Phenomenological-Eco-Mysticism: An Account of Two Mystical Experiences in Japan

“So I bid you, fellow walker of the Earth to examine your surroundings and perpetually shifting contexts. Looking deeply into your daily experience, what do you find?”

Several weeks ago I found myself carried away by the strange yet very down-to-earth phenomenon of being a wave-like point shifting and settling all at once among an infinity of similar wave-points carrying on all in the same chaotic arrangement.

The moment of revelation came on an especially windy day as I laid upon a great rock against which the choppy waves of the Sacandaga Lake lapped up against. Sea gulls fluttered and cawed overhead.

1913 painting of Eddystone Lighthouse in England. Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

1913 painting of Eddystone Lighthouse in England. Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

The Black Crowes blared their sweet serenade into one ear while the other took in the cacophony of noises that swelled up out of the living, breathing world in which I was enmeshed. Occasionally, my friend Nacole or I would contribute to the pouring sensation of sound by adding a few words of our own or shuffling our feet on the stony beach which lay spread out before us.

I let my spine stretch along the rock’s uneven surface and angle my head to lay my left ear upon my stony pillow. That particular position gave me a foreign view of the world; the rock formed the foreground to my left, while the right was open sky filled with undulating clouds and cawing birds.

The expansive mid-ground was filled with onrushing churning waves and blue sky. The furthest points of my view were encompassed by a distant shoreline blanketed in lush green trees and crowned with a busily moving clouds flitting about the deep blue sky.

There was a lasting moment wherein a seagull entered my right periphery and fought a losing battle to keep its place against the booming wind. As I lazily took all of this in I faintly heard some words (oddly I unconsciously wrote waves instead of the intended words) stream forth from Nacole’s lips though I did not catch their form, only their music. It was in the precise moment that I experienced all the world as one great churning and vast expanse of cresting waves.

Perhaps it is beyond the realm of possibility to explicate this almost mystical vision in words which carry the same essence as the phenomena itself but I dwelled within the atomic world for that brief stretch of time.

I felt as if I were viewing the world from the perspective of a particle physicist who was semi-conscious of being enmeshed in the minuscule layer of reality wherein existence is a simultaneous tumult of waves and particles ever shifting, ever swaying. Being and non-being in each moment fitting the structure called forth by the various demands of various nests of reality.

This state of eco-mysticism was experienced much in the same wave/particle form, as my mind processed it both as a blunt unconscious participant and a half observing amazement. When words found their way out of my mouth I rather confoundedly tried to explain the state of things as I was in part witnessing them to Nacole. She stood with a silent smile and gazed into the distance.

Despite my lack of eloquence and the overwhelming nature of wave-like experience in relation to the word-particles with which we are left to explain it, I sensed that she got the gist of my explication perhaps on account of the fact that she was experiencing it herself in her own wave-particle conscious-ing.

The experience was so fundamental that I did not even think to write about it until now, nearly a month later. It was so perfectly real that it did not need any further in-form-ing. I also recognized that trying to hang words on such an experience was akin to Sisyphus eternally rolling his cumbersome stone to the top of a hill only to have it roll to the bottom each time before reaching a resting point at the top.

I’ve been left with a vision so fundamental that it evades any clear effort elucidate it. Elucidation will come only with similar experience, but even then it will not be something that can be pinned down as it too is both a particle insofar as it is a temporal event and a wave insofar as it extends beyond that temporal location. It is perpetually there yet not. At the risk of falling into a load of mystical jargon I will cease attempting to explain the experience leaving the reader with what is hopefully an apt image.

Despite the fact that all of this is not something that one can set a cup upon like a table or counter, and therefore impractical and ethereal to a degree, the event has lent a particular quality of tranquil contentedness to my living since then. It still exists as a sort of uncertain knowledge upon which one can unfurl one’s limbs and drift knowing at once that the drifting is aimless yet purposeful.

As if it were a peculiar form of radiation, the experience has dwelled in the ethereal background of my life lending an unseen affective energy and in-forming to each moment. It is as faint as the glimmer of a smile on the lips of a Buddhist icon or the Mona Lisa; something one could debate the meaning of for an eternity or perhaps even fail to notice should the image be passed by in a hurried fashion.

Another Mystical Experience in Tokyo

The same experience presented itself to me once again as I rather confusedly navigated through a metropolitan Tokyo train station during rush hour on my first day back to work since my return from a visit to the States. It was this experience which compelled me to contribute to the expansive mystical literature that eternally attempt to explicate a shade of the same experience contextualized by the particular cultural, lingual, and personal limits of each individual mystic.

Coming from nearly a month spent in a rural mountain town populated with only a few thousand residents back into the heart of the most peopled metropolis in the world was disorienting to say the least. Being that I’ve resided here since 2006 I am generally quite well adapted to the setting but I had to retune myself to the wild demands ones attention demanded by the fast paced life style of Tokyo.

As I shakily slid through Ikebukuro station which boast 2.7 million users on an average day I became quite aware of the massive wave-like motion that filled out the limits of my perception in all directions. Each individual, an intention-driven component of the wreathing, crawling, sucking chaotic puzzle of ever enmeshed (though only mildly aware) engagement.

I recognized that there was a zone of automatic awareness immediately to my right and left as well as one which extended out in front of me for about 30 feet. Everything within that zone was ordered by the combined intention of myself and those who showed up within that space.

Our body-minds anticipated the motions of one another and adjusted our course according to the combined, ever-shifting locomotive will of each of us caught within each others’ field of intention-formed perceptual awareness. Everything beyond that zone appeared as unformed and meaningless chaos. Was anyone to approach the demarcated zone, other aspects of my semi-consciousness would register them and determine whether or not they ought to be ‘organized.’

Further, I realized that I could ‘zoom in’ on myself, thereby atomizing my awareness, treating all others as mere objects around which my meaning-originating self would need to move. Or, I could imaginally ‘zoom out’ by visualizing the whole mass of us as viewed through the camera lens of a documentary videographer wherein a bird’s-eye-viewer would see only a totalistic chaos formed only by the limits placed upon the viewer by the confines of the camera lens.

My spatial-eco-mysticism disoriented me enough to cause me to stop letting myself be aware of it and I made a mental note to have a go at laying it out in writing.

So I bid you, fellow walker of the Earth to examine your surroundings and perpetually shifting contexts. Looking deeply into your daily experience, what do you find? Such seeing requires no special training, simply an eye for what one at once takes for granted and simultaneously takes for Reality.

 This essay originally appeared in Culture Counter Magazine.

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About Keith Morrison

Keith Morrison is a lay Zen monk at the Tokyo branch of Dogen Sanga, an ordained Dudeist priest, and a full contact martial artist, as well as an adjunct professor in Tokyo, and a PhD Candidate at the California Institute of Integral Studies. His primary interests include depth psychology, phenomenological mysticism, and the practice of philosophy and martial arts as living paths. To read more of his essays, poems, and other literary creations, visit Culture Counter Magazine online at

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