How would we name and describe the God-dimension of our human experience? Let's keep this focus question before us on this discussion.
For me, increasingly, it is the fact of existence itself. We are generally aware of exist-ents, or created things, and our attention is drawn to understanding and relating to them in various ways. But to step back from this activity in one's awareness and just-look, or just-be (human nonreflecting consciousness), one cannot help but be struck by the fact that before we become focused on the "what-ness" of things, there is awareness of their "that-ness" or "is-ness." "That" or "is" forms something of a backdrop or foundation for all of creation, and, as such, is undefinable, for it is not anything in particular and seems to be omnipresent. In understand this to be God-as-Creator, the one we call Father in Christianity.
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Another rather common experience for me is the discovery of a "life" or strength that continues when I am at the end of my rope, exhausted of personal resources. God is the love that keeps on loving when I have no more love to give. . . keeps on hoping when there is no reason to hope. . . keeps "trying" when I want to give up. During such times, I am acutely aware that my life is intimately bound up with another life, whom I understand to be Christ. He is living in and through my human life, and I through his. I accept this in faith and believe it to be true at all times, but I know it most clearly when I am emptied of my own resources.
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I have others that I will share as we go along.
How would you answer this question? What is the God dimension of experience for you?
I have to echo Christine's "beautiful and inspiring" comments about this thread, and I'd love to hear more.
I have the same sense of God in the "is-ness" that is always in the background of my awareness. When I let that come forward, there is usually a soothing, tranquility that can halt the busy mind.
Unlike you, however, I don't think of this dimension of reality as the Father, but His creation.
When I was thinking last night about your question, Phil, I realized that another way I experience God is seeing Him in the eyes of other people, or maybe their whole face. I know that's a little cliche, but it's true. Especially when I'm looking into the eyes of hurting people, I feel a strong God presence in them and in me. By coincidence (not), this morning's divine office readings contained this prayer, which parallels by thoughts precisely:
"Let us celebrate Christ’s goodness and wisdom.
We can see him in every one of our brethren, and love him;
especially in those who are suffering.
...Make us see your image in everyone we meet,
and serve you by tending to their needs.
– Lord, make us perfect in love."
What I wrote in my opening post.
A lot of mystics have called this the "Ground of being," or the Intuition of Being. It's a type of mystical experience probably more akin to enlightenment than to an inter-subjective love mysticism. But it's nonetheless very real to me, and I don't think it's some aspect of creation or a way of observing creation. It's no-thing in particular -- Beingness itself, if that makes any sense.
faustina, in the Orthodox tradition, God's "uncreated energies" is another way of talking about God's presence. I'm not following why something that is uncreated should be considered "His creation." Not wanting to nitpick, here, but it's good to try to clarify and discern these kinds of issues.
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Shasha, thank you for sharing your experience. You mention that one way you experience God is "seeing Him in the eyes of other people, or maybe their whole face. I know that's a little cliche, but it's true. Especially when I'm looking into the eyes of hurting people, I feel a strong God presence in them and in me." I know what you mean, but I'm wondering if you'd say a little more about this? Is the God-dimension in your "see-ing," or in the response of your heart in seeing another? How would one distinguish this from empathy or compassion, or is that all part of the God experience? I'm wondering if it's not faith itself that makes possible this sense of God's presence?
Thanks, Phil, Shasha, and Christine for what you've posted so far. This is an interesting thread.
Christine, thanks for that article.
You have a sweet spirit that comes through in your writing. Please forgive me, though, if you find forgiveness is needed, for saying that you've also been given a gift of intelligence so I wonder why you seem to distrust the "realm of the mind"? -- aren't our minds also a means to know God?..."love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind."
I enjoyed the article, but it puzzled me as well. I think that the Greek words for energy used in the NT, which the article centers on, further break down into the idea of "at work" as their most basic, concrete picture--en(at) ergon(work). So I find the common translations ("working in you", "working", etc.) often useful and trustworthy, not confusing. "Energy" itself is something that means different things to different people, from my view.
