How to Tell True Experiences from Hallucinations

Question

Namaskaram !Is there not a possibility to confuse hallucinations with spiritual experiences ? How are both different and how should one identify the difference if any?

—Praneeth, India

Answer

Dear Praneeth, Yes, there is a possibility of confusing hallucinations (which generally come from your subconscious mind, or could also come from recreational drug use, which should always be avoided) with spiritual experiences (which come from God). I’m sure that many people are confused by this.

However, Swami Kriyananda gave us several suggestions on how to determine the difference. First, he suggest that you notice carefully how you feel after the experience is over? Are you feeling uplifted, light, happy, free, calm, and filled with divine joy? Then it is probably a spiritual experience.

If you get caught in your ego, thinking, “I must be a very high soul to have experienced this vision — I’m better than most other people, for sure!” Beware! This is a great trap of the ego and will not help your spiritual life at all.

If you feel disturbed and restless, then it is probably a hallucination and should be dismissed from your mind as soon as possible.

Swami also suggests that you evaluate the quality of the vision. If it appears to be muddy, with darkness or dark colors, or unclear, or ugly, or has unpleasant music or sounds in it, then it is probably not from God. On the other hand, if your vision is very clear, light, filled with bright colors or beautiful music, then it is more likely to be a spiritual vision.

If you are still unsure one way or another, then the thing to do is to pray deeply to God and Guru(s) for help and guidance. You may not hear the answer immediately, but it will come to you soon enough (keep asking!) and if you are open, humble and sincere. Actually, that is the first and best thing to do when anything of this kind happens.

One important factor is that we should never seek visions or phenomena on the spiritual path. If they come to us, consider them a gift and enjoy them accordingly. Yogananda says: “Do not be anxious if you don’t have experiences. The truest test of your success in meditation is how you are changing for the better as a person in daily life.”

He also says in Conversations with Yogananda: “The path to God is not a circus! Don’t even be anxious about such fruits of meditation as inner joy and peace. Everything will come in God’s time. Meanwhile, consider meditation, too, as a form of Karma Yoga: action without desire for the fruits of action. Meditate above all to please God, not yourself.”