About Experiencing the Divine - Matthew Fox
Monday 1st July 2019
Carl Jung said that “the main purpose of organized religion is to prevent persons from having an experience of God.”
A number of years ago I was being interviewed on Dutch television by a young (about 40 years old), bright, dynamic and professional man who had done his homework. Immediately after the interview ended and the bright stage lights had been turned off, he leaned over and said to me: “I am dying to ask you a question that I did not want to ask on air–Do you Americans actually believe that people can still experience God?”
Obviously this question hit me hard—otherwise I would not have remembered it all these years. I suspect behind it is the near collapse of religious practice in Europe where in Germany about 5-6% of the population practice their Lutheran faith; in England about 6% of Anglicans; in France about 6% of Catholics, etc. etc. And in America the numbers are in free fall as well though they started at a more elevated place. Having just returned from lecturing in Ireland, there the numbers have fallen from 95% Roman Catholics practicing fifteen years ago to 14% today.
Carl Jung said that “the main purpose of organized religion is to prevent persons from having an experience of God.” Whether he is exactly correct or not it would seem he predicted a certain trend that is happening today.
One reason the experience of God appears distant and foreign to many Westerners is that mysticism has become rare in churches and seminaries for centuries. As Theodore Roszak put it, “the enlightenment held mysticism up for ridicule as the worst offence against science and reason.”
It is true that mysticism is other than rationality and intellect. But humans, as Einstein observed, are recipients of two “gifts”—intellect (rationality) and intuition (or “deep feeling” as Einstein calls it). Some people identify the former with our left brains and the latter with the right brain.
The Psalmist sings: “Taste and see that God is good.” Tasting is experiencing; no one can taste for you. No vicarious tasting therefore. But the message is that we can taste God. To taste is to experience.
Years ago psychologist R. D. Laing proposed that “God is our experience of God.” Of course in that context if we have not experienced God then that God does not exist (at least for us). Think about this: Is your partner the experience of your partner? Your friend your experience of your friend? It would appear to be quite accurate to propose that God is our Experience of God.