What's it like to have a transcendent spiritual experience?

I had a very weird spiritual experience after reading the 120 Days of Sodom. I had read Justine a few days earlier, and Philosophy in the Bedroom, and some extraordinary short-stories by Sade, like "Eugenie de Franval". But the 120 Days was more brutal than anything else I had read, seen or contemplated. And it's long, you're immersed in this world of complete depravity. It also involves a lot of shit, I mean actual crap, feces, and the eating thereof, which Sade uses as an authorly device, masterfully.

I know you think "How silly of you, getting disturbed by eating shit. It's just a book." But it's a long story (taking a turd, feeling it, soft), and it comes at unexpected times, (bite the turd) and you never know (he said as he chewed the turd, left cheek, right cheek) when you are suddenly (salivating, swallow a little), going to get hit again by an (swallow a little more, mmm) unexpected event (another swallow, ok, down it goes). It is really disgusting (a little bit stuck in the teeth there, lick, lick), and it comes at the worst possible times (savor the aftertaste) when you are distracted by other ethical things (oh, some reflux, belch).

I actually felt ill when I finished it, physically sick. I was also horrified and paranoid, because the constant vigilance against a possible turd eating meant that I wasn't paying attention, so my resistance to evil thoughts was suppressed, and slowly, I became more and more convinced by Sade's characters that there was no arguing with the self-consistency of self-interest and power, that even though there is a logically consistent alternative in superrationality, the nearest stable minimum is also consistent. So there is nothing to say to the villains, they are self-consistent, and you are thinking like them now, and your thinking is self-consistent, and your experience reinforces this choice, and the villains finish their party, murder and rape their victims, and they are perfectly happy, while their victims are in terrible torment, but they don't care, and they don't have to, nothing is compelling them to.

The knowledge that there is an alternative was very weak in the brain, and was not a powerful enough protection, because when you are faced with two self-consistent possibilities, the easiest one is the closest one, since they are both self-reinforcing. And the self-interest reinforces the easy one, so let's be realistic, most everybody would go the easy path, so that the world is a very dark place. That's where Sade put me, and deliberately, through calculated masterful writing. It will happen to any atheist who reads the book with attention, cover to cover.

Before I continue, I don't drink, or take drugs, although at the time I smoked cigarettes.

I woke up around 2 AM with this incredible peaceful feeling, and a feeling of an alien presence in my mind, which I felt I could communicate with.

So I communicated: "Hmm hmm hmm?"

It didn't sound like that, it didn't sound like anything, the communication was completely wordless, it was pure internal thought which never passed through the language center, but not emotion--- the emotion was always a steady peaceful calm.

It was sort of like hearing something when your lover is sitting next to you, and raising your eyebrow infinitesimally, and glance, and you immediately know you are thinking the exact same thing. It was like that, except without any lover, and the eyebrow isn't moving.

If I had to translate the sentiment, it would be something like "Is this Sade business really the way the world is?"

"MM mm."

Again, calm wordless communication, but now receiving. The translation was something like "It is not so", but with a certain assuredness, and a feeling of awesome incomprehensible static-ness, and humility at my own incomplete understanding of the vast structure. It went on for a while, involving all sorts of ideas and questions, always vaguely aesthetic or ethical questions, which I put to this external seeming thing, and getting answers of a sort, which were not derived by logical thinking, nor by social thinking, but by this alternate thinking.

I immediately knew that this is a religious experience, and this was very shocking, as I simultaneously knew logically that I had been and still was an atheist! It's very embarassing for an atheist to talk to God. Here I am talking to a God which I know does not exist. This was very strange, but your logical beliefs are not at all important during a religious experience.

I was annoyed at the contradiction between my rational beliefs and direct psychological experience (it lasted about half an hour), so at one point, about 5 minutes in, I struggled to remember my list of questions to pose to God, to demonstrate non-existence. "Let's see, what were they again? I forgot. Oh yeah, something like `Occam's razor dictates that any structure...", blah, blah, blah. The problem was as soon as these words or any logically structured conscious arguments came into my head, the thing went away, and I was sitting alone in my kitchen talking to myself. So I had to turn off the words, and relax, and sort of think "come back, come back", except wordlessly and in peace, and then the thing came back.

I want to say that afterwards, I was really rattled, because I finally understood how religious experience works, and to the atheists: you can't dismiss this thing with rational thought or scientific arguments. You just can't do it. It's not like that at all. I don't know how to explain it, because it is nothing to do with rationality, it is a strange sort of direct experience with an ethical structure that you become certain of, and still don't really understand, because you experience it, but you really didn't make it consciously, it just sort of comes under this situation of extreme distress and moral anguish, and gives you peace and direction about what to do.

But also, once I understood it, I became a little annoyed with standard religious texts. Not with Sade, Sade certainly understood this and obviously wrote the works deliberately, with the goal of inducing a religious experience. And boy does it work. I was only annoyed with other religious texts.

Because you would never identify the thing they are talking about from the text that describes it! The structure itself makes no supernatural claims, it makes no material claims whatsoever! Although you feel it is extraordinarily static and powerful compared to yourself, it doesn't make any claims to doing miracles, or anything else like that. There is a feeling of complete universality and permanence, but nothing at all regarding galaxies or trilobytes.

It's just a powerful, external seeming rock-like certainty in certain ethical things that bears no relation to social coercion, or to embarassment, or anything. You don't even need to think about consciously, but they aren't all clear, sometimes you ask a question and the response is sort of nebulous and contingent--- you feel that you got an answer, but it will only be clear in future circumstance, contingent on what happens, and on understanding the situation better.

But this thing is HARD WIRED. I was not commnicating with the Jewish God, I wasn't communicating with the Christian God, it wasn't the Muslim God, or Zeus or Thor or any of those, it was just an abstract thing that I could see was what the people who worship the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim God are talking about.

I should point out that I tried to understand this thing using rational analysis, and I already understood the superrationality business, and some ideas in biology about networks and RNA and all that. I eventually understood that what I was accessing directly with some hard-wired circuit was a universal self-consistent constructed approximation to a perfect superrational ethics, something which I could see makes sense under reasonable assumptions. It is possible to construct such a sense from subconscious decision making modules, without reasoning about them, but it is also possible to reason about it.

What it is is a purely moral sort of antenna, which you produce throughout your life without working at it! It just gets built up through decisions and self-consistency and experience, and subconscious ethical deliberation. It isn't consciously constructed, and it doesn't follow social opinions so much, it is constructed in this subconscious way by a process of internal deliberation, and the only time you feel it is when you are old enough and faced with something horrible which is not compatible with this thing, so that the thing asserts itself. You can't make it go away, and if you want it to go away, you might end up doing Sadian things, just to make that thing shut off, go away permanently. That's part of Sade's villain's justification for evil, to make the religious thing go away.

It's also not exactly a delusion, because it doesn't have any material manifestation--- you know you are considering an immaterial thing, not made of atoms. It also doesn't provide you with magic new information you didn't already have,at least not about the material world. It is ultimately just is an abstract sort of communication that tells you whether preexisting sentiments are compatible with an ethical code that you have placed on a rock hard scaffolding, and that, if done right, just cannot change.