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It's surprising that we've never really had a thread on this topic, even though we've had countless posts where people speak of experiencing God.

What do you mean when you speak of experiencing God? Or, put another way, what is the God-dimension of experience, for you? How do you distinguish this from natural emotions and energies?

For starters, check out this short reflection, which makes a very simple point about God being love.
quote:
The longer I�ve worked as a counselor, the easier it has become for me to tell the difference between people who know and experience God and people who don�t. It is the difference between Connor and Brianna. It is the difference between being full from the inside or inwardly empty.

. . .

God is love, the spirit of love, the energy of love. That love is always here for us when we open our heart. Our heart opens automatically when our intent is to learn what is loving to ourselves and others rather than protect against what we fear with our controlling behavior. To know God is to know Love. To know Love is to know God.

. . .

It�s all about intent. Our intent is what we have choice over. Our intent governs how we live, who we choose to be, how we behave. Our intent to love and learn about love opens our heart to the experience of God.
I can certainly go along with this, and see spirituality as cultivating that intent. With this love comes a number of other gifts: peace, joy, wisdom, and a great deal more.

Of course, it needs be said that love, in this sense, isn't an emotion. As the author notes, it's an intention that becomes ingrained in one's being . . . a co-operation with the Spirit of God. The feelings come and go, but the intention goes on and on . . .
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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There are also experiences of ineffable Presence that are much less common than that described in the post above. Consider, for example, the conversion experience of Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, who was in the throes of his alcoholism when the following happened:
quote:
Following one of Wilson's relapses, he returned to the hospital where he was sedated and detoxified. He prayed in bed during his recovery: "If there be a God, will He show himself! The result was instant, electric, beyond description. The place seemed to light up, blinding white. I knew only ecstasy and seemed on a mountain. A great wind blew, enveloping and penetrating me. To me, it was not of air, but of Spirit. Blazing, there came the tremendous thought. 'You are a free man.' Then the ecstasy subsided. I now found myself in a new world of consciousness which was suffused by a Presence. One with the universe, a great peace stole over me" (Three talks to medical societies by Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. New York; Alcoholics Anonymous World Services; 1973, p.10).
"A new world of consciousness . . . suffused by a Presence . . . great peace. . . . "

Good stuff! Smiler
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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People look for evidence of God in miracles and all kinds of external signs. If the fact of contingent creation is insufficient to suggest a Creator, however, no external manifestation will do.

Every human being experiences God daily in the most ordinary of ways, but most fail to recognize these manifestations. The most common is via conscience.

quote:
16. In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged.(9) Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.(10)
- Vatican II documents, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World

Even when conscience is not properly formed, its openness to guidance from the Transcendent remains intact. One can never hide from God, Who is always present to us in the depths of our being. If one is not aware of this, the one need only attend to the reality of conscience and its directions to begin to get a hint of this inner Guide.
 
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God's presence and leadings via conscience is available to all, regardless of religious persuasion. Sensitivity to this manner of experiencing God is furthered primarily through Ego-authenticity -- being true to oneself. The more inauthentic one becomes, however, the less attentive to conscience, and the less human.

Obedience to conscience, then, implies a kind of faith -- what we have called "implicit faith," on many threads. There is another kind of faith, however, that belongs more to a theistic perspective on life . . . explicit faith! . . . a conscious and intentional entrusting oneself to God's providential care. Explicit faith entails not only belief, but surrender (in the sense of loosening control over oneself to God).

For me, explicit faith is the pearl of great price in my life, for it has enabled an abiding sense of connection with God. Indeed, I believe that faith itself is a kind of experience of God -- one that opens us to the love mentioned in the opening post. Because of faith, I have a definite sense of belonging to God . . . that my life is not my own . . . that I am part of something much greater than my own creations, my family, country, etc. This experience of God is very real, but it is also obscure and shrouded in mystery. One cannot wrap one's mind around it, yet one knows that God is "here" just as surely as one knows anything that can be affirmed through the senses and reason. Faith grows through religious and spiritual disciplines and diminishes when these are neglected (or through sin). We can grow in faith, and we can even lose our faith -- especially through spiritual neglect. People of faith recognize its presence in one another, and also know when it is missing in another.

One of the consequences of faith for me is the development of a more sensitive conscience, which enables a more discerning awareness of God's leadings. Another fruit is contemplative and mystical graces, about which I will say more later.

