WHAT ARE ‘innerviews’ or religious experiences? From what I gather there are as many different types of innerviews as there are people. Religious experiences are as old as mankind. The bible tells us of visions, revelations, dreams and other divine experiences, in which they have happened to the prophets. Moses for example, was looking after a flock of sheep when be noticed a bush on fire, but not burning. Suddenly a voice spoke to Moses, telling him to take off his shoes because he was standing on Holy ground. Then God revealed himself to Moses as “I am who I am”. The Buddha, after much searching came to enlightenment during three nights of contemplation. He saw his previous lives pass before him and had revealed to him the holy truths; the knowledge of suffering and the removal of suffering was also revealed to him. Jesus Christ was baptised in the river Jordan when suddenly a voice from above proclaimed, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased”.
More than a few Christian Saints have written down their religious experiences. Julian of Norwich, wrote with insight and vision of her religious experiences. This makes her a favourite today. Her expression “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” is now a beloved phrase. In Lourdes, Bernadette Soubirous had an experience in which the Virgin Mary, revealed herself as ‘The Immaculate Conception,’ and promised Bernadette happiness in ‘the next world’. Bernadette, was to receive more messages from the apparition; one led to the miraculous discovery of water, and another, for a chapel to be built in the Grotto. Bernadette’s experiences were recorded and people from all over the world came to the small grotto in Lourdes, for healing. Today, it is a pilgrimage centre for Christians.
However, spiritual experiences are not exclusive to the prophets, saints, mystics or even the good. Religious experiences happen in all cultures and in all religions. Prophets, tell us time and again, to treasure our inner voice. ‘ Our insights are a spontaneous gifts of grace from the divine to his beloved children. I’ve have chosen a few recorded insights or if you like, spiritual experiences to share with you today. I hope they will inspire and delight the reader. I would be interested in readers comments on this topic. Perhaps you too have experiences insights that you might like to share. Oh! please do!
A MOMENT IN TIME
“A few years ago, I was feeling rather low and depressed. My life seemed to be falling to pieces around me. I was laying on my bed trying to make sense of it all, when suddenly I felt a light all around me. The next thing I was aware of, was being taken upward towards something of intense brightness. From the brightness, there appeared a figure and a voice said, “Go in peace and everything will be shown unto you.”
From that day forward, I have not worried over difficulties. I know I am guided and protected. I believe I always will be.”
NECTAR OF THE GODS -Sathya Sai Baba’s Ashram – 1991
“During a lengthy stay in Sai Baba’s ashram in 1991, I devoted extensive time to meditation. I rose at dawn to attend morning chants in the Mandir. (Temple). Afterwards, I would join the lines for darshan and remain in the Mandir compound until after bhajans. My morning austerities would end with a steep climb up the hill leading to the meditation tree. There, I would sit for around 15 minutes enjoying the peace and the gentle cooling breeze. This routine lasted for weeks. I never felt tired or hungry. On the contrary I felt elated. The elation increased as the weeks passed by, my often nervous nature disappeared and for the rest of my trip, I became utterly at peace with myself and others.
Towards the end of my visit, I sat for some time under the meditation tree. On one particular morning, I heard an inner voice say: “Stay always sweet – remember sweetness is the nectar of the Gods.”I am sure it was not my imagination playing tricks, because the phrase ‘nectar of the Gods,’ was unknown to me.”
– family member
ALL WILL BE WELL Heidelberg, Germany, 1973
“At birth, my daughter was two months premature. The doctors had only let me see her for a few seconds before she was rushed off to intensive care and placed in an incubator. The doctors told me that her chances for survival were not good. I was given a room by myself to recover from the shock of her birth. The little room was dark, dingy and cold. I remember feeling incredibly lonely and afraid. Suddenly, the room became filled with a presence. It was not a single presence but many. I don’t know how to describe accurately what actually happened – but the presence seemed to be sending me waves of love and peace. I fell asleep within seconds. I knew I was being looked after and everything would be well. It was!”
ONE WITH THE UNIVERSE
“For many years I kept African Violets. They were my favourite house plants. One day, I was admiring one that had made a remarkable recovery from over watering.
