These are some of the words we use to refer to a variety of unexplained phenomena.
I will prefer to use the words based on the word spirit for I think it comes closest in connotation these days to what I am willing to mean. I will occasionally use the word soul for brevity and variety.
It is my thesis that there are experiences, as valid and true as any that can be photographed, that are unique and personal and yet are caused by and interact with the world outside ourselves in which we all travel. These experiences have come more and more to be isolated as our daily lives are filled with the predictable world, the world science has explored so well. These events are highly subjective in nature, very unpredictable, but nonetheless they are real, in whatever way we mean that word.
The spiritual experience has a very difficult epistemology and this is the key to the whole mystery and agony of its history in the human race.
First, from my perspective, any actual spiritual experience I may have is completely real and true. It is part of my own empirical data set about the universe. In the first person, spiritual experiences are absolute truth.
Second, there is the level of reality of an experience had by someone close to me. This would only have a shadow of reality, although if corroborated by even the slightest echo in myself would seem much more concrete. Also there is any experience related to me first hand, perhaps carrying not much more more meaning than the intensity, the passion, with which it is expressed - the kind of meaning we attribute to other people's descriptions of their dreams. In the second person, spiritual experiences make good stories, and perhaps make us feel less alone in the world.
Third, and this is a very important point, are experiences related to me by people for whom they are already second hand. They are not real to me in any useful sense. In the third person, a spiritual experience is just a lie.
(This is one of the problem with organized religion. It struggles to confer depth, meaning and answers to its supplicants and adherents based on what are typically third person stories of great wonder. Unless the religion provides a way for the participant to embark on their own spiritual journey, or at least to associate directly with those who do, it offers nothing but lies!)
Virtually any such event is hard to grasp, and can only be allowed into the realm of truth at all through the magical and deceiving doors of faith or belief. The "association" form of spiritual experience mentioned above does occur, in mass situations usually, basically involving a strong sender or person so spiritual as to be able to bring others along on something resembling their own "trip", creating a spiritual experience where none may have been had otherwise.
So, with the reality or truth of these occurrences reduced to "I know what I feel" and little beyond that, what use or meaning can they possibly have?
First, if one ponders the issue for a bit, one will realise that almost all the knowledge we have attained about the "predictable" world has not made us any happier. Better fed and sheltered, perhaps, longer lived, but no more "full" in our hearts. The information that can be used towards this result, a result desired by most people (I would assert not only most living things but all material objects indeed), is the sort of information gleaned when travelling in the unpredictable part of the universe, that of the heart, the spirit, the soul, whatever language it pleases you to use.
Also, there are similarities, often predictable, between the unique individual spiritual experiences that occur - and the correspondence is usually greater when individuals' backgrounds (especially their religious training) are more similar. This is how, basically, we "touch" one another. Some people are able to reach out more universally, whether by virtue of a simpler, more general vision or by being a stronger sender and bending the listener's experience itself, but the mechanism is the same. There are also people who are so "in tune", they spend so much of their time experiencing this part of the world, that they are "touched" all who come near them.
I believe this to be how the mysterious side of what we call "love" operates.
This can get very confusing due to the epistemological issues raised above. It's one thing to know after several years of mutual growth, compromise, and caring that you truly love someone. It is a very different thing indeed to know, to honestly know, without enough basis in reality to justify the knowledge, that you can (or might, or hope to, or could) love someone.
Being touched in that special place inside without willing it can be an odd experience. It can translate in many ways - revulsion, anger, withdrawal, fanaticism, affection, love - the contact itself is too intense and too undefined (by circumstances) to truly know which way to turn. It can indeed mean any of these things, and many more - the touch, the contact, is not necessarily a positive experience. It is what ends up happening due to it that matters more.
The contact is also of course not necessarily mutual. The states of mind of the two individuals affect their perception and reaction even if the contact is of equal strength and similar "content". It is also quite likely that the individuals will not perceive equal strength or content in the signal - due partly again to their context and partly to the nature of the transmission. For instance a strong sender could touch someone else in a way analogous to talking, while they experience the incident in a way analogous to listening. Without my going into it, it is obvious that these will be different experiences even though the "words" are the same.
(I personally am becoming exhausted with dealing with the impact knowing you keeps having on my life! If only I could try to travel through it as a joyous thing, if only I did not have to work so hard to not have hope...)
Sometimes the spiritual contacts we make in life are lost in the background noise of our psyche. When I started writing this piece I was in a state of great agitation and joy, triggered by a powerful film, and I believe by the proximity of one who has touched me, perhaps involuntarily but nevertheless been deep inside me. In the middle of writing I took a rather long telephone call the subject of which was automobile maintenance. Now I am in a much more detail oriented, logical, state. I am certainly not in a sublime spiritually receptive state any more. Earlier I believe the film enabled entering the state and then the presence of a strong signal magnified it, from being a feeling of openness to one of almost unyielding terror - what was this world, what did it want from me, why did it seem so alien and separate an experience to "be me" and "be on that particular street" at the same time?
When the spiritual contacts are stronger than the "background noise" they become a sort of experience. Whether just an odd feeling, unnoticed, or a huge inner demand to action, they are difficult to identify. My own experience indicates that wishful thinking can exactly duplicate certain receptions, as I suppose can needless dread. I have recently spent several years not being able to trust anything but my rational self. Certain activities have lent themselves to a kind of intuitive action, but they are pretty mundane and certainly bore no risks or rewards in the future. As the damage to my psyche has healed, gradually, erratically, and to an extent spontaneously, the background noise has slowly lowered and the intensity with which I can receive has improved. Not having much recent experience with this sort of data, I do not know which is and which isn't - a random thought could be just that or it could have meaning beyond the physical moment. This means that a latent interval during which I may be enjoying a renewed level of spiritual energy but not know it is quite likely. The latency would be over when I have relearned how to tell the difference, effectively enough for my own purposes, between actual spiritual experience and the junk in my head. This achievement would, I expect, be roughly correlated with the ability to launch myself into the sort of spiritual event I have been accustomed to in the past.
10/13/99 - 3 AM
© Huw Powell