“God In Us: The Mystical Experience, Part 3”
Text: Psalm 90: 1-4
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn us back to dust,
and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like yesterday when it is past,
or like a watch in the night.
I think this particular text is interesting because it speaks to the timelessness of God. We can find evidence in our history that even the most ancient cultures believed in and in some sense worshiped a God – and most often it was a creator God. So with that perspective in mind, the Psalmist here reminds us that our lives are just a flash in the pan, a tiny blip in the stream of history-as the text says, a thousand years for God is like yesterday. God supersedes any understanding we have of time; there are times when I personally wonder if time actually exists in the spiritual or the God realm; what value would it have and what would it be used for? But those are topics for another day…
Today we are continuing our investigation of mystical experiences and hopefully beginning to draw some conclusions about how they manifest and what part we can play in that manifestation. I believe that a full recognition of the ancient qualities of God and our connection to that history help us in preparing to have a mystical experience. If we can begin to focus our minds on the thought that God has always been and will always be, then the search for God perhaps becomes a bit easier; in other words God isn’t going anywhere.One place for me that speak clearly of the timelessness of God is a slot canyon in northern Arizona called Lower Antelope Canyon. As you hike through this canyon, you can virtually experience the flash floods which formed the canyon. You can look at a sandstone formation that resembles a wave or flowing water and simply ask the question; how many waves does it take before a rock begins to look like the wave? The answer is quite a few, over a long period of time. But this is just one of the feelings or emotions I experience when I hike through and photograph Lower Antelope Canyon, one of many. The feelings and emotions come so thickly that at times it is overwhelming. In lieu of the flood of water which formed the canyon, the flood of visual perception and luminance fill your being. In a way, I feel suspended in time, but still participating in the formation, or at least witness to the formation of the canyon. Once again, the experience is hard to explain; it is ineffable, to use the language of Marcus Borg.
After my first visit to Lower Antelope Canyon I was so loaded up with positive energy that it stayed with me for days, maybe even a week after our visit. I found this to be an interesting phenomenon, it almost felt like I had visited one of those all you can eat buffets and when you leave you’re not hungry for the next meal; sometimes the next couple of meals. It has taken me a few years to make sense of the experience, but I think I’m getting closer to a spiritual understanding, even if it is just for me; it may or may not make sense to you… more about that a little later on.
Because the experience stayed with for a couple of days, I felt like I had to somehow get what I was feeling into a tangible thing. I knew I had pictures, but that didn’t seem adequate; when that happens to me, often I write. Sometimes they are commentaries, sometimes poetry, sometimes just random thoughts, but writing for me helps me sort out the feelings, the emotions and the significance of the experience.
So I wrote a poem. I call it “The Canyon Called To Me” and several years after it was written, I took some of the photos and some appropriate background music and created a brief video. I’m going to share that video with you now.
While you hold that experience in your minds and hopefully better understand the magnitude of what the encounter meant to me, I want to tell you about another significant event that impacted me in the opposite way. This was also several years ago, I believe in 2009, Heidi and I were visiting Amsterdam and we toured Anne Frank’s house.
To put it mildly, there is a lot to read and absorb during this particular tour. Not only is the history and the horror of the holocaust pretty much in your face the whole time, but so is the innocence and positive disposition of Anne Frank herself.
As is the case with most homes in Amsterdam, Anne Frank’s house is taller than it is wide. Real estate is at a premium, so they build up, rather than out. So when you tour the house, there are a number of steps to deal with. In my current condition trying to recover from knee surgery the number of steps may pose a bit of a challenge; but in 2009, I was a little younger and my knee was much better and steps were not a big deal for me. So I found it odd that through the course of the tour I found myself physically getting weaker and weaker and actually had a bit of trouble with the steps-even going down-by the end of the tour. I now believe this had a lot more to do with what I will call negative spiritual energy than it did with my physical condition.
There is quite a bit of research out there that is beginning to coalesce around the idea that thoughts and emotions are also electro-magnetic impulses. This can be proven by a number of different devices where they can actually measure and monitor the electric impact of a thought or an emotion on the brain. They can measure the electric stimuli that energize certain areas of the brain when a person thinks about certain things. This can also be observed in the brain itself, through MRI type imaging, they can actually see the brain “light up” in different areas. This is not really new research or a brand new discovery; they have had a basic understanding of how the brain sort of works for a while now.
What is a little newer is the idea that some of those electro-magnetic impulses actually proceed through the body and enter the space around the body. These little bits of energy remain in the space for a time long after the original thought or emotion that produced them has come and gone. Some research indicates that as long as a year later the electrical presence of thought energy can still be detected in places where the thoughts or emotions were very strong.
What I am suggesting here is that if you are sensitive to that residual energy, it can impact your physical system as well as your spiritual system. That is why, I believe, that I felt strong and energized and completely filled when visiting Lower Antelope Canyon. Not only was the experience itself feeding me, but the residual energy left from others was also positive and uplifting in nature and had the same affect on me. The experience was enhanced by the very energy of the place that supplemented the actual experience of being there.
On the flip side of that same coin, Anne Frank’s house is full of less than positive energy. As people tour and read and grieve, those electro-magnetic impulses gather in that space and can impact you on several levels. This is what I experienced just as many other people report similar experiences at special places all over the world. To have an experience is one thing, but to develop an understanding of that experience in a spiritual sense is something even more profound. It is profound because it speaks to our humanness, our Divine connection to one another and our Divine connection to all that is and ultimately our Divine connection to God.
Now here is where it gets interesting; even though we are all human and all basically function in the same way, not all have the same level of experience. Some are not impacted at all; they have no sense at all of any energy in a space, positive or negative. Some are more impacted than others; I seem to be in the group that is impacted more than most. Impacted to the point where days later I am still floating high from a positive encounter with positive energy. I was also impacted to the point of becoming physically weak and having a certain amount of difficulty finishing a tour because of the encounter with the abundance of negative energy. How can I explain this? I’m not sure I can explain it completely but I can give you a metaphor that might help you visualize or better understand what I’m alluding to.
Imagine going into a space with someone who is not familiar with modern technology, perhaps a time traveler from several hundred years ago. You enter this space with this person from the 17th or 18th century and try to explain that the room is actually full of radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, cell phone signals, short wave radio waves, walkie-talkie signals, police band radio waves and all the other stuff that is floating around in that space. I’m pretty certain they would look at you like you had lost your mind. If you can’t see it, it doesn’t really exist, right?
So then you plug in a TV into an outlet and tell them this device, when plugged in, has the ability to receive the signals and make them into pictures we can see and words we can hear. Again, they may look at you as though you have totally lost your grip on reality. But then you turn on the TV and they can witness it for themselves. The invisible electro-magnetic impulses of the TV signal are visible when the TV is plugged in and open or turned on.
I’m thinking we are not so different. If we tune in to the spiritual realm, we are more likely to receive the signals of that residual energy we encounter. If we don’t “plug-in” or in other words practice our awareness of the spiritual side of who we are, that energy will go largely unnoticed and our life experiences will be dulled.
Being sensitive to energy I believe is a learned skill and one that can be developed and enhanced with practice. I also believe that energy and spirit are one in the same; so when we become sensitive to energy, we become sensitive to spirit. When we become sensitive to spirit, our connection to all that is becomes enhanced and we grow closer to God.
I also believe this is the way it has always been; and the timelessness of God as spoken of by the Psalmist in the text where we began points us to this reality. The energy of God’s spirit, the energy of those who have connected with God, and all the saints who have preceded us, all that energy is still available for us. We just need to plug in and receive.
And that, as they say, is food for thought. Go in peace and go with God.