WHAT IS AN EXCEPTIONAL HUMAN EXPERIENCE?
Exceptional human experience is an umbrella term for anomalous experiences that transform the individual who has them so that they are engaged in a process of realizing their full human potential, which makes the experience an exceptional human one.
The Exceptional Human Experience Network has a different approach to anomalous, out-of-the-ordinary Exceptional Experiences (EEs). By taking the emphasis off of proof, or artificially trying to "cause" or stage events in the laboratory, or passively collecting case reports, we are actively trying to understand what these types of experiences and the experiencers are telling us as a whole.
If an experience does not have any lasting effect on the experiencer, it remains simply an anomaly, and so can be viewed objectively as a one-time happening, now finished. However,some anomalous experiences become personalized. They become part of the experiencer’s life. They have become exceptional experiences (EEs). These, in turn, can initiate a process that has ongoing transformative aftereffects.
EEs also signal a type of individualized, inner paradigm shift. Such shifts of perspective can forever refocus and redirect a person’s actions, aesthetics, contributions, and zest for life. In many cases, especially when the EE is intense or profound, the experiencer begins to mark his or her lifetime chronology with a "before" and "after" of events relative to that single, originating exceptional experience.
The Exceptional Human Experience Network has a different approach to anomalous, out-of- the-ordinary Exceptional Experiences (EEs). By taking the emphasis off of proof, or artificially trying to "cause" or stage events in the laboratory, or passively collecting case reports, we are actively trying to understand what these types of experiences and the experiencers are telling us as a whole. Most scientific approaches still hold to evidential-proof methodologies and by their nature these types of spontaneous experiences cannot captured, staged, or easily replicated in the lab.
Rhea White (1990, 1993, 1994,) has called for a fresh orientation toward all anomalous and remarkable experiences, not just the psychic ones. Her approach, and that of the EHEN, is unique in that we base our work on the inherent value of these experiences to potentially transform the individual. This singular shift of focus from demanding proof to valuing these experiences and experiencers has already begun to provide a wealth of rewarding information that reaches into all aspects of human endeavor.
1. All of these experiences, including those induced by drugs or hypnosis, occur spontaneously, at least initially. They happen to you—you can’t make them happen.
2. Each type of experience in one way or another is an experience of transcendence, which means “to rise above; surpass; exceed.” In an out-of-body experience, for example, you have the experience of literally rising above your body, being able to look down upon it as if from outside. In near-death and post-death experiences, you seem to transcend the boundary between life and death. In clairvoyance and telepathy, you transcend space (and in the latter case, also personality). In precognition, you transcend time; and so it goes.
3. Each one represents a new experience of the self, of who or what we are. Whereas we previously assumed we were bound by time, space, our bodies, personalities, individualities, and certainly death, these experiences give the lie to that view. They tell us we are more than we thought we were.
4. They are all experiences of connection, first to different levels of ourselves, but also to others, to other forms of life, to the planet, to the universe, and to the sacred.
5. Each is an experience of opening to a reality we were taught could not be true. This opening occurs directly. That is, we don’t have to think about it or question it—during the
experience we are there. They also open us inwardly, thus predisposing us to have further experiences, unless we shut down the process through fear or misunderstanding of what is happening.
6. Although EHEs are experiences of opening, connecting, and transcending, the fact that there is no sense of separation applies both within and without the person. There is no separation felt between mind and body, so that you respond with your whole self. This means there is often an orgasmic element in EHEs. You are in a heightened state physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually. Physically, you can experience tingling, swooning, rapid heartbeat, flush, raised hairs, goosebumps, and breathlessness. A good test of an EHE is that you can feel it in your toes.
7. Although there are scholars and scientists willing to grant that these experiences merit investigation, they have done so using the methods of Western science and analysis. This has led to their being treated as static events--one-time occurrences that, once they are over, are considered done with. For example, an investigator might look into a dream that X had in May 1991 that corresponded in considerable detail to an event that occurred in June 1991, thus indicating that the dream could have been precognitive. The investigator tries to find witnesses to both dream and event. He or she compares the details of the dream with the details of the event, notes the person’s age, sex, occupation, education, etc., and when finished, adds this information to other such statistics. It will most likely molder away in a file somewhere. We haven’t learned anything that connects to anything else. Instead, we should view such experiences not as one-time events comparable, say to one’s first tooth or car, but more to one’s job or one’s significant relationships--in other words, to experiences that occur within an ongoing process. Exceptional experiences are more like seeds. They happen to us not like events but as initiators of a process, waiting to unfold in us even as the oak tree unfolds from the acorn, but with a major difference--the oak tree, as far as we know, grows spontaneously and naturally. But the process that unfolds in a human being, at least after a certain stage is reached, requires our conscious cooperation and participation. We need to pay attention to these experiences, try to glimpse what they may be telling us, discern where they may be leading us, trust the visions they reveal to us, and incorporate them in our lives. So, although initially they occur spontaneously, they are invitations to participate in a process of growth that requires our cooperation. Instead, we tend to shelve these experiences, to repress them, and not tell others about them, because although they may be exciting, thrilling, wonderful experiences in themselves, in the context of the consensus worldview they are weird, strange, unreal, or even sick. In this view, it is natural not to look to them for insight and guidance.
