Selected Correspondence Vineeto
GARY: I used to get a bit confused by actualist’s descriptions of ‘feeling good’, ‘feeling fine’, and ‘feeling excellent’, and tried to differentiate how this contrasted with other feeling and emotional states because after all ‘feelings are feelings’. I still cannot determine if the feeling-good part of the so-called excellence experience or PCE is a feeling or a sensation. My memory of PCEs I have had is that there is certain exhilaration associated with it. Not a manic type high at all, or even a drug-like euphoria, but there certainly is an exhilarating, ever-fresh, yes, vividness is a good word, and there is an exceptional clarity to it all which is the chief difference so far as I am concerned. The PCE is characterized by an incredible clarity of perception and sensation. The most ordinary and mundane objects are fascinating in their own right and everything is imbued with a clarity and liveliness that is missing in the ordinary ‘normal’ state. So the experience itself must be one chiefly of sensuousness and not emotion. Nevertheless one can speak of ‘feeling excellent’ as the word ‘feeling’ can also refer to the faculty of sensation. I’ve probably taken something here and over-complicated it all, but I thought I would mention it. When both bad and good feelings disappear, something so exceptional happens that everything else pales by comparison. The realization that ‘I’ am the only thing standing in the way of this magical perfection and purity turns what is initially an interest into a full-time obsession to experience the best that life on this planet can offer.
VINEETO: Only in a pure consciousness experience is my feeling-fed self temporarily absent. The rest of the time ‘I’ am a feeling being, however inconspicuous. ‘My’ best choice is to feel good – or to feel excellent – which is the closest I can get to experience the world as it is. Feeling excellent means that no specific emotion spoils my experience of the day, thinking only happens when needed for the particular action I am involved in, my senses are heightened compared to normal-day reality and I immensely enjoy simply being alive. However, a simmering hesitation, a vague holding back, an awareness of a controller, a slight sense of ‘me’ lurking in the background marks a very noticeable difference to a ‘self-less’ experience.
A PCE, as you have described it, is not a feeling-experience. It is magical purity, experiencing everything in its directness, a stillness that has always been here, with psychedelic colours and glimmering textures, distinctly multi-layered sounds, sensations without filter and I am aware of sensately and reflectively experiencing the world and I am also aware of being aware. This apperception adds the depth and magic to everything experienced, fear disappears and I am no longer separate from the universe that lives me. For me, a PCE always starts as if a curtain rips in my head that then opens the view to this magical wondrous being here.
VINEETO: Hi Alan,
Your letter is a perfect launching pad for defining various terms that we actualists frequently use – Altered State of Consciousness, peak experience, Pure Consciousness Experience and the new one, ‘excellence experience’. I have found it immensely useful both for my own investigation and for communicative purposes to be accurate in my use of terms – something that I have learned from Richard and Peter. It is one of the notorious and ‘belief-maintaining’ habits of spiritual practice to be vague, loose, empathetic, accommodating and intuitive when communicating my beliefs and feelings. Interestingly, Peter and I got scolded many times on the Sannyas list for not being flexible enough with our definitions of words.
Here we go, starting with Peter’s definition of ‘excellence experience’ and Abraham Maslow’s term of ‘peak experience’ –
Peter, The Actual Freedom Trust Mailing List, No 3
ALAN to Peter: Good points, Peter. Your post, my recent experiences and Richard’s reply have led to much reflection on the subject. Here are some initial thoughts.
I have started by redefining ‘peak experience’.
Peak Experience: A phrase first used, I think, by Mr. Abraham Maslow to describe something experienced by all peoples to a lesser or greater degree. The prevailing characteristics are that one feels good, one’s problems seem trivial and there is a general sense that all is right with the world. Feelings of elation, love and happiness may be experienced. One may see beauty one has ignored before, often resulting in tears of joy.
The experience may be brought on, in many cases, by events or circumstances – a mother looking at her new born baby, a magnificent sunset, a promotion and pay rise, doing a job well.
