Myself, or Someone Else? Wisely Examining Extraordinary Experiences

At my Patreon, I offer four Question-and-Answer sessions a month wherein patrons can ask questions about any aspect of my work, or the related world of metaphysics that my work grows within. This week, a patron asked a question that I felt was so important to modern day occultists and practitioners of alternative spiritual paths that I wanted to share it (and my response) with a wider readership. The question is as follows:

How can you distinguish between a real message/vision and the voice of your mind/mental images?

This is probably one of the most important questions anyone in our strange business can ever ask: how can we know whether or not things we encounter in extraordinary experiences are the actual presence of other objectively-existing entities, or just impressions, images, or imaginations from within ourselves? Answering this could take days, but I will touch on what I feel are the deepest notes, the most critical points.

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1. We must admit that our breathing human entities are highly vulnerable to wish fulfillment fantasies, to confirmation bias, and to other failings that have been conditioned into us by the human social world and all of its unwisdom. These failings include ego-feeding, status or glory-seeking, and a compulsive (typically unconscious) need to feel safe from the many aspects of the world that we feel threatened by. If we can admit that these kinds of factors do exist in nearly all of us, and accept them inside us, we can lay the groundwork to create honest means of testing our experiences. 

Having these vulnerabilities means that we are stuck in a bit of a hard place. We don’t want to be disrespectful to some powerful force or being that reaches out to communicate with us, or to shape our minds in some mystical-type experience, and too much skepticism can certainly be disrespectful.

But living as we do, when we do, and largely lacking wise elders and guides who are skilled in the ways of the Unseen world, we would be wise to bring in a measure of gentle, self-examining skepticism. If we fail to do this, we will expose ourselves (and others) to dangers ever greater than those that come from simple disrespect.

2. Wise, gentle skepticism doesn’t begin in a place of “doubt everything.” It begins in a place of wanting to understand how certain experiences could have come about. It’s not about making judgments and being in a hurry to invalidate things; it’s about building understanding, exploring the complex systems upon which experiences all arise. One aspect of wise skepticism lies in being honest with ourselves. It is needful to ask ourselves “Did the experience I just had seem a little bit too good to be true? Did it tell me too much of what I’d love to hear deep down?” If so, it might be best to “lower the bar” a bit on how we are interpreting an experience.

The catch here lies in how humans go about getting messages or experiences from the Extraordinary dimension of life in the first place. We have to utilize our minds to gain those things; the mind/awareness of the soul is deeply and intimately tied up in all experiences that are possible to us. Spirit-beings have the capacity to influence or shape the minds of those they are trying to express things to or communicate with, just as we do: our spoken words to other humans (for instance) are sensual expressions of our beings that shape other people’s minds.

Spirit-beings, in my view, have their own kinds of expressive powers that can shape other beings in many ways. There are many forms of communication in the great Rhizome of the world, many forms of communion, of sensing, of feeling, of sharing conditions.

So when our minds are involved- as they always must be- we have to recognize that our minds still come with the potentially limiting conditioning I mentioned above. It has to be something we take note of, and we have to ask certain fair questions when we study and try to understand an extraordinary experience we received.

3. In general terms, real messages from entities in the Unseen (or even from the depths of our own beings) are their own blend of strange and clear- and often more strange than clear. This is because the things of the dream-soul’s world will always look a bit surreal or obscure to the breath soul, and when we’re busy trying to remember and make sense of an extraordinary experience we just had, the breath-soul will be present, trying to rationalize it. Something is always lost here, or usually something is lost.

“Real” messages and experiences, therefore, tend to be weird in some regards. They can make perfect sense at rare times, and they often come to show their deeper meanings over time as more of your life unfolds. But they tend to have odd qualities. They often have surreal-seeming content, or content that borders on the symbolic. And this is because image is closer to the language of the soul than any other single thing.

Real messages and experiences (as I have encountered them) are also often troubling or disturbing to some degree. They don’t have to be, but when they are I usually take it as an (ironic) good sign. It tells me that my breath soul got wind of something it didn’t like- something that threatened it- because it couldn’t understand it, or because it came too close to the surreal, mind-bending nature of the deeper Rhizome of the world. Such weirdness is a potential sign of verification in my book.

We mustn’t forget that historically, contact with Otherworldly beings had a high chance of being somewhat rough or even violent- this real phenomenon, covered so well by Emma Wilby in The Visions of Isobel Gowdie, is another reflex of this “troubling” or “disturbing” quality that genuine mystical Otherness can have, when our bodies and souls come very close to it. If you walk away from an experience with some mental, emotional, or physical bruises, I believe the chances are much higher that you bumped into something that wasn’t “just yourself.”

