The past is scattered with people who’ve had profound experiences that have completely altered their way of life and re-evaluated their beliefs and values. Presented here is the first part of a series as we find more and more examples of recognizable people who have gone through a spiritual awakenings.
1. Emanuel Swedberg
Emmanuel Swedenborg was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, theologian, revelator, and, in the eyes of some, Christian mystic. He termed himself a “Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ” in True Christian Religion, one of the works he published himself. He is best known for his book on the afterlife, Heaven and Hell.
Swedenborg had a prolific career as an inventor and scientist. In 1741, at the age of 53, he entered into a spiritual phase in which he eventually began to experience dreams and visions beginning on Easter weekend April 6, 1744. This culminated in a spiritual awakening, whereupon he claimed he was appointed by the Lord to write a heavenly doctrine to reform Christianity. He claimed that the Lord had opened his spiritual eyes, so that from then on he could freely visit heaven and hell, and talk with angels, demons and other spirits.
In Swedenborg’s book, Earths in the Universe, he stated that he had conversations with spirits from Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon. From these encounters he concluded that the universe is filled with life, and such a massive undertaking such as the Universe could not have been created for just one race. As he quotes, “What would this be to God, Who is infinite, and to whom a thousand or tens of thousands of planets, and all of them full of inhabitants, would be scarcely anything!”
2. Eckhart Tolle
Born Ulrich Leonard Tolle in Lünen, Germany in 1948, Tolle describes his childhood as unhappy, particularly his early childhood in Germany. There, his parents fought and eventually separated, and he felt alienated from a hostile school environment. While playing in buildings destroyed by Allied bombs during World War Two, Tolle felt depressed by his experience of “pain in the energy field of the country”. At the age of 13, he moved to Spain to live with his father. Tolle’s father did not insist that his son attend high school, and so Tolle elected to study literature, astronomy and language at home.
At the age of 19, Tolle moved to England and for three years taught German and Spanish at a London school for language studies. Troubled by “depression, anxiety and fear”, he began “searching for answers” in his life.
Tolle’s spiritual awakening began one night in 1977, after from having awoken from his sleep suffering from feelings of depression that were “almost unbearable”, he experienced a life-changing epiphany. Recounting his experience, Tolle says,
“I couldn’t live with myself any longer. And in this a question arose without an answer: who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void! I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved. The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or “beingness,” just observing and watching.”
3. Jim Carrey
Born January 17, 1962, James Eugene “Jim” Carrey is a Canadian and American actor, comedian, and producer. Carrey has received four Golden Globe Award nominations, winning two. Known for his highly energetic slapstick performances, he has been described as one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood.
Despite his massive success and funny persona, Jim Carrey has spoken about his experiences with depression, having them in bouts over the years. Recently Carrey has been showing signs and giving lectures on his spiritual knowledge and awakening. Jim is largely inspired by Eckhart Tolle, a key figure to helping him along his search for the ultimate meaning. Jim Carrey says that through Eckhart’s teachings he has come to recognize how his own suffering comes listening to his illusory thoughts. As he explains it, he had become locked in his own mind in part because of a childhood spent trying to entertain his terribly ill mother.
After many years of outward searching, Carrey finally had a spiritual breakthrough wherein he realized for himself a moment of enlightenment in which he described as “deep inner bliss”. He came to a realization of which Heaven is always with you , right here on Earth and it is up to us to wake up to that. Jim famously spoke about his experience at the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment.
4. Neale Donald Walsch
Walsch was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on September 10, 1943, and brought up as a Roman Catholic by a family who encouraged his quest for spiritual truth. He informally studied comparative theology for many years. He is an American author of the series Conversations with God. The nine books in the complete series are Conversations With God (books 1-3), Friendship with God, Communion with God, Conversations With God for Teens, The New Revelations, Tomorrow’s God, and Home with God: In a Life That Never Ends. He is also an actor, screenwriter, and speaker.
Before writing the Conversations With God series, Walsch worked variously as a radio station program director, newspaper managing editor, and in marketing and public relations. In the early 1990s he suffered a series of crushing blows — a fire that destroyed all of his belongings, the break-up of his marriage, and a car accident that left him with a broken neck. Once recovered, but alone and unemployed, he was forced to live in a tent in Jackson Hot Springs, just outside Ashland, Oregon, collecting and recycling aluminium cans in order to eat. At the time, he thought his life had come to an end. Despondent, he began his writings after working his way out of homelessness and following a stint as a radio talk show host.
5. Jill Bolte Taylor
Jill Bolte Taylor (born 1959 in Louisville, Kentucky) is a neuroanatomic brain scientist, who specializes in the postmortem investigation of the human brain. She is affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine and is the national spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center. Her personal experience with a massive stroke, experienced in 1996 at the age of 37, and her subsequent eight-year recovery, has informed her work as a scientist and speaker.
On December 10, 1996, Taylor woke up to discover that she was experiencing a stroke. The cause proved to be bleeding from an abnormal congenital connection between an artery and a vein in the left hemisphere of her brain, an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Three weeks later, on December 27, 1996, she underwent major brain surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to remove a golf ball-sized clot that was placing pressure on the language centers in the left hemisphere of her brain.
Taylor’s February 2008 TED Conference talk about her memory of the stroke became an Internet sensation, resulting in widespread attention and interest around the world. It became the second most viewed TED talk around the world.