At the ‘top end’ of the scale, it may be described as an ‘excellence experience’ – the best one can be while a ‘self’ is still present. One experiences life as perfect and one is virtually happy and harmless, virtually free of sorrow and malice. However, in this condition, ‘I’ am still extant, even though subdued and this is one of the main attributes differentiating the peak experience from the pure consciousness experience.
VINEETO: In my university days, Abraham Maslow used to be my favourite psychologist because he was not so much concerned with the misery of human emotions but researched ‘self-actualization’ and outstanding experiences. He was a refreshing alternative to the nihilism and existentialism that were fashionable in Europe in those post-war / cold war years. He has definitely done some good research and drew scientific attention to the fact that there is more to life than simply being a well-adapted member of society. Nevertheless, he had only two alternatives in his interpretation of people’s experiences – psychological and spiritual-religious. The third alternative had not been discovered yet.
I went searching on the net for Mr. Maslow’s definition of peak experience and found plenty of references. The quotes below are from his book ‘Religions, Values and Peak Experiences’ and I have copied some relevant text at the end of this letter.
Peak Experience is obviously a generic term used for a wide variety of exceptional experiences, which can range from being very happy to feelings of great love or beauty, from pure consciousness experiences to epiphanies, Satoris or full blown Altered States of Consciousness. Mr. Maslow often uses religious and emotional terminology when describing people’s experiences –
As you said, Alan, the thinking and particularly the feeling ‘self’ is extant in most cases of the described peak experiences and this ‘self’ will either during the experience, or later on, define and interpret the event as an emotional (‘good, loving, beautiful’) and/ or a religious experience (‘awe, humility, surrender’). Many people clearly categorize their peak experience as a spiritual or religious experience, which is confirmed by Mr. Maslow’s list of intrinsic values of reality derived from a peak experience. ‘Truth, goodness, beauty’ correlate precisely with ‘Satyam-Shivam-Sunderam’ (the Truth, the Good, the Beautiful) of Eastern Mysticism ascribed to the ultimate god-experience of an Altered State of Consciousness and also correlates with the venerated Christian values of ‘the Good, the True, the Beautiful’ of Mr. Wolfgang Goethe’s philosophical essay.
Personally, I stopped using the term ‘peak experience’, because for an actualist it is absolutely vital to make a clear distinction between a selfless pure consciousness experience and an emotional / spiritual peak experience, including any Altered States of Consciousness. Both ASC and PCE have been clearly defined and exhaustively written about on the Actual Freedom Trust website – thus I am of the opinion that introducing ‘peak experience’ would only confuse the distinction.
For above reasons, an actualist’s ‘excellence experience’ is not at the top end of what is normally termed ‘peak experience’ but it is a new and therefore unambiguous term for a new experience, being without malice and sorrow and utterly happy to be alive, an experience free of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ feelings and any spiritual connotations. In an excellence experience, life is simply scrumptious, superb, delightful, delectable, sensate, exciting and effervescent. In an excellence experience one enjoys the felicitous/ innocuous feelings and there is an absence of any feelings of the ‘bad’ and ‘good’ category, which means that one feels neither worry nor love, neither fear nor beauty, neither sorrow nor compassion, neither misery nor grandiosity. When I am excellent, my senses are heightened, no emotions are bothering me, life is delicious as it is and interacting with people is easy and enjoyable. It is a delight to be alive for the very reason that I am alive. However, from the corner of my eye, so to speak, I can see ‘me’ lurking about – the ‘self’ is weakened but clearly discernible. In Virtual Freedom most days are experienced as excellent whereas a pure consciousness experience happens once in a while – enough to remind me that I have not yet arrived at my destiny.
ALAN: Pure Consciousness Experience: A PCE occurs when ‘I’ as ego is temporarily ‘stunned’ and ceases to have any control. It is more than a difference of degree when compared to the peak experience, it is almost as if one has stepped into a different dimension. One can no longer even recall the problems one had, but a moment ago. Everything seems alive, sparkling, as if one has eyes in the back of one’s head; there is a three hundred and sixty degree awareness and all is self-evidently clear. This is knowing by direct experience – one knows that life is actually perfect.