Dear Christine--I just wanted to note that I often need to break words down into pictures to understand them, hence my tracing the Greek for "energy" back to its concrete roots.
I do think I understand some of what you mean in speaking of God as beyond rational grasp. I meant to encourage you to go as far as you can, though, in using rational, communicable concepts on the surmise that you may share with me a sort of distaste for pushing myself into words, though words can be a means of giving something to other people. Sorry if my guess was way off.
Christine, yes! That's what I meant in my comment to Shasha that it's the gift of faith itself that enables us to recognize God's presence in the suffering of others, or in any other way. And, for one with Christian faith, this recognition of God will inevitably resonate with one of the Persons of the Trinity.
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Here's another one: God's guidance in and through conscience. By this I don't mean the psychological superego a la Freud, with its nagging shoulds, musts and oughts. In my experience, conscience goes much deeper, into that inner sanctum of the human spirit itself . . . that "inner room" Jesus referred to in his teaching on prayer. One must be silent and attentive to sense the guidance of the Spirit in one's conscience, but we can learn to do so and live according to this inner direction. For me, this direction comes not so much from thoughts or inner voices as much as the sense of peace or rightness I experience when considering a certain option. It's just a "knowing," really, although one can usually articulate good reasons for choosing this option as well.
Here's a link to the Catechism's teaching on conscience. I totally relate to what's written there.
Of course, one can lose touch with one's conscience, and that's a huge problem. The false self aspect of Ego has no interest in conscience, but seeks, instead, to do what is necessary to project the persona that will bring it approval, admiration, etc. One of the positive consequences of practicing spiritual disciplines is that we become more increasingly awake to our conscience.
I admire how humble and careful you are in sharing about your mystical experiences. You’ve been a good role model for me.
I know, or I think I know, the point you are making in your description of your experience of the “Ground of Being,” that rare, non-dual, enlightenment experience you live in. My experience of that “is-ness” is like your words a no-thing. It feels eternal, unchanging, empty of form. It’s not a love mysticism with His Creation, as you don’t relate to this “is-ness” because you’re not separate from it. But I guess I wouldn’t call that the Father because I pray to and relate to the Father, and it doesn't feel like I'm talking to "is-ness," even less so when I believe the Father has spoken to me.
But if you really believe this Ground of Being is the Father of Jesus, I’ll be open to that possibility and hold my understanding more loosely. But not because you're a man...
This is a profound issue. I think the “seeing” and the response of my heart is multi-determined by factors that slide around from hi to low. I have a certain measure of natural compassion for others, visibly hurting or not. I have a certain measure of faith that God made this person, cherishes this person, and wants to heal and save this person. And these slide around depending on my mood, caffeine consumption, how much I like this person, whether they are meeting my needs, etc.
Then there’s what I believe a grace of seeing ‘into’ others as they are intimately connected to God, made, sustained by Him. This is the Ground of Being, I think. Looking in another’s eyes, in some mysterious way, is exactly like looking at myself. There is a certain leveling of all of humanity with this seeing, with no differences among any two people. This is the kind of non-duality I experience. The perception of this reality also varies to some extent with bio-psycho-spiritual issues but is more stable and cannot be totally diminished. This level of reality/ seeing others, as identical to myself, doesn’t necessarily give way to compassion for their pain, much less knowing how to relate to them.
At various times, however, enters some greater Grace, an infused compassion. I can’t predict when this will happen and feel completely inadequate and unworthy of such a gift. At times, I feel a measure of God’s own love and compassion for another. Almost unbearable at times, the immense dignity and beauty of the human being is suddenly seen at a deeper level. It might be what Mother Teresa meant when she said she sees Jesus in all. I guess you’d have to be a Saint to tolerate that kind of infusion of Grace continuously, and what Jesus asks us to do for Him as we do "to the least of these."
