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.
Religionis a form of organized groupactivity 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
Experiencesand mentalstatesinvolving personalencounters 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.
Oneof thepractical consequencesof thesespiritual 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
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
Theperceptual changes that happencan 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.
Anothercommon phenomenonthat resultsfrom directexperience 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!
Next: Monotheism vs. Polytheism (Dan Holdgriewe)