The affective content of the PCE varies according to the extent to which ‘me’ (as soul) is prevalent. At one end of the scale is the ‘epiphany’, the mystical experience, the Satori experience. Feelings of love, bliss and rapture are common and one can even imagine oneself to be the saviour of mankind. This reaction is largely caused by the person’s environment, upbringing, social conditioning and experiences. It is this experience which gives rise to the ‘Awakened Ones’ and, should (rarely) the ego be permanently expunged, the ‘Enlightened Ones’.
VINEETO: In the interest of having clear, definable terms, a pure consciousness experience is just that – an experience of pure consciousness, where the ‘self’ is temporarily absent, completely. This means that there is no affective experience in a PCE whatsoever, no ‘love, bliss, rapture’ or the imagination of being ‘the saviour of mankind’. Whenever there is any feeling or emotion experienced whatsoever, it is not a PCE. For most people, the experience may well start as a PCE, but invariably ‘I’ will step in and seize the experience as ‘mine’ and interpret and feel it to be a spiritual experience. One needs to understand and practice actualism to be sufficiently aware of one’s beliefs, feelings and instinctual passions in order to avoid the trap of Enlightenment on the path to Actual Freedom.
The way the Human Condition works, ‘this reaction’ of ‘love, bliss and rapture’ is not merely ‘caused by the person’s environment, upbringing, social conditioning and experiences’, but it is the instinctual passions – ‘me’ at my very core – that inevitably cause ‘me’ to grab the experience as a way of ensuring not only my survival, but also my immortality and my ultimate power. On the path to Actual Freedom, those instinctual passions need to be investigated deeply and thoroughly because they constitute what ‘I instinctually know myself to be’. These instinctual passions are the core ingredient of the ‘self’ whereas one’s social identity of ‘environment, upbringing, social conditioning and (life) experiences’ is merely the outer layer. Unless these instincts are seen through, understood and weakened by experiential investigation, ‘I’ will seize every opportunity to re-establish my identity, particularly after the ‘time-out’ of a pure consciousness experience.
ALAN: If the social conditioning and beliefs are reduced or eliminated,
the PCE takes on a new meaning. One no longer interprets the experience as religious or spiritual and can see that ‘I’ am all that is standing
in the way of the perfection and purity being evident. Then, one has the opportunity to avoid the pitfall of ‘enlightenment’ and heading
straight ahead for an actual freedom.
As you know, I have had difficulty reconciling the experiences I had, before encountering actual
freedom, with what I have subsequently discovered, because they were very, very, similar to what Richard was calling the PCE (indeed that was what
first attracted me to his site). Yet, I could recall no sense of ‘‘I’ was all that was standing in the way’ in these previous experiences.
And this would explain it. A PCE is when ‘I’ as ego ceases to have any control, but the affective element of the experience will vary
according to the extent that ‘me’ is extant. What do you (and anyone else) think? Magnificent adventure this pioneering business, is it not?
As you know, I have had difficulty reconciling the experiences I had, before encountering actual freedom, with what I have subsequently discovered, because they were very, very, similar to what Richard was calling the PCE (indeed that was what first attracted me to his site). Yet, I could recall no sense of ‘‘I’ was all that was standing in the way’ in these previous experiences. And this would explain it. A PCE is when ‘I’ as ego ceases to have any control, but the affective element of the experience will vary according to the extent that ‘me’ is extant.
What do you (and anyone else) think? Magnificent adventure this pioneering business, is it not?
