John Wren-Lewis' Endarkenment
Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of Everywhere into here. (Children's nursery rhyme)
John Wren-Lewis: his near-death experience, his endarkenment. As a professor and humanist psychologist, Wren-Lewis was in the forefront of a 1960s Death of God movement before his experience. He saw mysticism as "an escape into fantasy" and a shirking of "creative struggle." He was a "skeptic about all things mystical," and "saw mysticism as a ' failure of nerve'."
In 1983 at age sixty, his transformation began when he and psychologist Ann Faraday boarded a 9:15 a.m. bus for a journey of several hours through the mountainous jungles of Thailand. A charming, well-dressed young Thai helped with their luggage and offered him and Faraday candy, which she declined and Wren-Lewis ate. Later, they surmised that the Thai got off the bus after concluding Faraday would not eat hers.
Becoming drowsy, Wren-Lewis fell asleep, but Faraday noticed him turning blue and told the bus driver, who said he was merely drunk. She insisted and eventually Wren-Lewis woke up in a hospital bed, a Thai policeman sitting at its foot. The candy, of course, had been poisoned by the would-be thief.
In looking back he says, "I'm now convinced I really did die, if only for a few seconds . . . and was literally 'resurrected' by the medical team. . . ." Of his waking up, he says, "My impression is that my personal consciousness was actually 'snuffed out' (the root meaning . . . of the word nirvana)."
He said that he "put [his] hand up to probe the back of [his] skull, half wondering if the doctors had sawn part of it away to open my head to infinity." It was if he "had a cataract taken off [his] brain to open [his] head to infinity."
He experienced no tunnels, no white light, no celestial beings, no dead relatives. Instead, he found "a vast blackness that . . . had no separation within it, and therefore no space or time. There was absolutely no sense of personal continuity." He writes of a "stop in time." He calls this The Dazzling Dark.
Personal consciousness cannot exist apart from the brain, he says, despite the claims of near-death researchers who say it can. He experienced its snuffing-out. He writes that he awakened into "a kind of focusing-down from the infinite eternity of that radiant dark pure consciousness" which recreated his personal consciousness.
He lost fear of death when eventually resuscitated, not that he found his immortal soul. Instead he discovered a "dimension of aliveness in the here and now," rendering "separate survival" a "very secondary matter." Each day is wholly satisfactory, so much so that he no longer regards success or failure as important in his creative efforts.
Nobel laureates. Like Suzanne Segal, he sought help to understand his condition. (Unlike her, he didn't regard it as pathological.) Eventually, he found that nobody, "either in person or through books, had a clue." Ancient traditions and modern movements both impute his condition to "mystical equivalent of Nobel laureates," while Wren-Lewis saw his experience as nothing extraordinary and as everybody's birthright.
He no longer feels bound to time. He was "liberated from what William Blake called obsession with futurity," making him more efficient rather than less.
He sees eternal life everywhere, right here and now.
He feels a "personal essence," and unconditional love, from The Dazzling Dark. He finds real closeness with departed family and friends, a feeling that what was "good" in them is still contained in the Dark. He says that it is more than just a "sense' that there is "life" after death; he knows.