Awakening experiences outside of religious or spiritual traditions


As we progress into the 21st century, we can observe that more and more individuals are starting to have spiritual experiences of awakening or transformation outside the ‘walls’ of spiritual traditions (Taylor, 2016). This should come as no surprise to us as over the last decades more and more people abandoned so to speak their traditional beliefs and mainstream religions and went on with their lives, for some, as if spirituality or religion where not necessary or important to deal with. However, as we all face questions of ultimate concern (for example our own mortality) theologians like Paul Tillich argued that we inherently need religion (as found in Bruce 2006). More so Wilber (2017) correctly points out that amongst the many lines of development of intelligence there is spiritual intelligence as well as development in states of consciousness, and the deeper and more profound the state, the more inseparable it is from questions of ultimate concern and spirituality.

This of course is a widely contested notion in our post post-modern society and academic world, I can only speak from personal experience as to why I believe that there is a clear and undeniable need for the spiritual in our lives and even though secularization has had an impact on the way we perceive this spirituality and shifted the locus of our attention, it widely remains pertinent.

In the case of my own spiritual awakening and transformation, I mention I had no background whatsoever in any religion, except for the inherited Christian Orthodox religion from my family. Ever since I was six years old, I did not find comfort in the magic and mythic belief system my religion had to offer. More so, I made the cynic mistake to think that spirituality is something not necessary for me, something only for people with lesser rational abilities.

Transformation for me happened initially outside any spiritual tradition, at a time I was suffering from depression, even though my outside circumstances seemed great. The longer standing depression coupled with a powerful entheogenic trigger (on my own, so outside the shamanic tradition) opened the gates of awakening for me.  As Taylor (2017) also highlights, this sort of transformation outside any spiritual tradition due to hardship and powerful experiences is indeed not only possible but also one of the most used routes to awakening in the 21st century.

In order to be fair, my initial awakening experience happened outside any tradition as already mentioned, however this triggered a massive interest for spiritual traditions like Vajrayana Buddhism which eventually (after a signal I received in a dream) led me to the Drikung Kagyu lineage in the Himalayas.  Ever since I also started intentional spiritual practice, my transformation became more whole and complete. Nowadays, I follow and learn from several spiritual traditions and at the same time maintain my own practices and try to integrally and wisely interweave them both in my personal life as well as my professional life where I try to help create the basis of a 21st century integral lineage of practitioners that had their awakening outside (or largely) outside traditions and are proficient in post-modern thinking as well as being vetted for their realizations by realized masters from traditional lineages.


Bruce, S. (2006). Secularization and the Impotence of Individualized Religion. The Hedgehog Review, 8(1–2), 35–46. Retrieved from

Taylor, S. (2016). From philosophy to phenomenology: The argument for a “soft” perennialism. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 35(2), 17–41.

Taylor, S. (2017). The Leap: The psychology of spiritual awakening. London. Hay House

Wilber, K. (2007). The integral vision. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

Wilber, K. (2017). The religion of tomorrow. Boston: Shambhala.


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