VINEETO: ‘The opportunity to avoid the pitfall of ‘enlightenment’ and head straight ahead for an actual freedom’ only presents itself when one has experientially explored and understood the role that our instinctual passions, ‘me’ as soul, play in the whole spiritual scenario of enlightenment. The difference between PCE and ASC is not merely a matter of religious or spiritual interpretation and conditioning; a pure consciousness experience is 180 degrees opposite to a spiritual experience. In order to become actually free, it is not enough to reduce one’s social conditioning and eradicate one’s spiritual belief system, one then needs to dive deep into one’s psyche and investigate the core of one’s being – ‘me who I instinctually know I am’, the animal instincts of fear, aggression, nurture and desire. Any shortcut at this point would inevitably lead to Being – ground on the Rock of Enlightenment.
As Richard wrote earlier about PCEs –
As for ‘reconciling the experiences [you] had before encountering actual freedom with what [you] have subsequently discovered’ – I can only say that, after investigating all of my past beliefs and my spiritual conditioning, any reconciliation of my former outstanding experiences with a PCE is impossible. Before encountering Actual Freedom I simply did not know that one could eliminate one’s emotions, that there is more to extinguish than my ego and that there is more to the Human Condition than social conditioning.
However, it has been of great benefit to remember in detail some of my outstanding experiences of my spiritual days in order to investigate the cunning entity in action. For this exploration I was more interested in the differences between my former experiences and the pure consciousness experience in order to determine at what point of the experience ‘I’ was taking over and what were the reasons that a stunning experience turned into an indulgence of feelings.
Now, having become familiar with the intensity and power of my instinctual passions, I agree with Peter’s theory that atrophying them in a period of ongoing excellence experiences is the most promising approach of success –
Finally, to emphasize a clear distinction between an ‘excellence experience’ and a pure consciousness experience, I endorse Richard’s latest correspondence –
VINEETO: Reference from Abraham Maslow on Peak Experiences –
Practically everything that happens in the peak-experiences, naturalistic though they are, could be listed under the headings of religious happenings, or indeed have been in the past considered to be only religious experiences. <snip>
In peak-experiences, several kinds of attention-change can lead to new knowledge. For one, love, fascination, absorption can frequently mean ‘looking intensely, with care,’ as already mentioned. For another, fascination can mean great intensity, narrowing and focusing of attention, and resistance to distraction of any kind, or of boredom or even fatigue. Finally, what Bucke (10) called Cosmic Consciousness involves an attention-widening so that the whole cosmos is perceived as a unity, and one’s place in this whole is simultaneously perceived. A. Maslow, Religions, Values and Peak Experiences, Appendix D
The following may be seen either as a list of the described attributes of reality when perceived in peak-experiences, or as a list of the irreducible, intrinsic values of this reality.
Truth, goodness, beauty, wholeness, aliveness, uniqueness, perfection, completion, justice, simplicity, richness, effortlessness, playfulness, self-sufficiency. A. Maslow, Religions, Values and Peak Experiences, Appendix G
RESPONDENT to Peter: ‘Excellence experience’ is a succinct definition for a set of common experiences that we’ve been bandying about with varying nomenclature. As it seems to be an important aspect of the neophyte’s path, I would suggest that the definition be formalized in the glossary, and given more stature by abbreviation (EE). We can type less, and communicate more!
VINEETO: Yep, following your suggestion I’ve just put together a new topic in the library called ‘Excellence Experience’ with related correspondence from Richard, Peter, Vineeto and Gary. It will be available on the website in a few days.
I think the reason why I haven’t given an excellence experience a ‘proper’ place in the library is because feeling excellent becomes an everyday experience after a few years of practicing actualism. We have called that state of almost constantly feeling excellent Virtual Freedom.
Nevertheless, I do remember the beginning of the actualism practice when an excellence experience was an outstanding event, all my senses were heightened compared to normal day experience and the usual background generator of anxiety and resentment was switched off as if by magic. Then a feeling of wellbeing begins to relax muscles I didn’t even know were tense and a sweet delight of being alive begins to spread through all of the body. And then, with an increasing attentiveness to the sensuousness of everything around me the paradise that is this actual world becomes increasingly apparent.
Vineeto’s & Richard’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.