8. In science everyone is looking for a new paradigm (or worldview) to account for everything. Physicists are trying to account for the mind-matter interface. Psychologists and philosophers call it the mind-body relationship. We call EHEs preparadigmatic experiences, because they seem to herald a new paradigm, or at the least, they fly in the face of the one with which we now live. So each one really offers the experiencer (and to some extent, those who read or hear about a given experience) a window with a new view, and they provide an opportunity to choose between belief and doubt. (This is an opportunity of unparalleled importance.) The experiencer must decide whether to provisionally trust the experience or explain it away or dismiss it. Those who choose to believe find they have opened a door leading to additional experiences that provide entrance to a world where their lives become charged with meaning. They have entered what we call the Experiential Paradigm. Those who doubt continue to remain encased in the familiar inhospitable and even abusive arms of the worldview that has been with us since the Enlightenment, which we were taught was the only reality. Many people’s lives are chaotic and bereft of meaning, and many turn to drugs, not to embrace the world, but to forget it.
9. What we need is a story that will unite science and spirituality, self and world. But first it must occur at the individual level, which brings us to the ninth characteristic. Each of us needs a story that charges our daily lives with meaning and puts us personally in touch with the sacred. There are many books about writing, or better yet, living your own story, your own myth. But the myths of old contained an element that is missing from most stories told today, and that is a link with the sacred. Exceptional human experiences can serve as those links; they are those happenings in our lives that can pull us out of boredom and disconnection and into a world of meaning and connection. We have to learn how to honor these experiences and let them into our lives. When a sufficient number of people do that, the larger story will emerge. Exceptional human experiences catapult us into the new paradigm. We become a part of it and we discover it is a part of us. When we enter the Experiential Paradigm, we are no longer apart from it. The scientific method cannot take us there. But once we ourselves are there, and when we are willing to take the further leap of sharing our experiences with others, we will not only be inside the new view that is needed to join physical and spiritual, mind and matter, body and mind, but we will also be playing a significant part in transforming it into consensus reality. Once more, as in ages past, the story of each human will be the story of humankind, and vice versa. We and our times will be in step and able to move forward as one. Science can do nothing but follow, as it is right that it should.
10. Creating one’s story is not simply something the experiencer can do alone. Telling it in part involves living it out in some way (i.e., acting on it). So only does it really become real to the experiencer and to others. One of the first ways to do this is to tell others about it, in a context where it seems relevant, even though it may be embarrassing or difficult. By sharing our EHEs, the other person validates the experience, even if he or she reacts negatively. But often the response is positive, and when it is, the other person may be moved by the first person’s story to share his or her EHEs as well. This heightens the sense of meaning and reality for both in ways that go beyond simply describing one’s EHEs. A process seems to be initiated by such interchanges that operates independently of both persons and that leads to connectedness and interconnections. One has entered into the process of spinning the web of the new paradigm. We don’t think it out; we live out of it and into a new way of being in the world. Then we can conceptualize it in the same way that we open our eyes and see.
By Suzanne V. Brown & Rhea White ©1997
The key to writing any Exceptional Human Experience (EHE) narrative, whether it is a single account, a series of accounts, or a full-blown EHE auto biography, is to just sim ply begin. Find yourself about 30 minutes of free time and a quiet place to collect your thoughts. Below are a series of steps with questions to ponder and get you started. Once you begin, you will find that remembering your story and writing it down from your point of view is immensely satisfying, even wonderfully self-indulgent. Repeat as often as desired!
Your EHE narrative begins with an Exceptional Experience (EE). This may be an EE from your earliest childhood memory, one that happened more recently, the only one you can recall in your life, one you feel most comfortable writing about, or the one you consider the most spectacular.
STEPS AND QUESTIONS TO PONDER
1. Select your EE to write about. Bring it close to you from memory, letting it get richer, fuller, more vivid in your relaxed mind. You may actually want to try to relive it or simply observe it, whichever is more comfortable for you to start.
2. Then, begin jotting down a few reminder notes about that particular experience. Try to capture it, hold onto it in your mind while you take notes. Relive your senses and feeling of that time as best you can. What happened? Describe your experience. When did the experience happen? How long did it last? Where were you? Why did that particular experience impress you at that time?
3. Next, go backward into time and try to remember the immediate circumstances leading up to that EE. What were you doing just before the experience? What mood were you in? How were you feeling? Who was with you, if anyone? Describe your surrounding, your sense of time, and whatever else you can recall. What do you think brought about the EE, if anything?
4. Now, follow that one experience a bit further along and go forward in time, just past the actual experience. What happened? Soon after it was over, how did you feel? Were you exhilarated, frightened, awed, confused, or what? Try to express this feeling in words. Did this experience change or move you in any particular way?
5. Also, describe your actions shortly after the experience. What did you do? How did you react? Did you try to hide it as if nothing happened? Did you take it in stride? If you shared your experience, when did you do it? Did another’s reaction affect your own initial assessment and feelings about your experience?
6. Now, in hindsight and looking back on that whole situation, was the experience meaningful to you? Or, was the whole experience better off forgotten? Did you learn anything from it overall? Did you gain any new insights or connection? If so, what were they? Did this experience make a positive or negative difference in your life? Does this particular experience factor in any way in your life today? In summary, what did this experience show or mean to you?
Congratulations! You have just completed outlining your first EHE narrative account. We are very interested in your written account, what happened, what you felt, did, and learned about your experience. We would appreciate including it in our narrative databank to further research and encourage others to write their own narratives. You may submit your story anonymously, if you would like.
Once you have written your first EHE narrative account, you will probably want to explore other EEs in your life in much the same way. Sooner or later you may discover that these experiences connect together for you in ways that you had not even considered before. This insight, sensing a connection across experiences is, in itself an EHE. It is here that you begin to recognize the larger tapestry of your life and you are well on your way to writing your EHE autobiography.
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