Context: Spirit Persons in Many Cultures

The world of Spirit is another dimension or layer or level of reality in addition to the visible world of our ordinary experience.

~ Marcus Borg

A Spirit person or religious ecstatic is one who has frequent and vivid experiences of the sacred.

Most of these experiences involve non-ordinary states of consciousness such as vision, shamanic journeys, mystical experiences, or enlightenment experiences.

Visions are:

  • Momentarily seeing into another reality

Shamanic journeys:

  • Include a sense of awareness of seeing into another reality.
  • Include entering that other level of reality, journeying in that other reality.
  • Jesus’ temptation experience may be seen as a shamanic journey.

Mystical experiences can take several forms:

  • Eyes open: One sees the same landscape but it looks different, often as if light is shining through everything. One sees the whole earth filled with glory of God. Moses’ experience of the burning bush may be an eyes open mystical experience.
  • Eyes closed: Often occurs during meditation, as one goes into a deep level of the self which opens out to the deep ocean of God that is the sacred.
  • Both involve a profound sense of connectedness between self, world, and God.

Enlightenment experiences are:

Mystical experiences with a strong emphasis on a new way of seeing

  • For example: “I once was blind, but now I see
  • Martin Buber’s I-Thou experiences are experiences of the spirit

Experiences of the sacred are:

Noetic experiences, involving a strong sense of both knowing and feeling. For example:

  • In that moment I came to see things as they really are.
  • In that moment I felt like I was seeing more clearly than I ever had in my life.

Transformative, especially if they happen frequently:

  • Transformative of one’s way of seeing
  • Transformative of one’s way of being
  • Evoke compassion because they shatter the artificiality of cultural categories

Spirit persons:

  • Experience the sacred frequently and vividly
  • Become mediators of the sacred, a conduit for the power or wisdom of God to enter this world

Questions to ponder...

How do you define spirituality?

What is the connection between spirit and spirituality?

NextJesus as a Spirit Person

Early and multiple traditions point to Jesus as a spirit person, in touch with the sacred, the spirit of God.