‘Satori’ at Age Eight?

At age seven or eight I had an experience which I ever-more perceive as a satori.

Kwai wu“Satori (Chinese kāi wù) may be defined as an intuitive looking into the nature of things in contradistinction to the analytical or logical understanding of it. Practically it means the unfolding of a new world hitherto unperceived in the confusion of a dualistically-trained mind…” (Source)

My world changed, almost entirely beginning, abruptly, upon my reaching age five and one-half. My first memories were of living with my father and mother and four others, my mother’s family, in the upper flat of a small Victorian house in San Francisco, just prior the USA’s entry into the Second World War. Soon after the war began, my parents moved me away from this large, loving, doting family, having garnered an apartment in a new government housing project on the south edge of San Francisco. Dad had gotten a job as a war worker in the Kaiser Shipyard across San Francisco Bay. Soon after this move, my sister was born, my only sibling. Simultaneously, Dad became active in the Socialist Labor Party of San Francisco. Our small apartment often had loud and boisterous conversations when party members met there. And, I contracted an inner ear infection from which I almost died. I had my satori during the recovery period of the latter.

It is in my nature to be intuitive, verified by my Myers-Briggs personality type, INTJ: “Quickly sees patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives.” All these events and more (including associating with other children for the first time) destroyed my first impressions of the universe; I had to make sense of it all, another characteristic of my “type.”

Here is what I remember, vividly, from my satori: I suddenly “saw” everything, whole. It startled me, and the vision/impression quickly dissipated. I remember the feeling of being unworthy of this vision, that I was too small and too young to carry it.

Around the same time, I don’t remember if before or after my satori, but, certainly after my recovery from ear surgery, I had a singular experience. I was walking to school, alone, on a cool morning, beside a culvert bordering our housing project, when “I” shot straight up into the sky, looked down, saw myself below, then instantaneously returned. I have no intuitive or logical explanation for this. Both these events have stayed with me during the ensuing decades to this time, now at age eighty-one.

“… Or we may say that with satori our entire surroundings are viewed from quite an unexpected angle of perception. Whatever this is, the world for those who have gained a satori is no more the old world as it used to be, even with all its flowing streams and burning fires, it is never the same one again. Logically stated, all its (the world’s) opposites and contradictions are united and harmonized into a consistent organic whole. This is a mystery and a miracle, but according to the Zen masters such is being performed every day. Satori can thus be had only through our once personally experiencing it.” (Source)

I am now reading two books which seem to be leading me back toward my earlier ‘realization’:

I feel I am ready to understand what these books contain, through my many life experiences and through my readings.

It is almost painful to expose myself in this manner: I ask, “whence arises this need to communicate to others these inner, intimate thoughts and impressions?” The only answer I have, outside of my having an as yet untamed ego, is that it is in my nature to say to others, “look what I found!” This is a major reason for my having initiated this personal magazine, or “blog.”

Here is a limited selection of books and authors which and who have helped prepare me:

About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate American living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
This entry was posted in Enlightenment, kāi wù, satori and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to ‘Satori’ at Age Eight?

  1. Thank you for sharing, Ron. We are indeed all little reflections of the divine Wholeness which is the Universe. Perspective is hard to gain, because the Reality — the Unity, one might say — is almost too powerful to be directly apprehended, and too dazzlingly beautiful to be truly appreciated.

    I love Alan Watts (although it’s been many years since I read any of his books). Suzuki is also a good reference. I’m not real familiar with the rest of your references. I would also recommend William James’ “The Varieties of Religious Experience” as an aid to gaining perspective on one’s place within the Universe..


  2. Brian Joseph says:

    Fascinating post. I will be thinking about what you have written for some time.

    Thanks for the list of recamended books. I may explore some of them. I have only Read Siddartha. It is very ne of my all time favorite works.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve had experiences like this as an adult, as I’ve had further psychological development. But I don’t recall anything like it from childhood. I always test as an INFP, including when professionally administered. The Introverstion and iNtution are in common with the INTJ, although the two operate quite differently for an INFP, of course.

    My dominant mode is Introvered Feeling — this can create powerful experiences in other ways. If not ‘intuitively’ in the way you describe, I have regularly had a tendency to feel deeply into the nature of things and people. Fi is the ultimate psychological and moral impulse, an extremely person-oriented discerning of self and identity, relationship and world. But it has often been more incapacitating than insightful and helpful, in this kind of society.

    Particularly combined with auxiliary Ne, dominant Fi has a heavy focus on the subjective and intersubjective. This maybe doesn’t lend itself toward the Satori kind of experience that you had. Feeling as a psychological function is quite literal. The Feeling type feels the world and it can be overwhelming, as a dominant Thinking society doesn’t teach one how to deal with this. Intuition as insight can be highly respected and admired, not necessarily feeling and even less so for a male.

    I can’t say I came to insights easily, as intuition operates differently when extraverted as an auxiliary function. It serves more of a purpose of pattern-seeking, such as the connections I make in some of my sprawling and meandering blog posts. Ne, different than Ni, is the opposite of focused like a litter of puppies forever chasing after the next butterfly, bird, squirrel, cat, and on and on.

    Dominant Ni, instead, is like the gravity pull of a black hole, a focal point of knowing (‘whole’ and ‘singular’). Also, for an INTJ, the auxiliary Te helps to enforce order to insights and translate them into applicability, since this is the primary function used to relate to others and to the world. I bet Te has been quite helpful for you in your career of management, right?


    • Ron Pavellas says:

      I recognize (or iNtuit) my limitations in not having a dominant F function. I know there’s something I’m missing, in much of my experience. However there are times when the F function seems to overcome the T, and my tears freely flow: being present at the the birth of a child, a funeral oration (I have written and performed too many), parts of some movies (Fiddler on the Roof comes to mind). I cherish these moments. As for my career in management, I was very good in crises, not so good when things were between crises. What I lacked was the killer instinct and so became vulnerable to the Machiavellians who are always present. In an after-action communication I was called a “boy scout.”


      • I’ve said it before in comments on your blog, that you remind me of my father. He too is an NT type and was in management. He too works great under pressure and responds well to crises. But likewise he lacks the killer instinct and so had to leave management. He does have a certain kind of ability for focused insight about certain kinds of things, along with an ability to analyze.

        You might like the book Compass of the Soul by John L. Giannini. He discusses about how Jungian typology relates to society, including some talk on management. He argues that Western civilization, especially American society, used to be dominated by the ESTJ type but is witching toward a greater NT preference, such as with the tech industry. I enjoyed the book when I read it many years ago.

        Liked by 1 person

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