VINEETO: John Wren-Lewis was not a complete novice to religion and spirituality
before his near death experience incident. He had developed strong interest in problems of relationship between science and
religion, leading to frequent broadcasts and to over 300 articles in leading periodicals, as well as contributions to numerous
books and he also developed a strong interest in psychology and religion, leading to publication of the now famous essay in
Psychoanalysis Observed and to appointment as Advisor to the Association of Psychotherapists in the United Kingdom. In 1971 left
industry to become Visiting Professor in Religious Studies at the University of California and thereafter at New College,
Sarasota, Florida. His book, ‘What Shall We Tell the Children?’ is widely used as study of the basis of religious education in
a scientifically oriented culture. Additionally he is married to, and very likely influenced
by, Ann Faraday who is a self-realized person in her own right.
VINEETO: As for John Wren-Lewis – his near death experience after
eating a poisoned lolly on a bus in Thailand did not make him enlightened as for instance Dan Sutera tries to make him out to be. John Wren-Lewis himself describes the experience of ‘the Void’ as fluctuating in a Spiritual Magazine published in 1991 –
[John Wren-Lewis]: ‘I still slip back into that old clouded
state frequently, but this is not a process of ‘coming down.’ What happens is something I would have found unbelievable had I
heard of it second-hand – namely, I again and again simply forget about the pearl of great price. I drift off into all kinds of
preoccupations, mostly trivial, and become my old self, cut off from the Void-Background. Then, after a while, there begins to
dawn on me a sense of something missing, at which point I recall the Void and usu-ally click back into the new consciousness
almost immediately, with no effort at all.’
His NDE was rather the cataclysmic event that sparked an intense interest in
enlightenment just as similar near death experiences have either initiated or intensified the search for enlightenment for other
people. Ramana Maharshi and Mohan Rajneesh are examples that spring to mind.(see)
RESPONDENT: What I do know of John Wren-Lewis is
although he had an interest in science and religion, etc – he has often characterized his ‘enlightenment’ as being quite
opposite in nature to his former dismissals of such. For example, from
[John Wren Lewis]: ‘Before I had my experience, I was a Freud-style skeptic about all
things mystical. I wouldn’t have called myself an atheist or materialist; in fact I’d published extensively on the need for a
religious world view appropriate to a humanity that has come of age in the scientific and technological area. But I emphasized
that such a faith would have to be essentially positivistic, focused on the human potential for creative change, which I believed
could become as effective in the social realm as it has been in the physical realm. I even believed it possible that the creative
human personality might eventually discover technologies for transcending mortality, but I saw mysticism as a neurotic escape into
fantasy, due to failure of nerve in the creative struggle’.
VINEETO: Yes, I came across this quote in my research on him. It goes to show
that being skeptical is not the same thing as having investigated and abandoned one’s beliefs, doesn’t it?
RESPONDENT: If one admits that the experience of John
Wren-Lewis was a ‘genuine enlightenment’ ...
VINEETO: Why would you say ‘if one admits…’ when John Wren-Lewis
himself admits that he still slips ‘back into that old clouded state frequently’? Do you have a
different definition of enlightenment than that of a permanent altered state of consciousness, a permanent transcendence of the ego?
RESPONDENT: ... then it does certainly seem to be an
exception. Of course, the wavering quality, its here now, gone now quality might lead some to disqualify it as genuine.
VINEETO: I would certainly disqualify his experience as genuine enlightenment,
but I have come across a lot of people, particularly of the Advaita/Non-Dualistic persuasion who have a vested interest in
watering down genuine enlightenment into varying states of ‘self’-realization whereas all genuinely enlightened beings point
to a single edifying moment of awakening (with a variety of descriptions).