Christine, thank you for taking the time to clarify what you meant by "mind". I agree with what you wrote, and in the way in which God has been working in me, I'm slowly beginning to let God "rest in my love" as I desire to rest in His, rather than run away, or judge Him, when He puzzles me. I've been meditating on another passage I'll bet you like, from Ephesians 3:17... "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."---Concrete "picturer" that I am, I was greatly helped by learning that the "dwell" carries the image of inviting someone to make himself thoroughly, comfortably, at home...I've tended to sometimes ask Him to pack His bags in judgment of Him when I see horrific suffering close up among people I know, as I did this summer. (That's another thread, sometime, maybe.)
I think I misunderstood what you meant by "mind", so thank you sincerely for your thoughtful reply. I like your being here, and I was hoping I hadn't offended you.
This is a little off the thread topic, but I hear you saying something I've been able to relate to also. It's like you are being recomposed, your personality, spirit and soul, are being transformed. With the Holy Spirit leading the way, your personality will be more beautiful than you can imagine.
Your sharing on conscience is very true for me too. Much of what I do in working with Christ-followers involves helping them differentiate their neurotic guilt from their Spirit-driven conscience. And there's no shortage of the entanglements and confusion of the two.
As I read through the Church's teaching, I see the authors are presupposing a certain level of healthy ego functioning in accessing conscience. They are assuming healthy attachment and a cohesive sense of self, which is pretty rare in the general population, as a given.
I know many of you will probably relate to this one.
I experience God in the many wonderful people he's put in my life to pray for me and bless me with guidance, wisdom, understanding, etc.--including Shalom Place.
Clearly, I see this as evidence of a most Loving God who predicts my every need.
May Jesus be glorified.
Christine, I hear you describing a contemplative shift in your consciousness, with a corresponding movement from a mental structuring of Ego to a more open, spiritual awareness.
- see http://shalomplace.com/res/ground.html
As you've noted, the mind is still there; it cannot help but be as it is part of our human nature. But there's a new way of knowing and evaluating that emerges. I think you describe all this very well. In such a spiritual consciousness, the guidance of conscience becomes increasingly clear.
And, Shasha, yes to your remarks about conscience. Its healthy functioning does presuppose a certain level of healthy ego-development, and proper formation as well.
An interesting story about this from the Navajo Indians.
That's quite profound!
Christine, that was well written and clear. And no, you don't come across as prideful, you come across as real.
But, I have a question...(so what else is new) ...for you, Phil, Shasha, or anyone:
I have known a number of people who believed they had a third eye insight type ability, or a gift of discernment from the Holy Spirit. I believe such a thing is possible, and can be a good gift. However, none of the people I've known personally who believed they had this gift, actually had it...and they harmed others by their intrusive presumptions.
So I guess I've become leery of people thinking they have this sort of insight, though I repeat, I do believe it can be a real gift...but in practice it just feels so extremely intrusive to me, and discovering things about a person or animal through the ordinary, cautious, slow work of compassionate observation and inquiry, patient curiosity and wonder, feels so much more respectful to me. I realize my feeling about this is skewed by bad experience.
So I guess what I'm asking you all is how you are so sure you're not being intrusive? I'm sorry if that seems impertinent. I've simply had such bad experiences concerning presumed gifts of perception and insight, that I tend to think God made us fairly opaque to each other, except usually by invitation, for our own protection...except for the very rare times He gives a gift of insight.
Please feel free to move my above post to another thread, if it's getting too off-topic.
It's something that I've wondered about for quite a few years.
Christine, thanks for elaborating more on your experience. It sounds like your Ego self is becoming increasingly integrated with that of your spiritual soul consciousness and Christ. Our theology teaches us that, with Baptism, we become members of Christ's Body, and so our human lives "subsist" in him to the degree that his grace is allowed to transform us. This is what we mean by sanctification (or, in the Christian East, "theosis") -- that we come to actually experience ourselves alive in Christ.
And so we can come to experience his own living and knowing and loving as the Consciousness in which our own human consciousness subsists, though imperfectly in this world. Still, we get a sense of what heaven is like -- that, amazingly, we are still here, with all of our individual faculties intact, and yet these are informed by the Spirit of Christ.
That's how I understand what you're saying. Does this resonate?
You've caught on to the main difference here.
I've discovered there is a natural ability we all have into seeing 'into' others. This tends to come about with k. ascension, in some more than others. I experience this kind of seeing/sensing 'into' people at times also. I know Phil has shared likewise.
This is to be differentiated from the HS gifts that are given to edify, heal, guide His Church. This is more rare, as you note. This seeing/knowing is given literally out of God's love for somebody and so it would never be experienced as intrusive. The move of the HS is never invasive. When the HS gives "words of knowledge," it's guaranteed to produce fruit because it's literally God speaking to you...pretty awesome gift!
The more common "seeing" stuff, "reading someone's mail," etc. is just clairavoyance, perhaps all related to the 3rd eye opening. This happens a lot in pentacostal /charismatic circles. Most people mean well but there is pressure to "hear from God" and take risks, so you get a lot more supernatural than Holy exchanges. It can still be helpful by well-meaning peoople, but there's the human, broken element at play. I have been guilty of speaking of things that I thought were from God but were just supernatural. And there's folks who are so surrendered to the HS that even their supernatural seeing can be fruitful when they come from a servant's heart.
Yes, Shasha, what you described is what I was saying my experience has been, both from Christians and New Age adherents, and which has left me cautious.
Good, very helpful answers from you and Christine---thank you both. I appreciate being able to ask things here sometimes (that last question has been on my mind for probably 20 years) without offending people (I do have a neurotic conscience!).
Christine, thank you for your patience with my questions. Your answer made sense to me, and your good humor is lovely.
I am learning so much from all of you. I hesitate to even say anything, I think the language is unfamiliar to me and beyond me.
When I read your initial question, What is the God dimension of experience for you? I immediately thought of suffering. I had a very profound experience at Mass years ago, when the priest raised the chalice during the consecration, when he says, "This is my blood" I received an audible invitation to share in His suffering. I could not, and did not hesitate to give my answer, Yes.
My question to all of you is, is this aspect of your experience relevant to Phil's question? Thank you, Donna
Thank you for sharing your beautiful experience with us. And I think your question is an excellent one as I've been drawn into this mystery of suffering as something that is a crucial necessity in our sanctification. Certainly, the Saints teach this too.
I've shared elsewhere on SP my experience of being lifted out of my body into some heavenly realm. The Peace and Love was so wonderful that I didn't want to return. As I was being 'lowered' into my body, I could 'see' that I would have to endure a lot of suffering in my future. It was horrible! But I had no choice but to return! I didn't want to return. I was escorted by a few angels around me, which may have made my return possible because any free will I had was saying "no way." So when I read of others' experiences, like yours Donna, of saying "yes" to God's call to suffering, I'm impressed, because I know it's a high call to loving God.
Just recently, I was directed to read Padre Pio by my spiritual director. Within seconds of looking him up on line, I read a bit of his account of the immense suffering he endured. Suddenly, it was like a hot arrow stabbed into my heart, and intense pain and longing flooded over me. And instantly I knew that I needed to learn to embrace suffering rather than run from it or grumble about it.
Following that heart blow-out, I began praying to Padre Pio that he would help me endure the suffering that the Father wanted for the sake of my loving Him and knowing Christ more deeply. Padre Pio said before he died that he would do more in the next lifetime than in his own, earthly walk. I believe him!
I don't believe all suffering is redemptive, and I deal with this question as I'm dedicated to bringing healing and mental health to hurting people. There's an important discernment issue of which level or kind of suffering is meant to be healed, which is a neurotic suffering that doesn't want to be healed, and which is a redemptive suffering that we're called to embrace? I don't usually know which it is in myself, but it's much easier to see in my patients.
