Wednesday, January 16, 2008

the spirit and transcendence

I recently had a faithful Mormon friend ask me, "Okay, so you left the church. But what about your spiritual experiences? Didn't you have any? What did you 'do' with them since leaving?"

In reply, I sent here edited versions of two previous posts, the spirit and exorcising the spirit. On reading those posts, I realized I've thought more about the issues, and added the following to my reply.

I also think that transcendent moments (e.g. spiritual experiences) happen across religions, and to the non-religious, and people interpret them according to how they were taught to interpret them, or according to their personality. A Baptist takes it as confirmation that her church is the true one; a Mormon takes it as confirmation that her church is true; an agnostic takes it as a beautiful moment of feeling a connection with the community or the cosmos; one boy decides his experience means he should become a priest; another boy sees his as a great love for science and the natural world. It doesn't mean none of it is sacred or important. A good quote for this is "I now believe that whether or not there's a God, there is such a thing as sacredness. Life is sacred. The Sabbath can be a sacred day. Prayer can be a sacred ritual. There is something transcendent, beyond the everyday. It's possible that humans created this sacredness ourselves, but that doesn't take away from its power or importance."


Nayana Anthony said...

Free will is also sacred. We are all created (or evolved if you like) with the ability to choose for ourselves. I think that's one of the coolest parts of being human.

CV Rick said...

Transcendence is perhaps hard-wired. Those feelings are probably genetic, I wonder if they're unique to humans.

Mai said...

I've had two and maybe three such experiences. One I blogged in sometimes - 2, one I blogged in a private blog and the third, well, that's not ready for blogging.

And once when I was 'dead' I met up with and had quite an interesting conversation with Yama, the Hindu god of death. Dammit, I'm Sikh; I don't believe in Hindu gods. Still, it was interesting.

The spiritual experiences that dovetail with my beliefs are REAL; the Yama thing is some trick of my brain. See how it works?

'Not only is the universe queerer than we imagine; it's queerer than we CAN imagine.' Hehehehehehe...

(Personally, I think we usually take ourselves much too seriously. And we forget to laugh.)

Mai said...

It makes me do this to subscribe to comments sometimes.

Blogger is not transcendent.

abner doon said...

This is a quote I've reflected on frequently, written by Lowell C. Bennion (a liberal Sunstone-type Mormon):

"Whether human life is eternal or not, in my judgment its values remain basically the same: health, economic sufficiency, sensuous delights, aesthetic feeling, learning, human relationships, integrity, love, freedom and creativity. These values adhere to life; they are intrinsic. They are not valuable simply because God or man said so. They derive from the nature of human existence and are simply confirmed by prophets, philosophers, poets, the Son of God, and ordinary human beings.

If there were no God, no intelligent power beyond man, I would still be grateful for the gift of life and the measure of meaning and satisfaction I have found in the pursuit of these, my values. Life would continue to be very dear to me, perhaps even enhanced by its brevity."

from the ashes said...

nayana- Welcome! That's a great point.

cv rick- Is there any indication that animals experience transcendence?

mai- The Hindu god of death! I love it. Usually Christians see Jesus, Hindus see Hindu gods, Muslims experience heaven, etc etc--but cross-religious visions. Cool. I now have a testimony of the Hindu god of death. Heehee.

abner- Great quote!

Mai said...

FYI: Initiated (Khalsa ) Sikhs usually see Guru Gobind Singh Ji, as he is our spiritual father.

The non amritdhari Sikhs usually see Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the very kindly founder of Sikhi (Guru Gobind Singh Ji is just as lovable and beloved, but a lot tougher)

I have actually met up with both, but I'm not ready to share that publicly. (Do I believe these meetings were real? We'd have to agree on a definition of 'real,' first.)

from the ashes said...

Oh, thanks for info, Mai. I wasn't sure who Sikhs would see. Very interesting.

And I do believe we could come to an agreement on the definition of "real" that would allow us to have a good discussion of your experiences. :)

Anonymous said...


That's fascinating. My mom "died" several times during her lifetime. One of those times she did meet up with Jesus but the funny thing is, I never agreed with the message she got from him. *Shrugs*


It has yet to cease to amaze me that people are so bound and determined that we have to interpret life the same way they do. Because there just CANNOT be another way of seeing things out there.