The Mystical Experience of Totality – Wayne Teasdale

“One mystical state of consciousness allows us to see the totality of all that is and all that can be in one instant of time. I deliberately say see rather than know because it is not possible to know everything, but it is possible at least to perceive, in a unifying vision, the sum of all reality, all worlds in all universes. Many mystics have reported this exalted state of consciousness.

“The English poet William Blake alludes to this experience when he says we can know “infinity in a grain of sand and eternity in an hour.” St Gregory the Great, in his Dialogues, a work on the life of St Benedict, the father of Western monasticism, reports an experience Benedict had in which he saw “all things gathered up into a ray of light.” St Francis of Assisi had an overpowering experience in which he saw the height, depth, and breadth of the Godhead, another version of the mystical totality. The Buddha is said to have realised the fullness of all knowing. Each of these is an instance of seeing the totality. I mention it here in this section only because it is a special state of awareness that involves creation.


“The experience of totality came dramatically to my attention many years ago when I was an undergraduate at St Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. In this mystical experience I was drawn beyond myself into a ‘place’ not of this world. I was taken into a transcendent ground where nothing was differentiated; everything was united with the divine one. There was no form or appearance in this realm, no structure, shapes, or colours, no objects of perception – only this vast openness of light, the source itself.

“I was not aware of myself as separate or distinct from it. I was only aware of the source, but my awareness was confined to a perception of its act of self-identity, that is, I was drawn up out of myself, and was resting in the divine self-identity. It was a triadic act of inner identity in which the divine proceeded into itself, received itself, and was unified by itself. This triadic unmoving-movement went on for eternity – for everything of God is in eternity, not in time – but then it reached a point where everything was summed up in an image. The image was of Christ. And from this image, which I interpret to be the Logos, the One through whom creation comes into being: trillions of galaxies, stars, planets, moons, species, people, civilisations, plants, trees, mountains, and oceans. Everything was there.

“I saw it all, though I couldn’t grasp the details. The mystical state of consciousness of the totality is one in which a person beholds but does not comprehend. It is a glimpse of how God perceives reality. Everything is present to him in one eternal now. One of the differences between God and us is that he understands the details – sees the connections, and perceives them all as one in himself. Nothing is or can be separate from him.

“The experience of the totality happens in the divine consciousness, which we access in a moment of ecstatic union. In such a rare moment of grace one also realises that everything that one perceives of the totality has meaning, has a place, and exists for a reason. Everything takes its meaning from the source in its holding of the totality in itself. The higher up the cosmic ladder we go, the more integrated and simplified everything becomes as it rests in the one source. The totality and the universe are identified in this eternal moment of their arising in the divine. My experience of the totality was at once part of natural mysticism and the farther reaches of contemplative, ecstatic unitive awareness.”

Extracted from The Mystic Heart by Wayne Teasdale

Watch Wayne Teasdale discuss this vision in his talk with Ken Wilber here.

One comment

  1. “One of the differences between God and us is that he understands the details – sees the connections, and perceives them all as one in himself. Nothing is or can be separate from him”
    … Nice 😉

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