The Holy Instant

Lynne McTaggart

‘I felt like I was part of a power surge (sort of like what I imagine it would be like to be locked in a tractor beam like is described on Star Trek). I was being pulled along on this giant wave of energy while also being part of the cause of the wave – it was very powerful.’

‘I felt like I was part of a power surge (sort of like what I imagine it would be like to be locked in a tractor beam like is described on Star Trek). I was being pulled along on this giant wave of energy while also being part of the cause of the wave – it was very powerful.’

This is just one of similar comments from a participant in one of our large-scale Peace Intention Experiment, and ever since that time I’ve been puzzling over what exactly happens when people come together to intend as a group. Our participants continuously report experiences they describe as ecstatic and emotionally profound (many even sob uncontrollably during the experiment), and they feel such an overwhelming sense of connection with the other participants and the target that this attachment carries on after the experiment is over.

‘I was completely overwhelmed by so much love. I felt immense gratitude and tears just kept flowing. The energy kept flowing for hours and afterward I also slept peacefully. I felt deeply connected and at peace.’

The responses I was recording in my surveys are not the enthusiastic accounts of satisfied participants. These are descriptions of nothing so much as mystical experience. It is the moment, as St Teresa de Avila rapturously experienced it, when we are ‘cocooned in divine love.’ It is the moment, as an indigenous shaman once put it, when ‘things often seem to blaze.’ It is, as the Course in Miracles refers to it ,‘the holy instant.’

I’ve been studying the major religious mystics and many indigenous shamanic practices to try to get my head round what exactly is going on here. Just the act of participation in a large group experience and thinking with one voice seems to create something akin to the unio mystica, that moment when the self feels a complete merging with the Absolute in a state of overwhelming love. It is, I’ve come to realize, nothing less than a spiritual orgasm.

At the end of his life, US psychologist Abraham Maslow turned his attention to these ‘peak experiences’ as a common element of human experience and not simply the preserve of the mystic. There are certain common threads; the saint, the prophet, the channeler, the indigenous native all describe that transcendent moment when you sense the universe as integrated and whole, when you move beyond a sense of time or space and experience an overwhelming sense of oneness

Dr Charles Tart, the author and American parapsychologist, who has been investigating normal and altered states of consciousness for more than 40 years, referred to this state as ‘cosmic consciousness’ coined by the Canadian psychiatrist Robert Maurice Bucke in 1961.

The people involved invariably feel a sense of unity with all things as a ‘seamless whole’. They also have a sense of knowingness, says Tart, quoting James: ‘A direct insight into the nature of reality that is self validating,’ resulting in a sense of authority and certainty about them in the future.

Finally, there is a sense of the ineffable nature of the experience, say Tart. It is utterly different from any other state of consciousness they’ve experienced, and can’t be described in words—even by simile or metaphor.

Tart quotes Bucke’s own mystical experience as feeling ‘that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure, all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of everyone is in the long run absolutely certain.’ There is often a sense of ‘God, but more as the ‘Absolute’ than the anthropomorphic god of organized religion.

This sounds exactly like the reports of our participants. However, unlike a religious or indigenous experience, there is no fasting, no self-denial, deprivation, no sweat lodge, no placing your head between your knees, no speaking in tongues, no icons, no ‘great effort of the mind,’ as St Augustine had described, no Ayahuasca.

The only thing that’s needed, the only thing that’s necessary, is a group devoted to the idea of sending out a prayer in unison..

Thinking with one voice appears to be a short cut to the miraculous. It creates what can only be described an ecstasy of unity –a feeling repeatedly described as ‘coming home.’

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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