Sharing Spiritual Experiences

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Kishkumen
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Sharing Spiritual Experiences

Post by Kishkumen »

I am not a huge fan of the sharing of personal spiritual experiences with others. Can't say I have never done it because I have. But when I think about the times I did it and regretted it, and what I perceive to be the downsides of doing it, I have to say that, on the whole, it is probably better to keep this stuff to yourself.

I say this not because I think there is anything wrong with spiritual experiences. Such experiences are, in my opinion, sacred. They make us feel deeply connected and satisfied; they can expand us and ennoble us. But their significance is highly subjective and personal. What we experience of a situation will usually not be what others experience of it from their own point of view. Subjected to the contradictory experience of others, our experiences, which are significant to us, are thrown into question by others who feel their own viewpoint is the right one in an exclusive sense.

For these reasons, I think it really isn't smart for people to bandy about their personal spiritual experiences.

Recently I came to see an uncanny experience from my past in a new light. I was talking on the phone with my mother, and I was on the verge of sharing that experience, when both of us sensed that it probably wasn't a good idea to do so. I stopped, and nothing more needed to be said on the subject. If fact, not saying something seemed somehow more powerful and meaningful than saying it.

I like to apply this personal conclusion in the cases of what appear to be bogus miracle stories told by LDS GAs in meetings. We have a tendency to mythologize our own experiences, but such mythologization does not stand up to the cold light of factual scrutiny very well. Some will say, "duh, that's because myths are lies and facts are true; it's a good thing that the falseness of such stories is revealed for what it is."

I only partly agree. I agree that those who go out and trade in these stories probably deserve to have their balloon popped by others. Why? Because sharing these personal myths may be interpreted as self-aggrandizement, and not infrequently I am pretty sure that it is a form of self-aggrandizement. On the other hand, for people in the right setting and shared frame of mind, it may not be bad to share these personal myths--but I think those occasions are actually pretty rare. Usually, it is better to savor the experience as one interpreted it and keep it to one's self.

One of the problems with the LDS Church, in my view, is the tendency there is to try to make the spiritual mechanically predictable. All of the stuff about inviting the spirit and obedience binding God to keep promises, etc. It is tempting to seek the comfort of a more predictable world, but all such attempts at making a reality that goes way beyond our comprehension predictable is doomed to failure. Those who insist that reality conform to their expectations invite madness and a tortured soul. It is also, I believe, a cause of cynicism and what is called "apostasy."

Apostasy is thus manufactured by a Church and culture that inculcate false expectations in its membership, partly in the way LDS GAs try to present themselves as spiritual success stories experiencing miraculous lives, and all because of their obedience to the Church. Now post-Mormon podcasters, such as the excellent RFM, and people here on the old DM, brilliant minds and stylistic adepts, come along and pop the bubble with ease. That's because it was never mechanical, never predictable, never a simple formula for success, and the LDS GAs are not, after all, great sages and spiritual giants. More importantly, the mystery of personal experience is not a cheap formula.

The minute these GA stories (or tedious monthly testimonies) go out in the wild, stories about perfect calm in situations of deathly peril, etc., they are subjected to wider scrutiny, and they just don't live up to the hype. It is not so much that Nelson did not ever experience something he thought was significant, but over time his recollection morphed, untamed by corroborating fact, and eventually this wild critter bit its caretaker on the butt.

But that's what was always going to happen. Someday, the stories would catch up to their tellers. Someday, the itching ears of those who indulge themselves in this treacly nonsense would hear the discordant notes. The wise thing to do is, with few exceptions, leave the special experience special to yourself and a very few people (when the time is right). Don't sell yourself or aggrandize yourself by going out to testify of all your miraculous experiences. Eventually, it will lead to a big let down for just about everyone involved.
"Stubborn audacity is the last refuge of guilt." ~ Samuel Johnson
dastardly stem
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Re: Sharing Spiritual Experiences

Post by dastardly stem »

Thoughtful post, Kishkumen. I really enjoy it.

Treating spiritual experiences as a reliable source of defining ultimate truth seems problematic to me. That's my main concern with it. To me spiritual experience is simply our own selves playing creative games with ourselves to give us hope or encouragement on moments of enlightenment. Some are more creative in that regard than others. Exulting in spiritual experience, given it is not much more than ourselves being creative, appears to be no less another game of wishing to elevate oneself over others. LDS leaders and apostles feel that pressure to be elevated above others. Seems like a terrible way to go to me. When religions are involved, spiritual experience is simply a tool for exploitation.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
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Kishkumen
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Re: Sharing Spiritual Experiences

Post by Kishkumen »

dastardly stem wrote:
Fri Sep 23, 2022 3:20 pm
Thoughtful post, Kishkumen. I really enjoy it.

