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Arthur Koestler: "To alter the texture of one's existence."

 Note: In 1937 the author Arthur Koestler, then a member of the Communist Party and believer in scientific materialism, was arrested by Franco's forces in Spain. During the next several days he believed he was about to be killed on three occasions and witnessed mass executions. In the midst of this encounter with death, he suddenly and unexpectedly had an experience that was to transform his life. This experience - which eventually led Koestler to shift from politics to psychological, scientific and spiritual concerns - is one of many thousands of recorded life-transformations from encountering death.

He described this experience in his book, The Invisible Writing :

"I was floating on my back in a river of peace, under bridges of silence. It came from nowhere and flowed nowhere. There was no river and no I. The I had ceased to exist.

"When I say `the I had ceased to exist,' I refer to a concrete experience that is verbally as incommunicable as the feeling that is aroused by a piano concerto ... The `I' ceases to exist because it has, by a kind of mental osmosis, established communication with, and been dissolved in, the universal pool, sensed as the `oceanic feeling,' as the draining of all tension, the absolute catharsis, the peace that passeth all understanding.

"(It) filled me with a direct certainty that a higher order of reality existed, and that it alone invested existence with meaning. Just as one could not feel the pull of a magnet with one's skin, so one could not hope to grasp in cognate terms the nature of ultimate reality. It was a text written in invisible ink; and though one could not read it, the knowledge that it existed was sufficient to alter the texture of one's existence." (Emphasis added)