The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Genuine Conversion Experiences Part III - Steve Taylor


Just finished up my new book by the psychologist Steve Taylor called, “The Leap: The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening”. Wonderful book that helped me contextualize my experiences through the years. Even those experiences when I was younger and couldn’t understand them. In the book Steve draws on the years of his experiences and psychological research and he presents what people are saying is the most clear psychological study of spiritual awakening or what he describes as wakefulness ever published. He takes research from the Christian mystics as well as other religious traditions but also looks at those who are naturally awake. Here’s a few snippets from the book:

Spiritual wakefulness and creativity, particularly poetry and painting, are closely connected. The wakeful state seems to lend itself to poetic or visual expression. It’s as if poetry is the out-breath of spiritual experience. That is, the impulse that awakened people feel to express their insights of describe their experiences often takes on a poetic form - not necessarily poetry itself but a poetic type of writing. p. 47

Awakened individuals have little or no concern for world success, possession, or personal ambition. They don’t need to add anything to themselves such as success, status, or wealth because they already feel whole…Partly because their own ambitions and desires are no longer important to them, they feel a strong impulse to serve others, and to practice kindness and generosity. p. 39

In wakefulness, perception is vivid and direct. Awakened people see the world in a very childlike way - struck by the wonder, beauty, and intricacy of phenomena that other people take for granted and don’t pay much attention to. The world is brighter, more fascinating and beautiful place to them. In particular, they are captivated by nature - the amazing iss-ness and beauty of the natural landscape, the sky, and the sea; the strangeness, complexity, and intricacy of animals, plants, and other phenomena. This childlike worldview is part of the reason for the connection between wakefulness and art, and why so many poets and artists are awakened individuals. When you are awestruck by the iss-ness and beauty of your surroundings, you often have an impulse to express or frame the experience, perhaps in writing or painting. p. 184-185

There’s a lot more in the book. One point he talks about is the death to ego or death to self. He does mention though that after such ego collapse there has to be a time period for the new self to develop.


Link to the book:


One last quote from the book. Here Taylor is showing how Walt Whitman was one of those who were “naturally awake”. He didn’t go through a trauma or depression: