Every person’s journey includes moments when everything makes sense. Struggles cease, craving ends, and divisions disappear. We tend to describe these episodes in ‘spiritual’ terms, but such wording makes some people uncomfortable. Since these numinous feelings occur regardless of belief system, we should try to treat them as inclusively as possible.
In a recent post on my primary blog, I announced readiness to believe in cosmic and pervasive love, which seemed reasonable to call “God.” As I thought later about what I’d written, this language began to trouble me. Opening to profound wellness does not demand overt theological language. It doesn’t depend on concepts of any sort. It only requires that we take seriously the purest and most selfless moments of human existence.
These experiences occur in every life, to varying degrees and under an assortment of circumstances. They arise often during highly emotional times, like when we marry or attend a funeral. They appear during meditation, worship, and long walks amidst natural beauty. They can shine on us softly, like a warm glow of happiness; or they can dazzle our psychic landscape with luminous realization.
The God word might be appropriate if it could be stripped of its accretions, but it has become almost hopelessly polluted. Like a once verdant meadow now freighted by generations of industrial waste, “God” is a word that simply can’t be invoked as an address for states as pure and unthreatening as these moments of loving grace. Peak experiences stir up none of the judging, demanding, rigid, conceptualized, authoritarian, and implausible qualities that G-O-D language sometimes evokes in Jewish-Christian-Muslim traditions.
The occurrence of enlightened states stands beyond argument, because too many people have described them. It doesn’t even matter if transcendent awareness occurs only in the brain and connects with nothing else. It happens, and that’s the key issue.
As have many people, I’ve entered numinous states again and again over the years. To varying degrees these ‘awakenings’ make the cosmos appear permeated by: 1. Love, 2. Unity, and 3. Rightness. I’ve never felt any judgment or fear when such awareness takes takes hold. Instead there is a only a powerful sense of resonance that is wordless, expansive, and utterly peaceful. It also seems unquestionably real and important. If you want to tell me that it’s just my brain playing tricks, I’ll grant that it could be ‘all in my head,’ but it’s no trick. It’s the healthiest frame of mind one can imagine.
So shouldn’t I, and we, aim to live in this realization more often? Why would we want anything more (or less) than to move through a universe that felt loving, connected, and fundamentally perfect? (Note that I’m ascribing perfection to the cosmos as a whole, not to that tiny droplet of chaos we know as human society. Our culture is very, very far from perfect. But our constricted and collective neurosis does not detract from the infinite beauty of all that is.)
I’m finally open to believing that transcendent feelings don’t need to be transient; one can deliberately foster them and live with them on an ongoing basis. Sure, there will be lapses even for saints. But deep loving feelings can underpin large portions of daily life, rather than arising as occasional momentary relief from an otherwise bleak existence.
To explain this in words, and especially in a short essay, is impossible. You’ll just have to trust me that with meditative and personal work, and a 180 degree change in attitude, it is possible to find a radiant love within the self that dispels all worries about success, approval, affection, security, and so on.
When on my other blog I announced a willingness to have faith, I meant faith in the centrality of this love. I have come to accept that this principle resides in every one of us, and only needs the right approach to life to manifest itself. It is a universal value that we all know deep down, but cannot access because of the toxicity that surrounds and penetrates us, including the pollution that has nearly ruined the word God.
The normal course of every human life is to move toward this principle, though some people make very little progress while others end up deeply immersed in it. You often hear stories of nasty, hurtful personalities who transform into loving, caring servants of humanity. People rarely, if ever, change in the other direction. Furthermore, each of us is born in exactly this state as infants. You rarely, if ever, see a mean baby. Love is both our initial nature and the proper final goal of life.
So scratch the word God from the discussion. It is irrelevant in this context. Focus on the moments in your life when you felt the unity, rightness, and love that I describe. That experience is what I believe in, not some concept. My big recent shift came as I recognized that the numinous state of mind is always available, provided we let go of a lifetime of confused and delusional beliefs about what’s important. Obviously, this can be challenging, but it now appears possible. What a relief!
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Last reviewed: 24 Aug 2011