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Have you ever experienced the numinous?

 
 
Piffka
 
Reply Mon 18 Nov, 2002 10:20 pm
Have you ever experienced the numinous and been able to integrate it into your life?

The experience of the numinous is described by the 19th C. theologist, Rudolf Otto, as "the distinctive experience of God, at once ineffably transcendent, remote, yet stirring a recognition that here is the primary source of beauty and love." (Oxford University Press) [Numinous is from Latin numen: literally a "nod of the head," as in giving a command, hence "divine power." (from the Word of the Day).] I believe this definition can be extended to our giving a nod to the divine in the presence of this special experience.

It is a not uncommon experience. Some people feel it during emotional moments in their lives, weddings, births, deaths. Others feel it frequently in the presence of nature's extreme beauty -- a sunrise, a mountain, a seascape. Daoists believed that to attain Dao, you must surround yourself with the numinous (the blissful realms, the heavenly grottos).

The children's book The Wind in the Willows may contain the greatest English language description of a numinous experience - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It is a long passage but explained beautifully by Van Morrison in his song, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn:

The coolness of the riverbank, and the whispering of the reeds
Daybreak is not so very far away

Enchanted and spellbound, in the silence they lingered
And rowed the boat as the light grew steadily strong
And the birds were silent, as they listened for the heavenly music
And the river played the song

The wind in the willows and the piper at the gates of dawn
The wind in the willows and the piper at the gates of dawn

The song dream happened and the cloven hoofed piper
Played in that holy ground where they felt the awe and wonder
And they all were unafraid of the great god Pan

And the wind in the willows and the piper at the gates of dawn
The wind in the willows and the piper at the gates of dawn

When the vision vanished they heard a choir of birds singing
In the heavenly silence between the trance and the reeds
And they stood upon the lawn and listened to the silence ....
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Nov, 2002 10:30 pm
Interesting!

I believe I have, twice; once in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, sitting on a natural rock formation much like a throne, overlooking miles and miles of lakes and pines and rocky islands, a breeze in my hair. The second, as I crossed a bridge in Paris. Both times, I was quite alone.
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New Haven
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Nov, 2002 10:33 pm
bbb
Periodically, I'll have an epiphany.

Rolling Eyes
Rolling Eyes
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Piffka
 
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Reply Mon 18 Nov, 2002 10:59 pm
Sozobe - Sounds nice. The Boundary Waters made an impact on Mr. PFK as well. It must be a fabulous place. How strange that it would happen crossing a bridge in Paris -- the two spots could hardly be more different... though in both cases moving water was nearby.

An epiphany, New Haven? An awakening to the divine? Do you recall the circumstance?

As I was describing a place in the Florida Keys earlier on the forum, I realized that was where I had my first numinous experience. I was alone in the early morning on a deserted railway bridge. The sun was rising and the sky was filled with color. There was a light warm wind and a sweet fragrance to the briny air. Suddenly a huge turtle popped up in the water and I felt the most intense connection to it, as though I were in the water too and could feel the waves, the coolness, and the bouyancy. I was elated for the rest of the day. Since then (and it's been more than twenty years) I've become an early riser so that I can watch the day begin. There is nearly always some spectacular bit of natural beauty to astonish and fill me with awe.
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New Haven
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Nov, 2002 11:02 pm
Frequently, I'll have an epiphany, when looking at small birds chirping or just hopping along. I suppose it's nature that connects me to God.

Very Happy
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Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Nov, 2002 11:11 pm
There was a wonderful man on abuzz, Himself, who wrote once about (I think) Emerson having a bird land on his shoulder while he was working in his garden. He said that it was one of the most special moments of his life.