Treating spiritual experiences as a reliable source of defining ultimate truth seems problematic to me. That's my main concern with it. To me spiritual experience is simply our own selves playing creative games with ourselves to give us hope or encouragement on moments of enlightenment. Some are more creative in that regard than others. Exulting in spiritual experience, given it is not much more than ourselves being creative, appears to be no less another game of wishing to elevate oneself over others. LDS leaders and apostles feel that pressure to be elevated above others. Seems like a terrible way to go to me. When religions are involved, spiritual experience is simply a tool for exploitation.
Thanks, stem. And thank you for sharing your personal views on spiritual experiences. I also see the existence of a culture that encourages people to share these experiences, perhaps unwisely, and that it is not necessarily a good thing. I am not sure that everyone is always conscious of the bad places this can lead, or that they cynically jockey for position in this way, but the results speak pretty strongly, whether people consciously have bad intentions or not.
"Stubborn audacity is the last refuge of guilt." ~ Samuel Johnson
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Physics Guy
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Re: Sharing Spiritual Experiences

Post by Physics Guy »

Jake Barnes wrote:You'll lose it, if you talk about it.
What if fire is only the first of a million such things?
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Kishkumen
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Re: Sharing Spiritual Experiences

Post by Kishkumen »

Physics Guy wrote:
Fri Sep 23, 2022 8:09 pm
Jake Barnes wrote:You'll lose it, if you talk about it.
Nice.
"Stubborn audacity is the last refuge of guilt." ~ Samuel Johnson
msnobody
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Re: Sharing Spiritual Experiences

Post by msnobody »

I think sometimes we share spiritual experiences with others and later do wish we had not. I know I've had several lesser spiritual experiences and probably three major spiritual experiences. Of the major ones, which were deeply personal, I've only shared with a small number of people. The major ones had to do with either being in the midst of a deeply troubling times in my life or an experience that was preparing me for something that was going to happen in the near future.

It is sometimes hard to gauge who to share these experiences with and whom not to share them with. I do think there can be great value in sharing spiritual experiences with others. I think sometimes others benefit from our sharing our spiritual experiences with them and vice versa. It is always nice when you know for sure someone that it is safe to share with or someone who has had a similar experience. I've learned too, that God works in mysterious ways and that sometimes it is later that I understand spiritual experiences more fully.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it costs all you have, get understanding. Prov. 4:7
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Re: Sharing Spiritual Experiences

Post by msnobody »

Let me add that sharing should not be used a tool of manipulation, if that makes sense. I suppose sharing deeply personal spiritual experiences could be used as tools of manipulation by the sharer or sharee (sp?).
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it costs all you have, get understanding. Prov. 4:7
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Kishkumen
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Re: Sharing Spiritual Experiences

Post by Kishkumen »

msnobody wrote:
Fri Sep 23, 2022 8:19 pm
Let me add that sharing should not be used a tool of manipulation, if that makes sense. I suppose sharing deeply personal spiritual experiences could be used as tools of manipulation by the sharer or sharee (sp?).
Thanks for chiming in, msnobody. I will respond to both posts in this single post. Sharing spiritual experiences is a very personal decision and I think one needs to be very careful about it. Only do so when it feels like the right thing to do, and only go in with some sense of who it is you are sharing them with. My two cents anyway.

At present I don't think I will be sharing any of mine. I hope no one is put off by that. It is not personal. I just don't feel inclined to do so. I don't understand it all well enough to be confident regarding my judgment of the matter.

And I agree with you: under no circumstances should personal spiritual experiences be used to manipulate others. There is an epidemic of that behavior in LDS culture, particularly among the young 20 somethings.
"Stubborn audacity is the last refuge of guilt." ~ Samuel Johnson
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Re: Sharing Spiritual Experiences

Post by msnobody »

Kishkumen wrote:
Fri Sep 23, 2022 8:28 pm
msnobody wrote:
Fri Sep 23, 2022 8:19 pm
Let me add that sharing should not be used a tool of manipulation, if that makes sense. I suppose sharing deeply personal spiritual experiences could be used as tools of manipulation by the sharer or sharee (sp?).
Thanks for chiming in, msnobody. I will respond to both posts in this single post. Sharing spiritual experiences is a very personal decision and I think one needs to be very careful about it. Only do so when it feels like the right thing to do, and only go in with some sense of who it is you are sharing them with. My two cents anyway.

At present I don't think I will be sharing any of mine. I hope no one is put off by that. It is not personal. I just don't feel inclined to do so. I don't understand it all well enough to be confident regarding my judgment of the matter.

And I agree with you: under no circumstances should personal spiritual experiences be used to manipulate others. There is an epidemic of that behavior in LDS culture, particularly among the young 20 somethings.
Agreed. I suppose I come from a much different culture where it is often safer to share those types of experiences (not always). In fact, I know I do. I come from a church culture where we often confess our sins to one another, even the clergy. I just can't imagine that ever happening in the LDS church and rarely among her members. I imagine that makes it feel very isolating.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it costs all you have, get understanding. Prov. 4:7
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Re: Sharing Spiritual Experiences

Post by JohnW »

Great thoughts Kishkumen. Agreed, spiritual experiences are often difficult to understand ourselves, let alone for someone with a whole lot less information. I think a lot of what we see (good and bad) in the church is the natural messiness of a community of humans. I'm not sure how easily you would moderate this sort of thing. Sometimes the more you try to moderate the worse things get. I know it was sometimes nigh impossible to manage testimony meetings. There were lots of times I just hoped the congregation understood the background of the person and gave them a bit of a pass.
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