10 Practical Spiritual Experiments to "See For Yourself"

Because sometimes, firsthand knowledge is better.

article by LiveReal Agents Blake and Kevin

"Spiritual experiences" are on the rise.

A lot of people these days seem to be searching for them: direct spiritual experiences.

Through meditation, yoga, psychedelics, various contemplative practices, from within "organized religion" or by going "Spiritual But Not Religious," a lot of folks these days are spiritually seeking.

Maybe we're all searching for "IT", one way or another. Maybe we always have been, or always are. Maybe it's just part of our "nature."

We do all face "The Big Questions" of life. We all confront "existential riddles." We're all philosophers.

But in some cases, this seed blossoms into a conscious, deliberate, and literal search.

It's a search for genuine spiritual experiences.

And it makes sense.

After all, there's firsthand knowledge, and secondhand knowledge.

Firsthand is usually better, when you can get it.

There's studying the experiences of others, and their conclusions about those. And then there's having your own experiences, and drawing your own conclusions about those. Drawing from your own experiences can be better, sometimes, when you can pull it off.

If "experience is the best teacher," then it makes sense to try to "experience" things for ourselves.

This idea has been around for a while.

"There are many people
who reach their conclusions about life like schoolboys:
they cheat their master by copying the answer out of a book
without having worked the sum out for themselves."
- Soren Kierkegaard

"Having the answer isn't enough.
You have to do the math."
- Jed McKenna

"We do not need theories
so much as the experience
that is the source of the theory."
- R. D. Laing

"Knowledge can be communicated
but not wisdom."
- Herman Hesse

But having spiritual experiences is one thing.

Being rigorous about it is another.

It's one thing to have an experience, and then try to extract maximum wisdom from it.

It's another to strap on a pair of bullhorns and tear through the nearest existential china shop to "see what happens."

There are good reasons for exploring this stuff.

There seem to be priceless treasures in these realms.

But there are also hazards.

Knowing the difference can mean the difference between, say, curing cancer on the one hand, or blowing up a chemistry lab on the other.

Things can go either way. A lot depends on how we approach it.

Here at LiveReal, we've been working to find a solid approach.

We've been working on what could roughly be described as "a scientific approach to the good life."

(That's not a perfect description, but it gets the basic idea across.)

One big part of being "scientific" means doing experiments.

Of course, most scientific experiments are conducted in and on the "outside," physical world, with objective results that can then be studied and presented to others.

There are good ways to "look within," and there are bad ways to "look within."

But in these realms - spirituality, psychology, relationships and so on - the laboratories are ourselves.

Most of the real action happens in the space between our own ears and ribs. It happens in our mind, or "heart," or even "soul."

It's "existential fitness."

There's are ways to approach all this properly.

Or not.

When the stakes are this high - when it's our hearts, minds, and souls in the game - we should probably bring some rigor and clear thinking out on the field.

After all, a good coach can save years of wasted effort. A personal trainer can get better results quickly, and potentially prevent a lifetime of neck pain. Rigor, common sense, and prudence are friends here.

All to say, learning from the "best teacher" - direct experience - doesn't mean having to learn everything the hard way. There's no value in making mistakes that could have been easily prevented. Aiming for direct experience doesn't have to mean reinventing the wheel, or personally building every clock, cup, or carburetor by hand.

So, in that spirit - of adventure, vigor, and a hunger to wise up while we're still young enough to enjoy it - we've found more than a few experiments worth running. In our experience, at least, some experiments have yielded some good results.

So we decided to gather them here, in one place.

So, here are a handful of the best "experiments" we've found so far, in no particular order.

But don't take our word for it.

See for yourself.

"Don't listen to what they say.
Go see."
- Chinese Proverb

1. "Stillness Exercise" by Blaise Pascal

2. "Self-Inquiry" by Ramana Maharshi

3. "Self-Observation" by George Gurdjieff

4. "Spiritual Autolysis" by Jed McKinna

5. "Experience" by Ken Wilber

6. "Experiments" by Douglas Harding

7. "Antidote" by Roy Masters

8. "Reading Sacred Texts" by Roy Clouser

9. "Real Prayer" by Peter Kreeft

10. "Plugged-in Presence" by L. Ron Gardner

"The majority of people are subjective toward themselves
and objective toward all others . . .
but the real task is, in fact,
to be objective toward oneself and subjective toward all others."
- Soren Kierkegaard

"I do not seek to follow in the footsteps
of the men of old.
I seek the things they sought."
- Basho

"One of my shticks is about why we need to do hard scientific research on religion. A study shows that if you ask people whether they believe in God, probably 95 percent of Americans will say they do. And there is nothing particularly great about their mental health. But if you ask them whether they have ever had any personal experience with God, only about 15 to 20 percent will say "yes." Those few have also been judged as more mentally healthy than the others."
- M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled

"To believe in the Tao is easy;
to keep the Tao
is difficult."
- Chinese Proverb

"No pious practice is so perfect
that it may not be
an obstacle to spirituality."
- Meister Eckhart

If you liked this, check out:

"Know Thyself": A User's Guide

Existential Fitness: Boot Camp for the Soul

Why Soft Nihilism is So Popular These Days

"See for Yourself" vs Trust Me" in Modern Spirituality

10 Principles of No-Nonsense Spirituality

Spirituality For Skeptics

Experiential Spirituality: A User's Guide

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