I am often asked whether I actually experience moments of God’s Presence.
This is a difficult question to answer, because it relates to something that cannot be verified by conventional means. It touches on something that does not fall within the parameters of any other experience. Hence, I am fully aware of the risk of sounding arrogant and even offensive (as I will explain) when answering this question.
I answer this question because so many people ask me about it—I do not want to evade the issue solely because I am afraid of it and may, perhaps, be viewed as somebody who has flashes of unreal imaginations or has improper thoughts concerning prayer and sexuality. I will have to take this risk, even though I may pay a price.
Let me try to describe what sometimes happens to me, even though I am unable to fully articulate the precise nature of what this consists of. It is ineffable. And it in no way proves that I am in any way better or more “religious” than anybody else. The truth is that I still believe that I am not really religious, but that I am merely attempting to be thus (It is nearly a hopeless undertaking!). I just try to be very honest and to give an authentic account of what sometimes happens to me.
There have been moments when I feel a complete stranger, totally alone in the extreme. A sensation of being dropped in the world without any awareness of where one is coming from or going to. One does not see anything in the conventional sense of the word anymore; everything is radically different. Nothing appears or dissolves. What one experiences is totally new and there is no way to describe it. All is seen with an inner eye and is completely incomprehensible. This is also true of one’s self. You are not “there” in the conventional sense of the word. You say to yourself: “I am who I am, but who, and where, am I?” There are no names and all labels are removed. Language comes to a standstill. You see everything for the first time, as a newborn child.
And then something highly unusual happens. The concept of time falls away. You become spiritual and infinitely larger and broader. You become so large that everything unites with you. Suddenly you become aware that hidden behind all worldly matters is another world where all of “it” really happens. You realize that where we live now is only the external facade, a kind of a garment which surrounds “das Ding an sich”—the “thing-in-itself.” Suddenly you “understand”—but not in the conventional sense. This is what philosophers call the “existential,” non-quantifiable world opening up. There is a deep feeling of bondage and commitment to the eternal. But now it is as if a hand is taking you and moving you to a different level you have never encountered before. This hand is real, not an illusion and you “know” that another Being is involved. A Being that surpasses all description.
But, as I wrote above, this experience cannot be fully explained by human words, and consequently when described to others, it runs the risk of being understood as the result of an unsteady mind. I fully understand this reaction, but for anybody who has had such an experience there is no doubting its authenticity.
I believe that this negative reaction by those who believe that this experience is illusionary is the result of a limited human condition set up by the human mind and its surroundings. But for the person who experiences this, it is a revelation that has no equivalent; it is undoubtedly an encounter with the Divine. The likelihood that it is the result of one’s imagination is no longer a possibility—for the experience is far too genuine.
In most cases, this experience takes place only for a moment, because our everyday education suppresses it, telling us that it cannot be true and automatically creating a boundary between us and the experience. The reason for this is that our very conventional self is afraid of it, especially owing to the radical consequences it can have for our day-to-day life; our self does not want to be confronted with surprise and does everything to keep matters under “control.” (This is also true of me, which explains why I only have this experience sporadically.)
We are too deeply steeped in the “normal,” the common, to be willing to be confronted with the “ab-normal” and the extraordinary. Such unusual experiences hurt, disturb, bring unbalance in our lives and move us from what we desire most: The comfortable and easy life. Instead of seeing the uniqueness of the moment that outdoes everything else, we prefer the commonplace.
Therefore, this lofty experience also manifests itself in genuine prayer, which is very difficult to attain, since real prayer also hurts and disturbs and throws us off balance. Real prayer demands a whole new approach to our lives, an encounter with the Divine of the highest order. The same happens with “marital intercourse” which is perhaps the most divine experience a human being can have—but since this is of such high intensity and sanctity, it may be violated easily.
I will write more on these topics in my next essay.