In his enlightened state, John says it is as though nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. He has retained his personality, needs, and desires, but now is aware that the entirety of his existence is simply one of the infinite ways the universe is expressing itself moment by moment when I asked him if it was worth it, he says definitively that “Yes, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me and it’s the natural birthright of everyone and I haven’t got a clue how to reach it!”In fact, he feels that most methods people practice to try to reach enlightenment are counter-productive in that they concentrate on self-effort and think along the lines of time and causality. Although the acausality of enlightenment may sound like bad news at first, John says that it is also good news in a sense because there is no need to kill yourself with spiritual practices or worry about making irreversible mistakes on the spiritual path. In the sixteen years since his experience, he has sought out other people who have permanent Enlightenment experiences. He has thus far found fifteen, and only two had previous spiritual backgrounds. Just as we are all different people, John told me, there is an infinite variety in the types of Enlightenment experiences that people have. John says the eternity/God/Dazzling Dark loves the variety. The best you can do in the meantime is be aware and to “travel hopefully.”
“And besides,”says John, “Death takes you straight there anyway!”
Now he really had my attention. I realized more acutely than ever before that the primary motivation behind my interest in spirituality was my fear and fascination with death and the prospect of life after death. So I popped the question: “what happens to you after you die?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t died yet!”John said with a laugh what he really meant was that h e didn’t know specifics about what part of a person survived death or what exactly happens to it, but he could tell me that some sort of “personal essence”returns to the unconditional love of the Dazzling Dark. Partly this knowledge derives from a real sense of closeness that John feels with family and friends that have passed away, a feeling that what was “good”in them is still contained in the Dark somehow. However, John is quick to point out that it is more than just a “sense”that there is “life”afte r death, he knows.
“The Dark,”he says, is constantly there, producing everything at every moment, from the big bang to the final whimper. when you die, the Dark in you lives on.”John likens the whole space-time universe to a theatre in which eternity is playing out the “time game.”The only place to go when your personal “time game”is over is offstage, and back to the Dazzling Dark. No judgement, no hellfire and brimstone, simply a return home to eternal love. “The entire concept of a fallen angel is ri diculous.”says John, “I can’t imagine anyone choosing not to have Enlightenment!”However, the fact that there is no hell is not to say that there is no universal morality. John clarified, “Although there is no sin that goes unforgiven, as Christ taught, that which is not in accord with unconditional love is immoral.”
As a great sigh of relief echoed through my soul; I felt a new sense of vitality and freedom. But at the same time, I felt an overwhelming aimlessness due to the fact that there no longer seemed to be a huge “agenda”for life. So I asked John, “If you were in my shoes, twenty-one years old and unenlightened, with a world of opportunities before you, what would you do?”
Characteristically, the playful John Wren-Lewis quoted Shakespeare, saying, “’There is nothing serious in mortality.’Live mindful of the fact that life is nothing but a grand play,”he advised, “and become more settled day by day in the knowledge that death is but a return home. Remember that happiness is in the moment and its value is itself.”
And with that, I was at peace, maybe for the first time ever. After years of mental turmoil and anguish over parting with constrictive Roman Catholic beliefs, and subsequently moving into a more worldly, open-minded, and rational spirituality, my feet had finally found some stable ground. In retrospect, John told me little that I hadn’t already theorized or suspected, but being an extreme skeptic (just as he had been), I needed to see it to believe it. It is truly transforming to look with trust into a man’s eyes as he sincerely tells you, “I know God.” John Wren-Lewis did not bring my spiritual journey to an end, but to a new beginning. He replanted in me a mustard seed of faith that had long been uprooted. And for that, I thank him.