Spiritual experience and the limits of languagePosted: March 28, 2011
A bit of a ramble on spiritual experiences and how/why we communicate them…
I wonder will there come a time when we run out of language to accommodate for experiences? Will we need to communicate our experiences (throughout this writing I am referring to inner-sort of experiences). Do we need to now? What does it accomplish? Can we prove things to others with stories?
It seems we have already reached some sort of threshold of this sort. Modern man has become accustom to many experiences that are ever increasingly difficult to put into words and explain to another properly. Sometimes things we experience seem to require a novel or perhaps a series to properly portray the deep and subtle meanings of our experiences.
I think this is because of how many inputs we receive at any given moment. As time moves on and technology grows, we are constantly adding more and more simultaneous sensory inputs to any given moment of perception. It is common for one to remember a certain person on a rainy day, or a certain day in their life that was memorable for whatever reason, happiness, sadness, a tragedy. it may have been rainy and sunny at the same time, or bitterly cold and rainy, and so any day that comes along and seems similar reminds us of that one experience. Nowadays we have a lot more we are doing at any given moment. Texting, tweeting, waiting for a text, checking e-mail, (OK, I guess that’s sort of one thing now ie. cell-phone) talking, eating, watching TV… I have no idea but I speculate that our brains are somehow adapting to having to multitask better. Either way we are multitasking more than in the past.
So when one has for example a spontaneous deeply spiritual experience of joy or profound insight, and tries to put it into words to another, it’s getting harder and harder to explain it. I guess so far I’m saying it’s due to two factors, the limits of language and then the increasing amount of sensory inputs involved in the experience. Our brain must run through so many aspects of the moment, such as who was there, who was talking to me, what triggered the feeling, (I think the brain with its thoughts immediately after the experience tries to put it into words to itself and tries to see how it can have the experience again, it can never settle for just having it).
There is already a vocabulary of words that is commonly used among spiritual experience havers… “vastness, interconnectedness, energy, excitement, reality, universe” All of these words have so many different meanings and definitions.
One can never understand an experience that is told to them, only by having that experience can he understand it. And who is to say it is the same experience? I guess both experiencers will somehow know between each other if they have had the same experience, can they then explain it to another if they both know they have had the same experience? (By experience I mean insight, the same spiritual awakening, or some kind of new-agey experience like that which is becoming sort of common) I still don’t think so. I think all tales of higher consciousness or other dimensions are completely meaningless and detrimental to the ‘spiritual seeker’ or to anyone in fact. The experience only gives their brain something more to seek, they put it in their own language, and picture it, and then the brain tells them let’s try to experience that. Or it may have an opinion and say they are liars and that’s not possible, and continue with their life.
I think the only reason I ever tell people of my own personal spiritual experiences is to tell them that it’s true, there are experiences other than everyday regular life that we are used to. Now the choice becomes yours to either have an opinion about it, say I lie, or to put my story on a throne and try to attain the same experience, or seek something similar.
The other option is to continue living your life. Not seeking to experience anything, because if you don’t just live your life… you are missing the whole story that you are already experiencing right now. You’re missing everything!
I will probably elaborate on the subject in the future…