Thursday 9 November 2023

Spiritual life - Make it contact, make it personal

Excerpted from a post at The Notion Club Papers blog...


I have a strong, and still increasing, conviction that we ought to move away-from the kind of impersonal abstraction that has been characteristic of spiritual, mystical, meditative and prayer life for many centuries - so much so that the two are often regarded as synonymous. 

Christian mystics have, for instance, often been Neoplatonic in their rationale and experience, and mysticism is often asserted to be a negative state of indescribable, inexpressible experience.  

What I mean is that the ultimate is often supposed to be an experience and a 'subject' that is beyond the personal. 

On the other hand, personal experience of the spiritual - that is, when there is some kind of contact with a Christian personage - whether Jesus Christ, Blessed Virgin Mary, a saint of angel, or any other individual of higher spiritual stature - have also often been reported. 

But typically such an interaction has been conversational... 

An experience of meeting-together perhaps, and conversing. Such experiences as as talking-with a statue or crucifix, an icon, or at a shrine; speaking oneself and hearing replies in the mind... 

Maybe meeting with another person in a dream-like state (or an actual dream), accompanied by vivid visions. Perhaps writing questions and then being dictated answers; or automatic writing. 

These two seem like the options - either, on the one hand, a sophisticated and intellectual kind of abstraction and negation; or else, on the other hand, a rather child-like interaction with a personage that operates rather like a mundane conversation. This tends to encourage adult (and educated) Christians to abandon the personal and embrace the abstract. 

But there is at least one other option, which is something I have at times experienced. An example is when I was immersively reading and thinking about the Fourth Gospel - but an earlier instance relates to more recent historical people who I came to regard as spiritual teachers: William Arkle and JRR Tolkien. 

I have elsewhere talked about the Fourth Gospel and Arkle experiences; but not really about Tolkien... (Continued

** Read the whole thing at my Notion Club Papers blog **


agraves said...

Bruce, your recent articles have been emphasizing life after death communication which to me means your spirit friends must be reaching out to you and prodding you in this direction. I agree with your statement that in order for people to experience such communication they must accept that it is possible and acceptable. The vast majority of church/temple goers are told such contact is to be avoided because demons, so they are shut down to the possibility and rely on dogma or other believers to guide/support them. Religious explanations of tollhouses, Eastern Orthodox, etc just muddy the waters of water is a fairly normal process although subtle. It helps to have your spiritual senses prepared and able to recognize when you are being reached out to, kind of like turning up the volume on your phone otherwise you miss the call.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ag - Yes. I don't regard myself as any kind of expert or specialist, spiritual contact is something that happens from time to time.

But I also wanted to make clear that (as I understand things) the process of 'contact' does not have to be sensory or conversational - and I think That *expectation* is another factor that makes it much less likely that someone will have such an experience, or recognize that it has happened.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ag - "spirit friends must be reaching out to you and prodding you in this direction" - Presumably so, and it must be a two-sided motivation for contact to happen.

But I would not want be to make the process sound too passive/ receptive on my side, as I all I needed to do was awaken to efforts made by the so-called-dead.

It is actually very active and purposive on my side: as I said in the post, I need to do "all the work" - or, at least, that's mostly how it feels.

agraves said...

Bruce, understand and agree completely.