There is a rhythm to life. The trick is being aware of it, feeling it in your self, and recognizing how it helps us to experience the wholeness of life. For me, the rhythm of this end of year season is a desire to complete my exploration of numinosity. I want to take time to share a last story on the subject and make a few reflections on what I have learned.
First I offer a cautionary that was presented in the April 2012 essay and reinforced in a recent dream. I remember the story of the man who wanted to travel with the prophet Elijah to learn the source of his wisdom, and learned instead that divine wisdom is often contrary to our human sense of right and wrong. Human wisdom is colored by human perspective and does not see the whole of life -but always willing to play the fool- I venture to make these very human observations about numinosity from a year of exploring the subject through stories.
GENERAL DEFINITION OF NUMINOSITY: An unusual, non-ordinary or heightened mode of spiritual/psychological awareness. This awareness can be caused by an external or internal stimulus. It is not subject to verification by the power of human reason, and it cannot be created. It happens when we live life fully and wholly.
Numinosity often happens in service to others. We saw this in the story of the musician who cared for her mother at the end of life (November 2012 interview). I have a sister story to share from another woman who traveled to China to help a friend adopt a child.
Both of these woman experienced numinosity in service to another. They also share another common awareness: both are highly intuitive. They are adept at living life subjectively, with their eyes and ears only half open, as Carl Jung suggest that we do. This is not always easy for me. I am prone to directing my life as reason directs me. This is perhaps why I felt so positive about the handling of my mother’s end of life (November 2011 essay). It would have been reasonable to call the medical staff when I saw that the end of life was near for Ruby, instead I held her hand, sang hymns, and encouraged her journey to a new reality.
What are some of the other understandings that I have discovered in this year of talking to people about numinosity? Experiences that take us out of the normal, that allow us to experience the numinous, do not necessarily come from what we think of as the positive in life. We saw this in our April 2012 interview. But even more importantly, we learned in the Elijah story of that essay that human reason is not always the best judge of what is a positive or a negative experience in our lives. Human reason should always be tempered by taking the time to listen to the heart, the subjective reading of a life experience. None of us will ever embody the wisdom of Elijah, but it is important to make use of all of our tools of human understanding.
Two of our interviews in March and June of 2012, focused on the stimulus of the natural world for an experience of the numinous. It is interesting that one was a group experience, and the other an individual experience. Both were experiences of youth and exhibited the qualities of the young who enter into life experiences with innocence and exuberance. My own experience in the natural world, that exhibited elements of the numinous- the July 2012 essay on experiencing a Swedish thunderstorm- was again colored by my reasonable and cautious nature. There is footnote to the Swedish thunderstorm story. Last week I told this story to a gathering of friends in an outdoor setting. We were gathered by candle light under a clear, winter’s night sky. A light wind was blowing. As I made humor in my story at the expense of the Norse god of storms, Thor, a sudden gust of wind blew out all of the candles! I stopped my story and we all looked at each other. People laughed uncomfortably. The looks on their faces asked, “what was that?”. Carl Jung would call it a synchronicity- two events that are causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet occur together in a meaningful way. I prefer to think of it as a bit of numinosity in my otherwise reasonable life.
A couple of last observations about experiencing numinosity in our lives. These experiences are not the result of our piety or our spiritual discipline; they are the result of being true to our nature, whether we are young and exuberant, or old and doing the right thing by caring for a dying parent. Numinosity happens in the process of living honestly and being open to the negative and positive experiences of life. Rat and Mole in The Wind in the Willows story experienced (February 2012 essay) numinosity because they went out to find a lost friend, not because they were seeking it.
Nevertheless, having said that you cannot manufacture numinosity by living a spiritual life, I suggest that we can be aware of the opportunities for numinosity. I like the idea of The Annunciation that was shared in the November 2012 essay. Like the virgin Mary, we need to be open to hearing the voice of the angel Gabriel. We need the innocence and exuberance of youth, the strength to see the positive in the negative of our lives, and the perspicacity to honor reason while also listening to our hearts. It is not so easy to live such a life, but maybe that is why numinosity is not part of everyday life.
When we started this exploration of the subject of numinosity a year ago, I suggested the idea of a crackerbarrel storytelling experience where one story leads to another; and in the process, we learn from each other and create a sense of common, shared experience. I feel this has been true for me in doing the interviews and reflecting upon them over the past year. In the new year I want to change the focus a little. Just as I first became aware of the subject of numinosity through my study of Carl Jung, I want to begin a new set of interviews with people talking about Jung’s concept of individuation. My next blog will introduce this subject and offer my reasons for exploring it.