Spiritual Experiences Kept Secret
Many people today have spiritual experiences. That could be a feeling of oneness and awe in the face of tremendous beauty or a dream, vision, premonition, or deja-vu.
Yet spiritual but not religious (SBNR) people are hesitant to share their spiritual experiences with others. That is especially true if that other person is a minister, rabbi, or priest. They correctly assess that these types of experiences would raise eyebrows. In more extreme cases, intense spiritual experiences can be diagnosed as psychosis, and who wants that!
Take Rowan, a middle aged Canadian woman I interviewed. Rowan stays in the fold of organized religion, and considers herself spiritual but not religious. She loves singing in her church choir and the feeling of belonging to a religious community. But Rowan is also very interested in New Age. Things have not been easy juggling her religious bricolage, though. She told me that these days “when I talk to church people I am careful when I talk about spiritual experiences. I can say angels, but I won’t say nature spirits, or devas.”
Several years back she had a conflict with her minister. When he asked her if she believed that Jesus Christ was her only savior she said “Of course not!” The divine is in everything. It is in the rocks the sky the tundra, the birds, the whole land and everything that grows on it!” He told her “Well if that is the case, you cannot sing in the choir anymore.” Rowan left that congregation.
She told me “I was mad, really pissed off (pardon my language) that a minister, an ordained minister—a man of God—was so limited in his vision and understanding of creation. But from then on I was careful with my language. ”
Having spiritual experiences can make people turn away from formal religious institutions,if they don’t feel safe and supported there. In this case, they will seek guidance and encouragement from those who will understand them. This could be a spiritual counselor, psychotherapist, energy healer or a just friend who shares their views.
This type of turning away is a loss for religious groups. Not only do they run the risk of losing actual members, at the very least they lose a connection to spiritual energies that could breath life into their groups.
Whether you are a religious professional, teacher, therapist or doctor if you hope to win the trust of SBNRs you will need to be able to engage your “listening heart.” Even if you don’t agree with what you are hearing, this experience matters to the person telling you about it. Keeping an open mind will keep the door open.
It helps to remember that this type of information is very personal, and I always think it is a privilege to be trusted with the details of another person’s deepest, most intimate Self. There is plenty of good information available to orient you to spiritual experiences to help guide your own journey. For example there are many excellent books on spiritual direction that are suitable for professionals. Emma Bragdon’s The Call of Spiritual Emergency is another excellent resource.