I have been reading Mysticism (1911) by Evelyn Underhill over the last few days, and see that the five phases she outlines corresponds closely with Tozan’s five ranks.

  1. Glimpse/Awakening
    A glimpse of the transpersonal, of the Divine Reality or Big Mind/Heart.
    Task: Wet the appetite, fuel the desire for awakening
    Experience: Blissful, joyful, expansive (although usually brief)

  2. Purification/Submission
    A process of purification and submission to teacher/God/Christ. Purgation. Recognize and let go of attachments to human self and dualistic view. Often a painful process.
    Identity: Human self
    View: Duality
    Task: Detach from exclusive identity with human self and dualistic view.
    Experience: Painful process, with glimpses of illumination/satori etc.
    Aka: Dark night of the senses

  3. Illumination/Absolute
    Awakened as Big Mind/Heart, union with God, nondual view, tremendous bliss, joy, passion, insights, clarity, etc.
    Identity: Absolute
    View: Nondual
    Task: Familiarize with the Absolute
    Experience: Identity as the Absolute, as Big Mind/Heart. Joy, bliss, passion, clarity, insights, effectiveness in the world. A sense of achievement, of (being) something special.
    Aka: Brilliant sun of enlightenment.

  4. Fall from grace
    A phase where everything from the previous phase is (apparently) taken away.
    Task: Detach from the Absolute
    Experience: Ground to dust. Everything found comfort in at previous phase is taken away. Nothing is left. Trails and problems in many areas of life, including external ones. Is a passive victim of circumstances. No joy, willpower, passion is left. Finally, when able to embrace it fully, transition into next phase.
    Aka: Dark night of the soul.

  5. Integration
    An integration of what has become familiar with during the previous phases. Similar to phase 3 although much more ordinary, grounded and fluid.
    Identity: As human and Big Mind/Heart, and no fixed “I” anywhere
    View: Deepening transdual
    Task: Fluid integration of relative and absolute, human self and Big Mind/Heart
    Experience: Ease, unremarkable, ordinary, no-one to take any credit for it in any way
    Aka: Hazy moon of enlightenment, Union, deified life, integrated freely functioning human being

Personal experience

  1. Glimpse
    I drank a large amount of alcohol when I was sixteen (first and last time). There was no hang-over the day after, but a gradual sense of unreality. Later, I realized that I got pulled into formless awareness and detached from the world of form to some extent. The world of form – my human self and everything else – seemed far away and as if in a dream. At the same time, I found myself as crystal clear formless awareness. This stayed and deepened, I stayed home from school for a while and went to several doctors but none could help. Some months later, this led into an opening where I experienced God as/in everything. I especially remember walking down a gravel road during a winter evening, with a big wind and the stars above, and the veils fell and I experienced this all as happening within me and everything as consciousness, as God, as Spirit. There was a tremendous sense of coming home, of recognition, of infinite bliss, joy, love. During this whole period, my view became more and more deeply transdual, to the point where I could not express it words.

  2. Purification
    This continued for day and night for several years. My view continued to deepen into the transdual. There was a continual and tremendous joy, bliss and clarity, a profound sense of belonging to Existence and the universe, and overwhelming floods of insights. At the same time, there were periods of falling down equally far as I went high, with intense (emotional) pain and hypersensitivity to people around me, especially those who were in struggle with themselves. These two oscillated, although always in the context of a transdual experience of Existence and of experiencing God/Spirit as/in everything and everyone. This was a very intense period, with extremes of highs and lows.

  3. Illumination
    For me, the three first phases seemed to merge into one. There was a deepening into a transdual view, into both the sense of oneness and discernment. I needed very little sleep during this time, I found what was in my immediate experience reflected in the writings of mystics and teachers from Christianity, Sufis, Buddhism and Taoism, and was successful and productive in anything I did. Looking back, it seems a little like a superhuman phase. And there was definitely a sense of attainment and pride mixed into all of this, although I also saw clearly that it came from delusion. I could see clearly that I probably would need to go through a phase where all of this was stripped away, so I could learn to live a regular human life and then later have a chance to integrate it all in a little more balanced and grounded way.

  4. Fall from grace
    This was triggered through circumstances. Through something as mundane as moving away from a place which was everything I had been looking for and where I had tremendous support in every way, to a place where I had nothing (and there were other factors into play as well). I had nightmares nightly for about two years, in panic over loosing my opening I had become familiar with over the last several years. Eventually, I had a dream where the connection was severed with a sense of terrible finality (I saw a thick golden cable connected to my crown chacra loosen and drift away in space). From here on, there were years of terrible and profound pain, and a sense of being completely ground to dust. After so many years of daily and joyful meditation and prayer, I was now completely unable to engage in either. I was not able to read any books on such things, or find any comfort in that which had been so meaningful to me earlier. I felt that my life was falling to pieces, and that everything was lost for good. There was no hope for any change. Any trace of bliss, joy, passion and will were utterly gone.

  5. Integration
    After some years of this nightmare, there was another change in circumstances. Another move, which opened up new possibilities. There has been a gradual seeping into a more transdual view, and this now seem very ordinary and unremarkable. At the same time, there is a good deal of fluctuation between despair and hopefulness. This phase is still far too young to say much about it.

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