What about you, Donna? Do you know when and what suffering is from God? And do you directly experience God in or through the suffering? A revelation of the suffering being God's own Will?This message has been edited. Last edited by: Shasha,
Yes, thank you for speaking of your experience, Donna.
If I can bring myself to it, I'd like to talk about suffering on a thread dedicated to solely that topic. Donna, Shasha, Christine, Clare, Gail, Phil--I remember you all have brushed up against the subject, as have others here. I have read more than a few books on suffering, and I've had my own thoughts on it as well as some very, very meaningful--to me--"touches" from God in His work to teach me I can trust Him, regardless of how things appear. And yet...
And yet...I'm still truly struggling to my core over being aware of traumatic, horrific, innocent suffering in people who I either knew directly or knew of as friends of friends---suffering that seems so great it could only produce scarring, not redemption, from my--I know--limited viewpoint.
I'd love to hear more from people--anyone-- here on this thread or on a dedicated thread. Should I start one?---or, I'm happy to wait for whatever people want to say right here, rather than delve more deeply into the subject at this time. Shasha's questions were great...I think if I asked my own questions, and shared my own experience, there'd be alot of repetition between threads. But if others are willing, I'd like to really get into this subject, and perhaps that's too much of a diversion for this thread?
Edit: If this subject were to be moved to its own thread, perhaps it could be started with the questions already brought up?This message has been edited. Last edited by: Ariel Jaffe,
Hi all, For me, it seems everything discussed so far is related.
First, I must say thank you all for being here, I seem to have more questions than answers right now. My language will be more simple than what has so far been presented.
There is much going on with me right now and I'm trying to figure so much out. I see alot of myself in many of your experiences, yet I can't seem to articulate what is happening to me. Please be patient
Well, Shasha, the suffering I experienced as a child, with a mother that could not bond, leaves a terrible hole that I think is starting to close, just now, which is itself a suffering. I'm using it as redemptive suffering. the affects of not having a nurturing mother , are a suffering. Very deep. As a child, even before I could speak, calling out for my mother, a terrible suffering of not being held, comforted.
Is that experience God's will for me, the burden that was just for me to carry along with Him?
Years ago, I had a wonderful experience of really knowing God was with me. It was that honeymoon experience, literally being led by the hand, down the path of contemplation.
Its been years since I've felt that Presence. I really feel He's asleep in the boat. I wail out in prayer to just have Him let me know He's not abandoned me. I know He says He won't but I really feel I'm on my own. Seriously wondering in the dark.
I plow ahead, with my prayer, feels like I'm not praying at all. Contemplation is empty and dry and I have to revert back to verbal prayer.
So, Shasha the question do I directly experience God in or through the suffering? I don't think so. But I'm not leaving Him out of it. It doesn't make sense without the Light of Christ.
I do think though even if our suffering is a result of sin, , it can still be redemptive. Repentance . Go and sin no more, comes to mind.
Ariel, the result of the affect my mother had on me left scars, i'm just now realizing what they are. I think my suffering is redemptive. But at the same time, I'm healing from the experience. I'm not going to be bitter, I'm understanding something of her personality, she isn't capable of nurturing.
That is a suffering I can define. But there seems to be something else very very deep, that I can't even begin to articulate. That I believe is of God, part of the Yes I answered at that Mass where I got the invitation to share in His cup of suffering.
Just tonight I asked my husband, what if God wants me to suffer? He said "do it with a smile". Because it would be His will.
Very simple answer from a very simple man. Makes sense to me. Donna
What a wonderful thing to say, Donna; I don't say this glibly or in a mushy way, but that is beautiful, and it brought tears to my eyes...tears not for my own hurts, but for the beauty of you being able to look at it that way.
I think this is all related to this thread, very much so; but I'm going to take Christine's encouragement to start a thread on suffering so we can all find each other's resources under that heading.
But, my two dogs were sick last night due entirely to their own stealing habits, whining me awake to go out every couple of hours last night, so it's bedtime for me now.
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