My request was simple: Please send me a page or two on a time you had an experience with divinity, the supernatural, God- however you would like to describe it. They began arriving in my inbox. Their stories ranged from the day a phone call saved someone’s life, to sitting quietly in the morning with a glass of orange juice, experiencing God.
What does a religious experience look like to you?
Are Mircea Eliade’s hierophanies things we only see on television? Are Rudolf Otto’s numinous experiences things that only happened to people long ago? Is it possible that experiences with the divine are happening all the time, only people are afraid to talk about them?
I’ve created photographs to tell their experiences through visual art. Ultimately, I hope people can see that the numinous is not something reserved for holy people who lived 2,000 years ago- it’s entirely out of our control when, who, and where someone might have an experience. Taking time to listen to the voices and hold the memories of those living today matters.
While taking an incredible course called Religious Dimensions in Human Experience: Apocalypse, Sports, Music, Home, Sacrifice, Medicine from Prof. Davíd Carrasco, I started to realize that there are stories of modern encounters with a higher power that never see the light of day for fear of ridicule.
I took a page from William James, the Harvard alumni and famous psychologist and philosopher, who wrote a book called The Varieties of Religious Experience. He collected experiences from people he knew and presented them without mocking them or yelling “HOAX!” in the newspapers. I asked friends to refer me to people who might want to talk.
I exchanged emails and calls with Catholic Priests, atheists, members of the LDS Church, Pagans, Muslims, and everyone in between. I use denominations here as an aside, because what I was truly looking for was not one religion but a multitude of people. They were mothers and fathers, children, friends, teachers, artists, retail workers, and even dog treat
bakers. They are people we all know. They are people we are.
THE BASSET HOUND
“I was in the usual after work stare at my phone stupor, when on the very next stop, comes the most beautiful Tri-color Basset Hound ambling in with his owner. He got on the train, looked at me, and sat directly next to me with his owner. This moment absolutely took my breath away.”
“It’s October 29, 2019. I’m in Seoul to see BTS for their final concert of their Love Yourself: Speak Yourself Tour. It’s a day I had been anticipating
since August, when I won the ticket through a fan raffle.”
I saw the beautiful glass cups and the red plastic cups, my mind flashed back to what I saw in a trance during my prayer.”
The book is broken into three parts:
Mysterium, Tremendum and Fascinans.
I’ve sorted each of the experiences into one of those categories. Don’t worry- I will explain what those mean when we get to them. For now, let’s start by setting an intention to journey through this book with an open heart and an open mind.