Communion With Our Ancestors

When we started an exploration of the experience of the numinous, I choose not to define it; other than to say, that it takes us out of the norm of life.  You will remember that I became fascinated with this subject out of my experience of the death of my mother. We talked about the portals of life, birth and death, as being times when we explore these boundaries of the normal, every day life.

As we have not tried to define the experience, I have not controlled the way that numinous experiences are shared. This month the experience comes from an oral story. I have edited the story from a longer interview. Because the experience is very personal, the subject, a woman, has chosen not to share her identity.

I will offer a few words to explain the following personal story. The subject begins by describing her mother, her mother’s beliefs, and the circumstances of their single parent with two children family. Patience is required in listening to the story, there are periodic pauses as the file loads the next section of interview. The wait is well worth the ten minutes it takes to listen to this powerful story.

(audio interview about a numinous experience)

A reflection on the numinous in this story: It is interesting that three of the four examples of numinosity, that we have explored to date, have grown out of what most of us would call a negative experience. This reminds me of the story of a man who asked to accompany the prophet, Elijah, on his wanderings through the world. Elijah agreed on one condition, the man could not question his actions. If he did question Elijah’s actions then the relationship would be ended. That night they stopped at the house of a poor, old couple and asked for lodging. They were received with good cheer, a simple meal and a place to sleep the night in the old couple’s only bed. In the morning, before they continued their wandering, Elijah prayed that the only cow of the old couple should die, and it did. The man was perplexed, but he did not question the holy man. The second night they came to the home of a rich man. They were greeted coldly. No food was provided, and they were given a place to sleep with the animals. In the morning the rich man required a favor of Elijah as payment for his hospitality. He asked the holy man to repair a stone wall between his house and the place where the animals slept.  Elijah agreed and in an instant the stone wall appeared. When they continued their wandering, the man could not contain his questions of the holy man. He demanded a reasonable  explanation of Elijah’s responses to the two receptions. The holy man smiled and responded: the poor couples’ cow was sacrificed because I knew on that day the death of the old woman had been ordained in heaven. I prayed to God to accept the cow in place of the woman. As for the rich man, there was a treasure of gold hidden in the place where the wall was to be repaired. If the rich man had done the work, he would have found the treasure. His treatment of guests did not merit greater wealth. With that said, the prophet Elijah turned away from the man and set off in the opposite directions. He left the man to ponder the wisdom of his good reason. Indeed, what seems reasonable to us may not fathom a greater wisdom.

I welcome other reflections on the subject of the numinous in our world. Also, I welcome stories that share your numinous experience.

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