I often wonder what people assume about my spirituality as I post a lot about spirituality in all different forms. I was a religious studies major at university and remain fascinated with all things spiritual. I find that I can understand spiritual language in many forms. Regardless of who is talking and what their belief system is my brain seems to translate stuff in such a way that it has meaning to me. And so I’ve experienced this with born again Christians, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, Jews and all sorts of various individual “spiritually” unaffiliated people who use their own language and understanding.
I suppose I must begin by saying that I am mostly agnostic towards much of everything spiritual and philosophical. For me that means I remain potentially open to much thought about the spirit and the mind. It is my opinion that the “numinous” speaks in a multitude of ways including in a completely secular way. I suppose you could say that I am truly ecumenical using the word to go beyond the usual understanding of it being applied mostly to Christianity and instead using the definition, “of world-wide scope or applicability; universal.” (definition from answers.com)
As I said previously, I majored in religious studies at university. What prompted me to major in it, after going through several majors (I was interested in way too many things: rhetoric, Italian, political science and anthropology all got tested as majors) was that I had a history rich in spiritual experience and I wanted to explore more deeply the roots and history of religious thinking throughout the world.
My most influential professor was Houston Smith, the famous comparative religions scholar. He believed in every religion he taught. From tribal paganism, to the great monotheistic religions. I would venture to say he even believed in atheism. He is a student of the human soul and the human soul is somehow spiritual even when it denies the spiritual. I agree with this myself. (this, of course, may offend some people, particularly atheists, but I speak out of experience with my husband who claims to be an atheist and at the same time he helps me work out my spirituality with an open heart and mind. I’m sure it helps that he practiced Buddhism as a monk in his young adulthood, nonetheless he does say he is an atheist at this point and I also, nonetheless, experience him as very spiritual–full of love and appreciation for my spirit as it unfolds) Also, I use the words soul and spirit loosely as I am agnostic about them! I don’t really know if they exists, it’s just convenient to consider them for my purposes here now. The term psyche can be used just as efficiently and things can be considered psychological rather than spiritual.
Anyway, my spirituality is completely tied up in my experience with extreme states of mind. I understand my psychosis as “spiritual emergencies” that were rudeIy interrupted by chemical restraint. It was Stanislav Grof who first coined the term Spiritual Emergence for certain unordinary states of mind, that if integrated could be healing. This included many people who would in other contexts be considered mentally ill. I have posted multiple examples of spiritual emergency on this blog now. People who did not stop their psychosis with drugs and came out the other side whole and healthier. (you might try doing a category search for spiritual emergency in the pull down tab for categories on the right)
All of my “psychosis” were spiritual in nature. If pathologized they would be termed as being characterized by hyperreligiousity. My use of hallucinogens was inspired by the notion that I could indeed learn something about the nature of being and the nature of the universe and so my experiences on these drugs took on that shape. Much of what I experienced was simply disturbing and completely outside the realm of consensual reality but had I had someone help me interpret those things and integrate them I think I may have had a radically different outcome. Or even had I simply had a safe place to be left alone undrugged, I may have found my own answers. I did have lovely lucid moments of seeing things simply as they are and love played a large part in that. My story as shared here, about the gun toting man that I disarmed with love is an example. I simply don’t discount that experience as meaningless simply because it took place in the context of my becoming unglued.
I had many many experiences of a spiritual nature but most were internal and in the realm of the ineffable. Houston Smith liked to use that term for religious experience, especially those experiences of a mystical nature. I had an immediate resonance with the word. So much of what the spirit experiences is indeed impossible to describe. I might add I was having spiritual experiences since I was a child and they were not, by any means always outside the norm. When I was in college before my psychosis I experienced religious bliss while studying the wonder of evolution. What a wondrous amazing part of nature. If one understands evolution it’s simply awe-inspiring. It made me delightfully high.
In any case, I seem to be in touch with some of the “ineffable” stuff again after being numbed out for almost two decades on drugs. It’s vague but it’s there in the background. This time it’s grounded. I’m not spinning off into the unknown. I’m not manic with the thought that I alone am in touch with the truth in a special way that will help humanity. Yes I was grandiose…but now the same stuff is coming up, but I know I’m no different from anyone else. I know I have no special powers to communicate my wisdom to the world. I know my “wisdom” is tenuous at most and that it will be a struggle to have any sense of wholeness and oneness with the universe. But the sense of possibility is here. I feel like my energy is moving in a direction that might ultimately become something. That maybe this whole journey will turn into a career and maybe I won’t have to do something that is meaningless to me. Their is a creativity moving inside me….leading me somewhere…I work everyday even when I’m sick as a dog.
In the mean time, I’m still struggling–it just feels like the struggle is taking me somewhere now—at least in my moments of faith. The dark night of the soul is still with me too.