Friday, 24 November 2017

Religious Experience

There is something beautiful waiting to be expressed in technology.
Writing about why I believe in God, and why I think it's a rational belief, is difficult. So many of my friends seem determined to pour scorn on this idea and are determined to tear down any such explanation. What's more they can seem determined to misunderstand as they have a desperate need for it not to be rational in order not to have to think about it. Others would like to understand, but the idea of God is so far from their experience and view of the world that pouring scorn seems the right response to them and is an ingrained habit.

The heart of the belief in God that I was taught is that ultimately the universe is good and that we are loved, and this is called God. It provides a creation story, where we came from and a reason to exist, so it provides a whole mindset and a way to see the world. A faith in Christianity can provide a stable mindset, a stable psyche, and a way of seeing the world that mostly corresponds (with a bit of effort) to normal life experiences. Christianity explains why the world is scary and dark and offers a sense of identity with a tribe through shared beliefs.

More importantly it seems to work because the sense of being loved, both collectively and individually, can be tangible and true. Particularly in worship, the cornerstone of the Charismatic revival of the seventies that is still around today, an emotional connection with redeeming love feels real and can work emotional and psychological change within you. Any exploration of the human psyche, any attempt at understanding the depths of the human mind, must factor into account the fact that experiences of the transcendent and the beautiful are undoubtedly found within the practise of religion. Whatever else may be true, this much is true. There are some lovely examples in the books "Essentials of Mysticism" by Evelyn Underhill and "The Varieties of Religious Experience" by William James.

Besides my experiences in worship, which are very hard to describe but the most beautiful thing in my life, there are a couple of specific examples of being aware of the love of God from my childhood I probably can describe.

Also central, perhaps more so, to the Charismatic movement is the experience of "baptism in the spirit". This is similar to the experience of "rapture" described by Buddhists in meditation (emotional and psychological release experienced as ecstacy) and perhaps a lesser version of the release of the kundalini described by the Hindus. As the release of the kundalini is meant to be initiated in another person by the touch of a master (need a gender neutral term here) so the baptism of the holy spirit, an overwhelming experience of spiritual power and love manifesting differently in everyone, is meant to be possible to be conveyed by the laying on of hands. My personal pondering is what would happen if it was possible to trigger such a happening collectively amongst a group of people. The Christian term for a collective spiritual experience like this is "a visitation".

As a young man I was excessively religiously devout. On one occassion I read the entire bible, almost, from beginning to end. Amongst other things I discovered that most of the boring bits of Leviticus actually happen in Numbers, just as most of the sixties actually happened in the seventies. I got as far as Revalation, the last book, and part way into that it got too weird and I stopped. I've never been back and read the whole thing.

As an adolescent, quite some time ago now, I was attending a men's prayer breakfast (yes I know) put on by my church. I remember little about it, except at the end being prayed for by our pastor "Johnny". Johnny is a lovely man of integrity, husband of the truly beautiful Dodie Davies. He layed hands on me and prayed. At this stage I would note I had never taken any narcotics, my life was pretty much dedicated to religion, study, computers and being miserable.

After Johnny prayed the world started flickering like a dodgy fluorescent bulb and I was filled with the most amazing feeling of waves of life like electricity. I was stunned and it was all I could do to walk out with my father. The experience lasted several minutes and is probably still the most intense spiritual experience of my life, although not incapacitating as some have found.

I regularly prayed, usually at night, and not long after I was determined that this experience was not just something that someone else triggered in me and was something I could do myself. So I did it myself, and it happened again. No idea how, I've not been able to do it since.

The other tangible experiences of love that I recall particularly were during these lonely late night prayers. In devotion to God I would often feel a strong sensation of being loved. I used to call these "spiritual hugs" and they were of great solace in what was probably the bleakest time of my life.

None of this is proof of anything of course. Merely guiding lights.


"Sometimes, within the realm of ideas we can try to impose patterns onto things in order to be able to understand them in order to see them. The trouble is that then we only see dimly through our patterns. This is abstraction obscuring truth. Instead we should try and see the truth without having to understand it or requiring it to make sense. Then we will be able to see and we will start to understand for this is what it means to perceive. To understand through seeing."

No comments:

Post a Comment