In 1960, Beat novelist Jack Kerouac collapsed in the grass outside his house, overcome by a mysterious spell while smelling flowers. He remained unconscious for a minute or so. “I had apparently fainted, or died,” he wrote.
During that brief collapse, he had a transcendent vision of what he called “the golden eternity.”
Kerouac described the vision:
“I saw heaven. In it nothing had ever happened, the events of a million years ago were just as phantom and ungraspable as the events of now, or the events of the next ten minutes. It was perfect, the golden solitude, the golden emptiness, Something-Or- Other, something surely humble. There was a rapturous ring of silence abiding perfectly.”
Kerouac wrote more than 60 prose poems about his mystical vision, all collected in his book, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity. He thought he had explored the “alaya vijnana,” or the Buddhist concept of “storehouse consciousness.” This is the universal warehouse for all the possibilities and forms that compose reality, including memories and the record of our karma.
According to scholar Alan Watts, this store consciousness is the universal source “from which the formal world arises spontaneously or playfully.”
Kerouac felt peaceful during his brief visit to the warehouse behind reality:
“There was no question of being alive or not being alive, of likes and dislikes, of near or far, no question of giving or gratitude, no question of mercy or judgment, or of suffering or its opposite or anything … It seemed like one smiling smile, one adorable adoration, one gracious and adorable charity, everlasting safety, refreshing afternoon, roses, infinite brilliant immaterial gold ash, the Golden Age.”
Over at Brain Pickings, Maria Popova wrote about Kerouac’s vision as well, linking to a beautiful video (embedded below) dramatizing the Beat novelist’s vision:
“director Sergi Castella and filmmaker Hector Ferreño transformed the writer’s words into a magnificent cinematic adaptation for Dosnoventa Bikes, with a haunting, Johnny-Cashlike voiceover by James Phillips and beautifully curated music by Pink Floyd and Cash himself.”