel for the moment. The veil of eternity was lifted. The one great truth which underlies all human experience, and is the key to all the mysteries that philosophy has sought in vain to solve, flashed upon me in a sudden revelation. Henceforth all was clear: a few words had lifted my intelligence to the level of the knowledge of the cherubim. As my natural condition returned, I remembered my resolution; and, staggering to my desk, I wrote, in ill-shaped, straggling characters, the all-embracing truth still glimmering in my consciousness. The words were these: A strong smell of turpentine prevails throughout.”

God’s message to the world…

Some time in the nineteen-fifties, a minister of the Free Methodist Church told my Aunt Eva Tabor the following.

In Peoria, Illinois, a very devout member of his church was given an anesthetic before her baby was delivered by caesarean section. When she recovered consciousness she told her husband that while she was under the anesthetic God had spoken to her given her a message for the salvation of the entire world–but upon awakening she could not remember it! For weeks this unfortunate woman prayed and racked her memory in desperation, believing that if she did not relay God’s message she would be guilty of the damnation of millions. Finally her mental state was such that a psychiatrist believed that she would likely become insane. He advised that she should be given the anesthetic again to see if she could bring back the memory in that way. Since he recommended it, her physician agreed. Her husband, the minister and some close friends were with her when this was attempted. The woman vowed she would do her best to recall the message when she awoke, and the doctors asked her to speak it aloud immediately. She did so as she was coming out of the anesthetic, but when fully conscious again had no memory of the message. When she asked if she had succeeded in relaying it and what the message was, her husband silently handed her a piece of paper on which he had written it down even as she spoke it: Bananas are a very beneficial fruit.

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Introduction to Dwelling in the Mirror

Dwelling in the Mirror: A Study of Illusions Produced by Delusive Meditation and How to Be Free from Them

Preface to Dwelling in the Mirror

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