Mentally, I began to talk to it. Suddenly, I became aware of a tremendous feeling of love flowing from the plant to me! In fact, I felt that I became the plant, and it became me and that we both were one with the universe! It was a beautiful feeling. I suppose I can only describe it as a deep peace. The feeling only lasted for a few seconds, but was like nothing else I have ever experienced.”
-Meg Maxwell and Verena Tschudin from “Seeing The Invisible” *
The 50th Birthday Present – an Out of Body Experience!
Perhaps the most odd insight that’s happened to me, came on my 50th Birthday. Not sure if it was not a divine joke on this writer. Why would the universe have to pick my half century marker to show me in a most precise way, I was definitely ‘not the body’ ?
The 8th November eve, we had been out for the evening visiting Canterbury, Kent, ( U.k. ) This particular evening we had spent at a yoga meditation chant meeting. I remember even today, the chants were powerful. One lady in particular, chanted AUM over and over in a strong clear voice. For me, at least, if was a tad overwhelming.
We left around 10 p.m. and drove home. Turning down our street, there was an odd-looking truck outside our house. At that time, we lived in a cul-de-sac, where large trucks were a rare sight. Now here was one parked outside our house. (It was extremely odd.) I remember seeing it for only a short time on our arrival, for when I looked out of the window some ten minutes later, the truck had gone.
Nothing more unusual happened that evening and I went to bed. The dream preceding the OOBE, I will never forget. I was in a house somewhere, where there were bedrooms. I knew that one of the bedrooms in this dream belonged to my daughter, and on her bed was a bright pink duvet. At the moment of seeing the pink duvet, everything went blank, and the next thing I remember was floating on the ceiling above my own bed. I knew instinctvely that if I went through the ceiling to the beyond, I would not be able to return back to my body that was sleeping on the bed. Instantly, I felt an urge to return to that sleeping form below me. I willed myself to turn from my horizontal position, (I was horizontal and parallel to the ceiling) to a vertical position, and then willed myself down, down, down, back into my body. The moment I thought to return brought about an instant change in my body position to vertical, and instantly I was back in my body. The entry was through my throat area.
I awoke with a shudder. My whole body shook with the impact of re-entry. I still remember how bewildered I was. I guess the experience was the most unusual birthday present I’ve ever had. Not sure I want another quite like that! – But it was a valuable lesson…
I would really appreciate feedback from readers… thank you.
Meg Maxwell and Verena Tscgydin have written an excellent book on the subject of religious experiences. The book title is ‘Seeing The Invisible’ and is available in the New Age section of any large book sellers. The sale proceeds of the book go to the Alister Hardy Research Centre, which has in it’s archives, more than 5,000 personal letters, collected over 20 years.
FOR reasons that are not too clear, thirteenth-century Europe represents the single greatest flowering of mysticism in the West. It was also a time, nearly unique in Western history, for the extent to which feminine voices were raised, tolerated, and even revered. In the following article, Jake has generously given us many unknown facts, certainly unknown to me, and to which I offer my gratitude. Having read and enjoyed books on Christian Mysticism over the years, I cannot find the language to do them justice. Jake does. (Jake Murray graduated from Oxford Uni. He works as a Freelance theatre director, teacher and writer. )
What is Christian Mysticism?
by Jake Murray
Christian Mysticism is probably the least known and least understood Mystical Tradition in the world. Indeed, most people, including most Christians, would be astonished and shocked to learn that there was such a thing as Christian Mysticism at all. Since the Reformation it has been viewed with enormous suspicion, especially among the Protestant Churches who traditionally have disliked the idea of a body of knowledge available to an elite and, with the defining doctrine of Sola Scriptura, have, by and large, not liked metaphysical speculation or mysticism as part of their discourse. This is not to say that there have not been important Protestant Christian Mystics – Jakob Boehme, William Blake, Jane Leade, Valentine Weigel, Emmanuel Swedenborg for instance – but they have always tended to run into trouble with the authorities. Blake was very much a lone gunman, Boehme was forced to promise never to make his books public and Swedenborg was put on trial. Within Catholicism Mysticism was actively encouraged for many centuries and then became badly entangled with fears about heresy and the Reformation, when even major figures like St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross, were hugely harassed. As a consequence, Mysticism has largely died out in the Western Churches. In the Greek and Eastern Orthodox Churches it has never gone away, Mysticism always being a key aspect of their experience of Christianity. But we in the West are very ignorant about the Orthodox Churches, so for us that Mysticism, much of it deeply ecstatic, has also been kept from us.