How do you experience God via conscience and faith? Anyone?
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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For me the experience of God is in knowing and unknowing, and my greatest experience is to enter into the joy and the love of our Lord God.
 
Posts: 571 | Location: Oregon | Registered: 20 June 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Phil:

This is a beautiful topic. Often I have played a game with myself by omitting the word "God" when I am about to describe an "God" experience in a sentence. As I attempt to find the "referent" for the word "God", I find it elusive and end up describing an simply an experience of beauty, awe, or wonder. Such a simple practice opens up for me an expanse of awareness that had hitherto eluded me.

Also a thought: I have found it interesting in that most people associate their experience with God or the Divine with a "pleasurable" or even aesthetically pleasing experience. Yet, to take in the full range of our human experience and give it its honest due, should we also not be able to experience God not only in the beautiful sunset but also in, for example, those National Geographic images of the killer whale throwing the hapless seal pup in the air right before he devours it? or in the female praying mantis eating the head off her mate right during the act of mating? That may sound bizarre, but I think too often we only choose to see or experience God in those moments that suit us emotionally or aesthetically. Just a thought.

Devinath
 
Posts: 40 | Location: stevens point, wisconsin | Registered: 16 July 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Those are not likely candidates for aesthetic references to God, Devinath, as you noted. But they certainly do point to a wildness in nature that ultimately has a referent in God.

Glad you rejuvenated this topic, however, and, especially, that you focus it now to new horizons. Along those lines, I offer the following . . .

- that God is the Existence by means of which "I exist."

When you think about this one for awhile, you really begin to get a sense of what it means to say that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. "In Him we live and move and have our being," as Paul noted in Acts. And so the fact of existence itself can be known as a kind of experience of God, not from God's perspective, of course, but from that of one whose existence is entirely received in each moment. Received from what/whom? Smiler

The fact "that I am" precedes concerns about "who I am" and is our most basic affirmation, with obvious implications concerning God.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Phil:

Existence precedes essence...I seem to remember that from my theology days.

The verse you quoted from St.Paul about in Him/Her we live and move and have our being is another favorite of mine. Let me add a few more: All of Psalm 139. And another, one that never fails to move me in a deeply profound way: "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.Now I know in part, but then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (I Cor. 13:12). It is reassuring to me that at times the mystery I am to myself, with all my ignorance and secret motivations, is even now fully known and embraced by That Loving Mystery which holds me it it's Hand. I have heard it said that we should just be thankful that we are judged by God and not by mere mortals, for God's judgement is always tempered by an unfailing and loving knowledge of who we are (essence) in our deepest being. As a counselor and therapist, I have come to believe that what clients yearn for in the deepest recesses of their being is an experience of being loved by someone, not in a naive fashion, by One who knows everything about them, and yet whispers in their ear, that it's all okay...that it all will be okay. That is grace. That is where, for me, God's love transcends our human capacity for love...that for me is the experience of the Good News of the Christian gospel. (by the way, this is what I witness when I see Amma hugging the mass of humanity that comes to Her...its this truth and experience of the Compassionate Mystery (a la K.Rahner) that I see enfleshed in her work.

It would seem, in reference to my reflection on God and the natural world, that perhaps various aspects of creation reflect different aspects of the Uncreated..hence, the impersonal and seemingly indifferent aspect of God reflected in the laws of Nature, and the intimately personal aspect of God as experienced in being loved profoundly by another.

Devinath
 
Posts: 40 | Location: stevens point, wisconsin | Registered: 16 July 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Nice reflections on God's love and grace, Devinath. And many others who've met Amma have shared how moved they were by the depth of her love.

Re. Nature and God's impersonal side . . . hmmm . . . I know what you're saying, but do you think that works theologically? There's just nothing in the Bible to lend support to the idea of an impersonal side of God. The operations of Nature's laws unfold impersonally, but I don't think that's so much revelatory of God than it is an attribute of the non-spiritual levels of Nature. Even the inanimate levels give testimony to an Intelligence, however, which is more an attribute of personal than impersonal reality.

I once held the view that God is both personal and impersonal, but no more, as I understand now that personal trumps impersonal, and God's nature is such that God is completely conscious of an in possession of His being. Nevertheless, what we must also add as a qualifier is that the personal nature of God is only analagous to human personhood... i.e, God is a Being with Intelligence and Will, but God's Intelligence and Freedom are far beyond our ability to completely comprehend with our own intelligence and will.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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