Thursday, March 28, 2013

What Is a Spiritual Awakening?

A spiritual awakening is also known as a mystical experience, spiritual emergency or crisis, religious experience, or sacred transformation.  It can be known by many other names as well, and is prevalent throughout various cultures throughout the word.  It is a transformative experience that occurs when someone makes contact with the divine, also known as a transcendent reality, higher power, or even with God.  This experience can usually involve coming to a spiritual or mystical epiphany, gaining insight that the person did not possess before the experience.  It may arrive with such speed and clarity that everything seems more clear, but can also be a frightening experience as this knowledge may contradict previously held beliefs or understanding.  It may also involve conversion or the adaptation of a new spiritual framework, a spiritual healing, or some other type of religious or spiritual enlightenment.  The spiritual awakening is brought forth usually by joining forces with the divine, as opposed to the person experiencing it simply coming upon it as a natural part of their thought process.  Sometimes, the higher power reaches out to the querent without any effort on the querent's part, perhaps sensing the person to be in some form of crisis (as in a spiritual emergency), but this is a more rare form of awakening.

In his book, "The Varieties of Religious Experience," American philosopher and psychologist William James attempted to describe this type of religious experience by certain variables which have been shared by most of the people who have had them.  His criteria for the classic spiritual awakening are that the experience must be transient (meaning that it is a temporary state in which the person experiences the awakening, then returns to a regular state of mind); it must be ineffable (which means that it cannot adequately be described by mere words, it is instead something which can only be understood through personal experience); it must be noetic (meaning that the individual should feel as though he or she has gained some type of insight or knowledge from the experience); and it must be passive (which means that it cannot be actively forced, it must simply occur -- though prayer, meditation, and other actions may put the querent in a more prepared mindset for the spiritual awakening).

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