Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Experience

According to Karen Armstrong, speaking of the Enlightenment (in A History of God, p.298) Pascal was the first person to "concede that, in this brave new world, belief in God could only be a matter of personal choice". His faith came, not from the Middle Age religious authorities, but from his own experience.

What is experience? It seems to me that experience is just about everything. In contrast to a second hand 'faith' in God people speak of an 'experience' of God . But this is a much larger concept than is often perceived.

We experience birth; we experience learning: to walk and talk, to read, to think, to believe. If my life is in God's hands, I must believe that God had a hand in all of my experiences.

In the fullness of time God saw fit to awaken my spiritual consciousness. (This seems to be the particular 'experience' that we refer to when we say we have experienced God.

Some people, sanctified or not, can see God's hand in all sorts of experiences: "In the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere (from the hymn, This is my Father's World), and of course Isaiah (6:3): "the whole earth is full of the glory of God."

This is what we understand as the experience of God consciousness. It is what we all are going to (those of us who haven't yet arrived).

8 comments:

Al said...

"In the fullness of time God saw fit to awaken my spiritual consciousness."

Is this conditioned?
If no, then how?
If yes, by what/who?

What is effort?

Larry said...

Sorry, Al. I don't have any understanding of what you're asking. Would you try to be more specific?

Al said...

Sorry, it was an early morning comment. What I think I was referring to was how is it that we awaken."God saw fit", in your view, what does this mean? Do we walk about waiting for God to grant us the awakened state? Then my reference to effort, what role do my actions play? What is grace and where does it fit? Of course I have an opinion (don't we all) but I thought it might be an interesting discussion to find out what we might do to experince God conciousness. Where do Buddhist notions of effort and karma overlap with diety centered or for that matter Christ centered practices?

Larry said...

Thank you, Al. I can only speak from my own experience. (I know nothing about Buddhism to speak of.)

I was raised in the church, but departed for two decades; achieved all my goals. Then looked ahead 40 years and thought, "Is this all?" It would all turn to ashes.

In desperation I asked God to send me something that would help me. Immediately I got my hands on a book that convinced me that God loved me-- personally!

That was my experience- 50 years ago, and I've never looked back. It's been a wonderful life.

I think "God saw fit" when I "asked, sought, knocked." (Matthew 7:7)

I hope this is some help to you, Al.

Al said...

Whenever I hear about religion or spirituality being referred to as an experience, my ears perk up. I like to hear about the doing - the "knocking" - for me it's all about the "knocking". What are we actively, intentionally doing on a day to day basis to bring God into our lives, to align ourselves with the graceful presence that Meredith talks about. To move closer to an enlightened state, to remove ourselves from the cycle of suffering. I think there are a lot of ways to say it. In your last line, "it is what we are all going to" Yes, and what are the things that I can do to help God help me to get there. To me this is the value of seeing it experietially, because it frames it in terms of an active, living of a life, instead of a passive, reactive receiving of it. Be well.....Al

Larry said...

Al, you wrote:
"what are the things that I can do to help God help me to get there. To me this is the value of seeing it experietially, because it frames it in terms of an active, living of a life, instead of a passive, reactive receiving of it."

I couldn't agree with your more, Al. I've done a few things since 1956 trying to help God.

1st I left a good job as a research chemist to become a (practically) starving Methodist minister.

2nd After 8 years I got appointed to the court where for the next 10 years I tried to help alcoholics achieve sobriety.

3rd I uprooted my wife and family to go to D.C. to be a part of a model church that has done more for the well being of the poor in our nation's capital than any religious body you could pick.

Right now I visit the local hospital to pray with the cardiac patients, after undergoing open heart surgery myself. And I visit the Juvenile Correction Center and try to do something for the poor deprived young potential criminals there.

My (our) life has been a journey and a pilgrimage trying to be of the best possible service to God.

(I'm no saint, have plenty of faults, and God still has a lot to do to make me what I need to be.)

I also realize that few people are probably called to the kind of Way I've followed, but there's plenty anybody to do if they want to help God.

First of all I had to believe that God loved me. I did at 30 and immediately found that whenever I took a step for him, he carried me about a mile.

I hope the very best for you Al in whatever your path may be.

Al said...

Thanks Larry, your insights and experiences have helped at least one person explore this life a little more closely...Al

Meredith said...

Larry this was a beautiful post. Experience is: knowledge, skill, practice, understanding, familiarity, know-how, occurence, and incident. Each of these words can be applied to our 'experience' of spirit. This experience of God consciousness that you speak of brings our full awareness right to the rustling grass, and the many glories of God, right here, right now, every moment.

In your response to Al about what you did to experience God consciousness your examples each speak about placing yourself in a position of service, of gratitude, of continued communion with God and being a spritual friend. This is a beautiful path, Larry, and it seems to have unfolded for you in delightful ways. Now others are blessed by experiencing the consciousness of God through you. There is no greater gift.