Thursday, June 2, 2016

Mystical Experiences

In the Peace Weekly the head of a spirituality counseling service deals with a question received in his column in which a writer asks: is religion just a question of experience? Every time the questioner brings in theology he is made to feel  his faith life is misunderstood and considered infantile. Faith needs experience he acknowledges but is faith only a matter of experience?

Priest Columnist answered his question, and calls these experiences a strong feeling of being  one with a transcendent being. A person's very self is seen at the center of their being, and gives a person a vision of what life should mean. "The man who learns in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, come to know the invisible companionship of God." Thomas Merton is quoted as saying we are spiritual beings and not material existences. A person with this kind of thinking can expect to have an experience of oneness with God. 

He mentions St. Thomas Aquinas, who is considered one of the greatest theologians of the Catholic Church, who had an experience of God while at prayer.  After that experience, he gave up writing and devoted himself to prayer: Scripture and the cross were all he needed.

Care must be taken, he says, with these experiences. They are not to change us completely but change the direction of one's life. However, we have those who think that what they experienced has changed them into another person, and gathers others to follow them. They expand the way they see themselves, and are under the illusion of being God like. They often leave the church they belonged, and start their own movement. This divine experience becomes the beginning of a personal quest for marketing their own religion.

Second problem is addiction. They become so overcome by the experience it's like an alcoholic who feels he is living only when he is drinking and continues, for everything else seems futile. Often they leave family, and work in search of this addiction.

Our hearts are like a rubber band. We expand and return to normal. No matter how large the experience we will return to normal. It is at that time that our response is important.  When thanks are expressed to God for the experience, all is well, but with those who do not want to return to their daily life. we see many aberrations.

He concludes the column with the example of Peter, who  experienced the transfiguration of Jesus and  wanted to build three tents; he wants us to reflect on Jesus' response.