4. The longer I develop myself with special techniques of extraordinary awareness, the more clear my deeper feelings become. Anyone can do this- and my coming work will be a veritable encyclopedia of developing oneself in these ways. And beyond my personal course of extraordinary development, there are many other techniques out there that develop the extraordinary layers of a human being. There are many other techniques that strengthen the mind, clarify the feelings, or otherwise bring one to stronger, clearer perception of subtle and extraordinary things.

When you develop to a certain point, you gain a feeling/intuitive sense for discriminating the legitimate experiences that arise from the intersubjective matrix of relationship, communication, and connection, versus the experiences that arise from the subjective matrix of self. In those who have not developed this discrimination sense very high, these two realms of experience can be very enmeshed, so much so that they blend and become indistinguishable.

And that describes most human beings; most humans alive today who got a real visit from a spirit in a dream or vision will almost certainly decide that they “just dreamed it” or that they “imagined it” or have no ability to even conceive of what just happened.

Just so, certain people who have strong subjective dream-impressions or who gain vibrant imaginary experiences arising from their own subjective matrices can decide that powerful, objectively-existing spirits or beings are visiting them and causing this to happen. They can become convinced that they’re especially chosen by Gods or spirits or in some special, unique relationship to them, or that they have extremely special gifts, etc. This in turn can lead to ego inflation, delusion, and a whole parade of errors and terrors. The danger here cuts both ways.

Without a power of discrimination born from consistent work at developing oneself, studying how one’s own body and souls exist amid the many powers of the world, and working on increasing extraordinary connections, mistakes will be made. Things will be misinterpreted. In much more ancient times, our communities had men and women who had developed themselves in such ways, and they were there to make sure such mistakes didn’t get made, and that real guidance was to be had. We don’t really have that much anymore, so we are left to find our way as best we can.

When you have a strong, healthy connection to the soul, the trans-rational aspects of yourself, you will know when you have heard an other-than-human person beyond yourself trying to communicate. The depths of you will know. When something powerful happens, you will feel it with all your being in a way that is quite different from ordinary certainty. Such experiences probably won’t be common, but when they come, you’ll just know. 

5. It can be helpful to respectfully “test” visionary experiences and messages with a divination method that you excel at, and which you trust. It is not disrespectful to use divination to help clarify an experience. The way this is done is twofold: first, you sit with your experiences and try to come up with a fair interpretation of what it could have meant- what the message was, what the nature of things were that you encountered, what it might mean for you and those close to you, and so forth.

Then, you divine on whether or not your interpretation is accurate. That’s all you’re doing- checking to see if you “took away” from those experiences the right things- or right enough. If the divination method says “no, how you’re taking that experience is not accurate” then you have to re-consider the experience and try out a new take-away- and then divine on that! You do this until the divination method gives you a positive response. After that positive response, you should consider the take-away that the divination affirmed to be the primary take-away from your experience. 

I don’t think it’s necessary to do this all the time, but in the times that make us feel uncertain or make us wonder (and those times do come) this can be a useful tool for moderating ourselves. The key here is to be very good at the divination method you use. You can’t just grab some coins and start flipping, or some cards and start shuffling; you have to have developed a good divinatory sense and method that can connect well with your own depths.

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In short, if an extraordinary experience (as best we can understand it) doesn’t come with features that are too self-serving, isn’t too convenient to us, and if it is characterized by strange or even disturbing elements or materials, there’s a better chance that it is from a valid outside source.

Further, if we become the sorts of people who can gain access more consciously to the subtle or deeper world (a condition we attain through extraordinary efforts of personal development, assuming we’re not the rare people who are born with such awareness) then we raise our chances of gaining authentic mystical-type experiences from other beings through our special efforts, and of being aware of them if they come unbidden.

And even further, if other outside signs or “testing divinations” confirm or support our interpretations of these experiences- or confirm or support that they happened at all- I say there’s a good chance that the experiences are reliable and valid. By that, I mean there’s at least a good chance they are “real” messages or experiences from another being or powers in the intersubjective realm.

A day comes (we hope) when we reach a place of more comfort due to long years of verified experiences, and their tangible, meaningful impact in our lives and the lives of those around us. At that point, the wise, gentle skepticism I speak of here might be loosened a bit- but I doubt it can ever be completely let go of. The world will always have its challenges.

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