“Don’t worry. That bear chasing us doesn’t eat people.” Would you believe that?
Over the decades, the official advice about bears has changed a bit. Years ago, we were told that bears won’t eat you, they only attack if they are startled or protecting their cubs. So, play dead and the bear will go away. But if you had been out hiking with friends, stalked by a bear, and your buddy killed and eaten, then no amount of arguing with the park ranger would convince you to play dead next time. Your personal experience would be far more powerful than any intellectual or scientific arguments. Experience trumps intellect.
With the gradual accumulation of evidence, the scientific community changed its tune and now realizes that black bears will stalk you, kill you, and eat you. So if you’re attacked by a black bear—fight like hell!
What’s that got to do with our spiritual life? Or the topic of this post, “Is There a God”? Remember, last week I mentioned there are two key concepts that I think help us to understand this eternal question a bit differently in our modern age. The first concept is that consciousness somehow exists outside of physical reality. We know we are conscious. We know we have a mind. But the mind is not physical. We don’t even have a clear scientific connection between what is physical (like our brain) and consciousness.
So, all of us “know” on a level beyond physical reality. All of us “experience” on a level beyond physical reality. What do we call this non-physical existence? People have called it lots of things. I call it “spiritual reality”. I know that’s too vague, but it’s the best I can do right now. I believe spiritual reality is a very BIG and complex place that no one understands much about.
So, the first concept is: there is a spiritual reality. The second concept I call: experience trumps intellect. The “bear” story is an example of what I mean. Sometimes we have a personal experience that contradicts what “experts” tell us. We believe our own experience.
In the realm of spiritual things, I see a gradual shift occurring as more people have obvious spiritual experiences. I came of age when the first book about near-death experiences (as they are now called) was published. I read Life After Life (Raymond Moody, 1975) in high school and it dramatically changed my understanding of reality. That book was the first trickle in what has become a flood of books, videos, and movies about direct experiences with spiritual reality. If you’ve had a near-death experience, no amount of scientific argument will convince you that there’s no such thing as a soul. You know you are a soul in a direct, visceral way that intellect cannot assault. I haven’t had such an experience myself. But just like I don’t have to wait until I’m eaten by a bear to realize that bears will eat you, I don’t have to have my own near-death experience to learn from those who have.
I see this tsunami of personal spiritual experience gradually overwhelming the logical apologists who try to use various intellectual arguments to show that God does, or does not, exist. As more people have spiritual experiences and do the personal work of developing themselves spiritually, apologetics will fall by the wayside.
So yes, Virginia, there really is a God. You really are a soul. You really are eternal. You really can connect with your eternal soul and with God (however you conceive God to be). It’s a bit ironic that after millennia of intellectual arguments—from the ancients, through Aristotle, to Aquinas, and up to the present day—we may see that none of this really matters, because spiritual experience trumps intellect.
God Bless You!