This morning I had the misfortune to find a mouse in my kitchen garbage as I was taking it out to the garbage can (pick up was today). I quickly stashed the bag into the can thinking, one less mouse to catch in a trap. Then I began to feel guilty. I tried to ignore it and tossed more garbage in. Did an errand or two. Finally on the way home & passing that garbage can I realized I had to let that creature out. I couldn't let him be crushed in the maw of the garbage truck. It wasn't too gross, I pulled out the kitchen garbage bag, and he was still there, like an obedient pet. I dropped the bag to the ground and he carefully crawled out, beautifully, perfectly formed. He looked at me and winked. And then he hopped off. That was a bit of the numinous for me today.
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blatham
 
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Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 04:53 am
Golly, I haven't bumped into 'numinous' for a while. I was never terribly fond of it, its formulation containing that other term 'god' which is perhaps my least favorite word.

None of which is to deny the profound nature of such experiences. Freud notes that deeply religious folks sometimes describe the feeling of the experience as 'oceanic', and of course most of us have experienced something like 'oneness' at special times.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 06:45 am
I've had numinous experiences, or, if you will, epiphanies--but the suggestion that there is a deity at "the other end" of such an experience is to fail of understanding what is very likely a profound psychological experience for which our vocabularies are inadequate of admitting a description to make that experience universally comprehensible. This doesn't mean a big, ill-tempered, white-bearded adolescent in the sky got bored, and decided to fire all of my synapses at once . . .
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Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 06:59 am
I hesitated to use the definition (which included God in caps) as offered by the Oxford Press. To me it would make more sense to say it is the realization or even identification of something that is the source.

Trust me, I am not a Lutheran (pardon me if you are). The white-bearded adolescent described by most religions has nothing for me.

I see these feelings as proof of the universe... not just an internal experience. For example, I am overwhelmed by the beauty, symmetry and chaos shown in astronomical photographs. I don't believe that a deity has stirred his finger into the pot to create that, however it is there. I can't explain it, but I can appreciate it. I can love it.
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hebba
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 07:20 am
I can´t possibly have experienced this as I would certainly have remembered it.Crossing one of the many Parisian bridges has always been a joy.I lived there 10 years ago and crossed lots of them but Sozobe´s experience outweighs any of mine.
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Piffka
 
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Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 07:40 am
That is true. You'd know it if had happened... sort of like... well. Oh, never mind.
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blatham
 
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Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 08:50 am
Piffka and Setanta

The definition given is historically proper. But regardless of how Otto understood (or misunderstood) the world, what he attempted to point to is surely a category of experience which many or most of us know. And it seems entirely comprehensible to me that he or William James or anyone might link this experience with notions of god or spirit simply because we understand experiences in the framework of our cultural heritage. As Setanta says, our vocabularies are inadequate here, as in many other situations (love, passion).
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husker
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 08:50 am
I frequently have experiences of the Holy Spirit leading and revealing.
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Piffka
 
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Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 09:07 am
Husker - I think that the Holy Spirit as defined by Christianity is exactly that. You are lucky you have that, don't you think? I see the numinous as a way to express awe within lots of different religions, yet it is also available to the non-religious.

I was surprised that the Daoists use it in English translations to express notions they had very early on (BCE). I don't think the word came into being until Otto, just as synchronicity was coined by Jung. Our vocabularies are inadequate, but growing.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 09:16 am
Maybe. No. Well, I one time experienced what is locally called "The Rocky Mountain High".
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Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 09:26 am
That sounds nice! Were you up in the mountains at sunrise? I mix it up with the purkinje shift... gotta have the visuals, I guess. You're from one of the most numinous states I've been in... lucky you.

Jan Evangelista Purkinje was born in Libochovice, Bohemia (Czech Republic) on December 17, 1787. Gotta love this guy, we share our birthday (not the year!).
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husker
 
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Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 09:41 am
By the way - I've was to the boundry waters 3 times as a teen.
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Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 09:44 am
I didn't realize you grew up in the midwest (big surmise here). I'd love to see the Boundary Waters and I don't mind canoeing, but I do not like to portage!
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husker
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 10:03 am
First year there we portaged like 6 times, to see a float plane coming in.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Nov, 2002 10:22 am
Actually, the mountains at twilight, pifka. That southern spur of the Rockies called the San Juans, at about 8,500'. Maybe the altitude was involved, though I've make later backpacking trips at much higher elevations and it never happened again.
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