I learned the other day that a man I deeply respect and admire has died but it was only this morning when a friend forwarded by email the official announcement of his funeral that I felt the reality of his passing. He was 85 and in failing health so his death was not a surprise, indeed, it was expected, but the finality of death always carries a particular jolt.
His name was Dr. David Hawkins and I first met him in 2002 when I was deeply on my spiritual journey. From childhood I had read books about saints and mystics and masters and however much I admired them I was left wanting more – for all those people were already dead and in so many ways out of reach. It was my dearest wish that at least once before I died I might meet someone who was living and enlightened.
I was attending a spiritual life conference in San Francisco with a friend when I first heard about Dr. Hawkins and, more as a lark than as an opportunity, we decided to attend one of the monthly all-day seminars he was then holding in Sedona, Arizona. He was not a spiritual leader or associated with a religion or movement – in fact, he was a former, very successful psychiatrist who had had a number of mystical experiences over the years and was now talking about them.
The seminar was held in a small but beautiful conference center. When he first came out on stage I was disappointed. No one stood up or stopped talking, or in any way showed any special respect to him. He was a small-framed man, short, thin and frail. He resembled the satiric comedian, George Carlin.
When he was speaking, he was animated, powerful, infused, but during the rest periods he seemed to shrink and deflate, become distant and removed. The lecture was interesting and in some ways provocative but I did not feel the earth-shaking response in my soul that I had expected in meeting a holy man. Somewhat disgruntled I returned to Sacramento and picked up the reins of life.
Except that something had changed. My meditations were deeper, my mind was clearer, I was more at peace. Hmmm. I went back to Arizona the next month, and the month after that, and the month after that. During that year the trips became the focus of my life. His explanation of the states of consciousness and the experience of the divine resonated in my spirit and I finally believed that yes, indeed, he had achieved the state that cannot be spoken of.
I remember one lecture in particular. As was his custom, at the end of the presentation, he bowed his head and prayed aloud, asking God’s blessing on all who were there. For the first and only time in my life I saw a great golden aura extend from him and light up the auditorium. The golden light wavered and sparkled, holding within itself a great feeling of joy and peace.
After that year of lectures was over, I went to see Dr. Hawkins in person on a few other occasions. I continued to listen to the tapes of his lectures and still pull them out today. Over the years his reputation continued to grow and thousands of people came from all around the world to listen to him.
I learned three important things from Dr. Hawkins. The first was the difference between thought and consciousness, and how we are not our thoughts. The second was that life is not the opposite of death, birth is the opposite of death; life is eternal and has no opposite. And lastly, that to find joy one must surrender to life, not fight against what is. It was these three lessons that gave me the strength in the years ahead when I lost so much.
So today, although my discourse is a personal one and probably of little interest to most readers, I want to acknowledge my gratitude to a man who was a blessing in my life. He came in fulfillment of my desire to meet, just one time, someone who had experienced the presence of God and was willing to share his journey with others.
Gloria in Excelsis, Deo, Dr. Hawkins.