A Cautionary Note on Seeking Experiences

Scattered throughout this website are accounts of people who have received contemplative experiences, moments of enlightenment, awakenings of kundalini energy, and so forth. These things do happen, and it is precisely because they exist, and powerfully shape the lives of those who receive them, and our spiritual traditions, that it is important to listen to them and freely discuss them.

But such accounts would do us a disservice if they made us indescriminate seekers after experiences. We need to make a distinction between what could be called experiences at the center of things, and accessory ones. In the life of prayer, for example, the experience of contemplation is at the heart of things, but visions and voices are accessory. Or in the pursuit of psychological growth, the experience of individuation is central, but messages from the beyond are accessory.

But even when it is a question of experiences at the center of things, we need to realize that they do not come to everyone in the same way. Not many people, for example, receive infused contemplation, and even those who do need to go forward in faith. And this journey by faith is something we can all do. Does this turn the experience of contemplation into an accessory one? I don’t think so. It is a central experience that we can aspire to because it is a conscious awareness of God’s presence in the depths of our souls. But this union exists, and we can deepen it, even if it does not become conscious in the way it does in infused contemplation. Similarly, the awakening of kundalini energy, if we understand its purpose as a movement towards enlightenment, is a central experience. But who is to say that it cannot be going on below the threshold of consciousness without dramatic movements of energy being visible? Do we really want to have these central experiences in their manifest forms? Read some of the accounts of these experiences, and the suffering that accompanies them, and decide for yourself!

We should not become seekers after experiences because it is the accessory experiences with their highly tangible natures that often first appeal to us and attract our attention. If we let them, they can lead us on a chase that deflects us from our spiritual goals. Experiences at the center of things can throw valuable light on what we are all called to, and they can inspire us to pursue our inner journeys. But we go on these journeys in our own particular ways, and life, itself, day by day, gives us ample opportunities to do this.


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