Another reason for the relative obscurity of Christian Mysticism, especially among those who are interested in Mysticism in general, is the hostility so many people feel towards the Churches. To most people Christianity is one long litany of misogyny, intolerance, persecution, oppression, control of minds and sexualities, corruption, child abuse, conformism, Inquisitions, anti-semitism, religious wars and so on. The idea that it has had anything to offer on a mystical level is almost unthinkable to many. For many spiritually-minded people the emphasis on Sin, Damnation, fear and general anti-life doom and gloom are things one has to get away from. As a consequence the hidden tradition of Christian Mystical thought has been all but lost to us compared with, for instance, the sublime wisdom of the East – Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism – or even Western traditions such as Kabbalah, Sufism and Hermeticism, all of which seem to be far more liberating and all-embracing than anything Christianity has to offer. The very imagery of Christianity is associated with enormous negativity to many. The terminology is off-putting, to such an extent that for most people, reading the core texts is almost impossible without centuries of accrued meanings that may not even be there.
There is an enormous amount of truth in all of this. The negative historical karma of Christianity is there for all to see. But it is far from the whole story of the Tradition, and a great shame, as Hidden beneath all the rubble is a vast reservoir of rich mystical literature of the most astonishing visionary quality, much of which has a great deal in common with all the other Traditions mentioned above. It has often been said that, for instance, Meister Eckhart would have a great deal to say to the Buddha were they to meet (indeed there has been a famous study of Eckhart by the Zen Master Suzuki). Orthodox Christianity has an extraordinarily spiritual, all-embracing, take on Christianity, a vision shared in the Western Churches through a mutual connection with the Neo-Platonic tradition drawn from St Dionysius the Areopagite.
Early Christianity was much simpler, far more diverse and far more mystically-orientated than it is now. We forget, for instance, that until the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, rather than being a persecuting religion it was an entirely persecuted one with a profound revolutionary, as well as ascetic tradition. An accepted, indisputable, rigid canon of Scripture such as we find now in the modern editions of the Bible was not even established until midway through the 4th Century, and then only after vigorous debate, with books like Revelation, responsible for so much confusion since, only being included at the last minute. Early Church fathers such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, St Augustine and others freely acknowledged other authorities as having insight – Plato, Plotinus, even Hermes Trismegistus. Reincarnation was not denounced as a heresy until the 6th Century in the Catholic Church and as late as the 7th in the Celtic when it amalgamated with Rome. We forget also that until the fall of Constantinople in the 15th Century the centers of Christianity were Meditterannean and Middle Eastern – Alexandria, Carthage, Rome, Syria, Greece – all of which had rich esoteric traditions. In terms of misogyny, the New Testament itself suggests that women had as much of a role in the early Church as the men (see Romans 16), and even after that it is a curious feature of Christian Mysticism just how much of a massive contribution women’s voices had to make.
No other spirituality or religion in the world has had so many women Mystics – St Teresa of Avila, St Clare of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Hadewijch, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Marguerite Porete and a host of others. The fact that so much of this has been lost is mainly to do with the reasons mentioned above. The modern, impoverished view of Christianity, apparently so militant and so reactionary, in which a highly complex set of ideas have been reduced to a simple set of answers revolving around Sin and Redemption, is a sign of Christianity’s rejection of its own mystical roots. The decline of Christianity as a progressive cultural force can be seen with the beginnings of its own suppression of its Mystics during the time of the Middle Ages and Reformation. In spite of revivals during the Counter-Reformation and the Renaissance, by the 17th Century Science, Philosophy and the Enlightenment were starting to take over as the main means of understanding existence. Its taken until now for Christian Mysticism to start to be uncovered again, in part kick-started by growing interest in Christian Gnosticism, which has caused many people to reexamine Western spirituality.