But then one bright spring day – it was the 29th of May 1902 – while she sat preparing for her class under the trees in the backyard of Föreningsgatan 6, quietly, invisibly, there occurred the central event of her whole life. Without visions or the sound of speech or human mediation, in exceptionally wide-awake consciousness, she experienced the great releasing inward wonder. It was as if the ‘empty shell’ burst. All the weight and agony, all the feeling of unreality dropped away. She perceived living goodness, joy, light like a clear, irradiating, uplifting, enfolding, unequivocal reality from deep inside.
The first words which came to her – although they took a long time to come – were, ‘This is the great Mercifulness. This is God. Nothing else is so real as this.’ The child who had cried out in anguish and been silenced had now come inside the gates of Light. She had been delivered by a love that is greater than any human love. Struck dumb, amazed, she went quietly to her class, wondering that no one noticed that something had happened to her.
Emilia Fogelklou, the great Swedish Quaker theologian and writer is describing (in the third person) an experience she had at the age of 23. She was never the same again.
‘This is the great Mercifulness. This is God. Nothing else is so real as this.’ This seems to be the extraordinary thing about the experience of the Ground of Being: what is encountered is not impersonal, not abstract at all; but love, mercy itself, enfolding and sustaining the living heart rather than engulfing it.
In her beautiful and transforming book The Grace in Dying, Kathleen Dowling Singh writes:
The Ground of Being is, in a very real sense, Love. As we merge with it, self-consciousness and all question of self-worth and previous psychological issues of lovability spontaneously melt. Love simultaneously pours into and pours out of us. It begins to pour through us.
Dowling Singh is writing here of the process of dying, but it is much the same thing. She herself points out elsewhere in the same book that the experience of divine Love at the transpersonal level – enlightenment if you will – seems to be identical in dying and in mystical states. This is not something to be discussed or dissected, but a matter of straightforward experience. Like so much of the spiritual life, it can sound all too grand and pretentious, but it is in fact the plainest and in many ways the easiest and most natural thing. What else should it be, I suppose? We are only going home.