In order to facilitate clearer communication in an area that very often becomes very "fuzzy" because of specialized or unclear definitions, let us now define the term Spirituality and the sense of its use here. The term "spirituality" (as used here) is reserved for situations that involve personal experiences of unique dimensions of reality that give one's life and general existence a numinous quality. Jung used the term "numinous" for the description of experiences that feel sacred, holy, or out of the ordinary (in the sense of a special feeling of ultimate meaning or reality). Therefore, spirituality characterizes individual relationship to the universe and does not necessarily require a formal structure, collective ritual, or mediation by a priest or other external authority figure.
Religion is a form of organized group activity that may or may not be conducive to (or even supportive of) true spirituality, depending on the degree to which it provides a context for personal discovery and experience of the numinous dimensions of reality. While at the root of most great religions are the direct visionary revelations of their founders, prophets, seers, and saints, in many instances religions have lost their connection with this vital core over time.
Experiences and mental states involving personal encounters with the numinous dimensions of consciousness are of two different types. Included in the first are experiences of the "immanent divine", or perceptions of divine intelligence expressing itself in the world of everyday reality. All of creation - people, animals, plants, and inanimate objects - seems to be permeated by the same cosmic essence and divine light. A person in this state suddenly sees that everything in the universe is a manifestation and expression of the same cosmic energy and that separation and boundaries are illusory. In theology, this is called Monism. This is also the core experience of the "all is illusion" claim in some belief systems.
Experiences in the second category do not represent a different perception of what is already known but reveal a rich spectrum of dimensions of reality that are ordinarily hidden from human awareness and are not available in the everyday consciousness. These can be referred to as experiences of the "transcendent divine". A typical example would be a vision of God as a radiant source of light of supernatural beauty or a sense of personal fusion and identity with God perceived in this way. Visions of various archetypal beings, such as deities, demons, legendary heroes, and spirit guides, also belong in this category. Other experiences do not involve merely individual suprahuman entities but entire mythological realms, such as heavens, hells, and purgatories, or various sceneries and landscapes unlike anything known on earth. This seems to be the nature of many reports of Native American "Shamanic Journeyings".
What interests those studying practical magic are the practical consequences of personal encounters with spiritual realities. For the people who have had them, the existence of the immanent and transcendent divine is not a matter of unfounded belief but a fact based on direct experience - much as our attitude toward the material reality of our everyday life is based on fist hand sensory perceptions. In contrast, a belief is an opinion about the nature of reality based on a specific form of indoctrination, or reading of religious literature; It lacks direct experiential validation. Yet once again we are brought up against the very difficult problems of integrating personal realities with consensual reality, or at least in integrating them closely enough that they can be discussed in a meaningful manner.
One of the practical consequences of these spiritual experiences is permanent physiological change in the one experiencing them. There are usually also a set of perceptual changes, as well as (often) an ability to experience more of these episodes and not always with full control over when they will occur. In other words, the whole mind-body-spirit linkage takes on new dimensions and depth, and can become very difficult to understand and manage! To be sure, no one has an experience of this type and remains the same person they were before.
A common physiological change that results from these types of experiences is a change in the individuals general state of health. Allergies and allergic type reactions are a typical area of change. Someone who had few allergies may find that they suddenly react strongly to a number of substances that did not bother them previously, and (more often) the reverse also happens. There have also been cases of "spontaneous remission" of long-term ills such as arthritis and rheumatism as well as even one case of cancer known to the author.
The perceptual changes that happen can also be very confusing. People seem to experience a whole new "tone" and new levels of meaning to their everyday perceptions. There is often an increase in the sensitivity in their sight, hearing, smell, taste, and tactile senses, as well as what one person described as a new "depth" to the sensations, i.e. they felt as if all of their senses previously had been muffled or distorted, and now those distortions were removed.
Another common phenomenon that results from direct experience of the numinous is that further experiences become more likely, and "shifts" in consciousness become facilitated. Some people who do not have a good background in self analysis and "taking charge" of their lives, find that it is very easy to lose control and quickly become unable to deal with the every day world. Even those who are actively seeking and working hard to achieve personal growth and are used to dealing with their innermost thoughts and psychological functionings find these experiences causing a lot of hard work!
This site has received 12554814 hits since Aug 4, 2000
The entire content of all public pages in The Pagan Library (graphics, text and HTML) are free information, released under the terms of the GPL. All copyrighted items mentioned are the property of their respective owners, and no form of ownership or endorsement is implied.
Last modified: June 12 2016 13:17:54