This post is in support of Understanding personal mystical experience Part 1 on our podcast. In the session I put forward a model of such experience. This covers a broad range of experiences that share similarities, allowing for an explanatory model.
In seeking to understand the experience we recognise a distinction between the way in which people experience the presence and activity of spiritual beings. There is an interplay between our consciousness and unconsciousness on one side. Here the individual is fully present and participating whether in a waking dream or sleeping vision. John Klimo speaks of this as open channelling. On the other end of the extreme, the individual is completely checked out and some-one/-thing else is in the driving seat of their body. Klimo speaks of this as closed channelling. In the first diagram we model two poles: the conscious and unconscious and, being present and being replaced.
Here we model the interplay between the experience as conscious and unconscious. Yet this includes intermediary spiritual beings who self-identify and lay claim to representing Godde and to a spiritual being self-identify as Godde .
Klimo, J. 1998. Channeling: Investigations on receiving information from paranormal sources. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California.
One of the key conversations we regularly share is that of the problem of God. This is not as classically conceived as the problem of God’s power, goodness, and the reality of evil. It is instead conceived as a problem of experiénce, as confirmed and validated only in and through experience as the pursuit of relational engagement with God. Here the notion of experiénce includes experimentation and relational engagement.
Here we begin with the recognition that our urban environment, which includes our religion and spirituality, is not about the experience of God. Yet it is within our urban desert, which serves as a rich environment for experiencing God, that we need to pursue and engage God. But how do we go about doing that? This is problematic as people are raised to believe on a God by faith and yet faith is not tied to experience while being strongly disconnected therefrom. And so, as many religions and their claims about God, we are not able to solve the problem through classical arguments as though there is somehow a proof for God in the historical roots and institutionalized traditions of religions. The religions make the problem of God a tremendously diverse and complex issue resulting in the-idea-of God as varied, nuanced, and not easily answered. The problem of God is not something we can meaningful solve apart from God’s availability in Person. How then do we understand the experience of God? In Part 1 we explore this as a broader phenomenon present in primal religions, contemporary spiritualism, and the three great monotheisms or Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
In 2017 I returned to making the problem of God my professional focus and therewith transitioned from a ten-year break doing whatever my hands found to do. Before that break my primary work was with people on the same trajectory, albeit with different faith commitments, wrestling with the problem of God. Some were people starving for an authentic relationship with God within the church on their way out. They were tired and frustrated and many were abused and exploited by the church. And they would experience God draw near in Person and find some refuge in other churches and home groups. But I mostly spent my time with those who had long deconverted from Christianity and were now wrestling with what to do and make of their belief that “God is not” now that they had experienced God. And by “experienced God” I mean they had experienced God draw near in Person to speak directly and immediately to them and even bring healing to some.
I thoroughly enjoyed all sessions including courses, seminars, cuppas and gatherings with people. But part of the process was transitioning people over from the work I was doing to the regularity of church attendance. Both kinds of people, those finding God as Christians and those finding God as the long deconverted, experienced a strong discrepancy between wanting to further develop a relationship with God and the expectations and demands of the church that people not only do church but make church synonymous with worshipping and hearing from God. They were in church to pursue a relationship with God and rejected for being questioning and self-educating and for actually expecting to be meeting with God in and through church. But they were disappointed. It took from six months to a year for people to come back to me and not that “church is not about God”. And not only were they right but I agreed with them. Their tragedy was devastating for me. I’d see people literally transformed and renewed by experiencing God leaving as emaciated and frustrated as they were before that. But few supporting were willing to explore this and everyone beloved the answer was to plant yet another church.
The third key conversation that’s regular at Urban Mystic is about how to cultivate, nurture or develop a relationship with God. This conversation is tied up with people’s past experience of God and their present lack thereof. And the questions asked differ depending on whether people are spiritual but not religious, committed to spirituality and not religion, or committed Christians. Common to each is the realization that they’re not meeting with and experiencing God.
What’s common to each is that everyone has the capacity to recognize God’s Presence and hear God’s voice. Everyone has an awareness of God expressed as having recognized God’s Presence, activity and voice at some point in their life. Virtually everyone remembers a life experience where they were aware of God being there. This may be in a dream but that’s less common than being awake during the experience. Most experience God drawing near to support, assure, strengthen and encourage them during a life crisis while experience God protecting them during a life threatening situation. Also common to the experience is the tendency for others to explain their experience of God away. People don’t often tell this story because of the way others respond, but it continues to challenge the default faith position in society that God is not.Continue reading →
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