Talking is good. Face to face, or otherwise. One of those other ways is through what I like to call "comment conversations."
These frequently happen on this blog -- where people exchange a series of comments on some blog post subject. A recent post, "Modern mystics, why should anyone believe your 'vision'?", elicited some comments from me and others that got me thinking.
Also a good thing.
Below I'll share my comment that is a less organized form of what follows in this post. Which is, a schema that describes how I've come to view the more desirable and less desirable ways of talking about personal spiritual experiences.
Here's the schema as it currently stands.
(1) Simply describing a personal spiritual experience or insight. This is utterly fine, in my view. It is almost exactly akin to talking about a movie someone has seen, or a dream that they had. I experienced such-and-such. This is what went through my mind. I have zero problem with people doing this. It's natural to want to share something interesting that happened to us.
(2) Expecting that someone else should have the same personal spiritual experience or insight. This is much more problematic. It's like me saying, "I really liked the movie Boyhood. You should see it, because you'll enjoy the movie just as much as I did." Or, "Riding a motorcycle is super fun. Everybody should get one."
People are different. Each of us likes different things. We react in various ways to the same experience. One person screams with joy on a roller-coaster, wanting the ride to go on and on. Another screams in terror, wanting the ride to be over as soon as possible.
Further, it likely is impossible for two people to have exactly the same experience of anything. At the least, there is no way of knowing that my experience of tasting a strawberry, say, is the same as anyone else's. And if this is true of objects in the physical realm, it is even more true of mental objects: concepts, feelings, ideas, thoughts, and such.
So even though I might consider that standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, or seeing the Pope preside over mass at the Vatican, was a life-changing experience for me (actually, neither is true), I have little or no reason to believe that anyone else will feel the same way.
(3) Considering that a personal spiritual experience or insight points to an objective truth about reality. I really have a problem with someone doing this. Shared reality, objective reality, whatever you want to call it -- this is common ground belonging to everyone.
No one has a right to define what reality is based merely on a subjective personal experience.
If someone has an inner vision of Jesus, of heaven, or of God, that's great. I'll be pleased to listen to them talk about what they experienced, so long as they speak in line with (1) above, simply describing what they experienced.
Often (2) and (3) seem to go together.
Meaning, I get the feeling that when someone urges other people to try to have the same personal spiritual experience or insight that they had, he or she believes that what was experienced reflected a supernatural, divine, or transcendent realm of reality that possesses objective existence.
For example, not only was a vision of Jesus, God, angels, or whatever experienced, this entity is considered to actually exist outside of the person's own mind. This is a giant claim about reality that deserves giant proof to be believable.
Skepticism, questioning, demands for evidence -- these are entirely appropriate if someone tries to convert a description of a personal subjective experience, (1) above, into a statement about how the cosmos truly is in a objective way.
Here's my blog post comment, which covers similar ground, albeit not in a 1,2,3 fashion. I fixed a few grammatical errors.
tucson, here's how I see things...
I feel that most of us, me included sometimes, fall into the Other People Experience Things Like I Do delusion.
This applies to physical experiences, of course. Even more so to mental experiences (which are physical at heart, I'd say, but have an inward feel to them).
Example: my wife goes with me to see the current Radha Soami Satsang Beas guru, Gurinder Singh. She gets to sit in the front row, really close to him. Devotees tell her, "You're going to have an amazing experience."
Actually, she didn't feel like the guru was anything other than a normal human being. The experience was nothing special.
Likewise, and even more so, I think we all have the feeling that if other people could share our inward experiences regarding the Meaning of the Universe, they would see things the way we do.
However, if other people felt inwardly the same way we do, they would be us. Since they obviously are themselves, not us, we can't expect other people to experience things the same way.
So when you speak of "realizing" some truth, this isn't the same as seeing some physical object. Yes, everyone in the room with normal eyesight saw the guru sitting on a stage, but everybody in the room had a different experience of this encounter.
Like I said, this applies even more so when the "object" is mental, like an experience of the non duality of the cosmos. I really don't think we can expect that anyone else will have the same experience. Or if they do have a similar experience, that it will have the same meaning for them.
Another down to earth example: I get lots of comments and questions when people see me riding my bright yellow StreetStrider outdoor elliptical bike around. I always say, "It's so much fun!" But what I really mean is, "It's so much fun for me."
So far I don't believe anyone, out of the dozens I've talked to, has decided to get their own StreetStrider.
Reason: they are them, and I am me. My enjoyment of my own experience isn't diminished by other people failing to understand it, or not wanting to share it. I realize that my experience is subjective, and other people might not find any enjoyment in doing what I do.
Thus this is where I think spirituality and religion go awry. Believers assume that what they have experienced can, and should, be experienced by everybody. They make something objective out of something subjective.