Greetings my friends. In my November 5 post, I suggested an alternative to our relying strictly on authoritative sources as a means of formulating our spiritual beliefs. Fortunately, we can make our own observations and making them requires no special psychic abilities. Even if we are heavily influenced by the spiritual teachings of authoritative sources, we should not ignore the knowledge we acquire in our everyday lives through our everyday experience. We should stand ready to revise our beliefs– no matter what the source– if we find that they are inconsistent with our personal experience. It is, of course, also true that, if our beliefs and experiences are consistent, we derive a sense of confidence in those beliefs, especially when faced with conflicting points of view.
Today, I would like to begin sharing a few of my own experiences which have convinced me that there is a spirit realm and that I am receiving loving help and guidance from it. My belief in this regard is rooted in my personal experiences which are consistent with that belief. It is not just a matter of what I have been taught by others, but a matter of what I have been taught by the life I am blessed to have lived.
By the time I was a college freshman, I had already accepted that there is a God who answers prayers. This belief was not so much a product of my personal experience but was primarily a product of my Catholic upbringing. I believed in God and I prayed. But now I can look back on many personal experiences which are consistent with my belief that Spirit exists and that I receive assistance from Spirit in times of need. One such experience occurred as I parked my 1958 Pontiac Chieftan in a crowded lot and began walking to my freshman psych class some four or five blocks away. As I began my walk, out of habit I searched for the pencil I intended to use to take notes in class. I was a note-taking fanatic. I tried to record every idea that was expressed by my teachers, fearing that if I missed anything I would make a terrible grade on upcoming exams. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I strived to make an “A” in every class but knew that I must work diligently to do so. It was extra effort, not extra intelligence, that I relied upon. No, I could not do without that pencil. But, much to my dismay– and “dismay” is an understatement, I had forgotten my pencil. Could I borrow a pencil from a classmate? Maybe; but that was little comfort. I was still distressed that I might miss taking notes for a whole class. As I began walking, I said this prayer to myself, “Dear God, please let me find a pencil on the way to class.” But immediately upon saying these words, I thought, “Isn’t that silly. Here I am a college freshman praying for a pencil !” That was definitely an expression of doubt; and maybe it was tinged with a bit of embarrassment that I had done such a foolish thing as pray for a pencil. Just in case I am not understood at this point: I no longer think it a foolish thing to pray for a pencil or for anything else, no matter how trivial. Here is why. As soon as I uttered these words– not five seconds had lapsed– I looked down at the sidewalk as my right foot hit the ground and there at the tip of my toe was a pencil !
Yes, I wondered, as many readers may well speculate, how many pencils have been dropped on the ground somewhere on a large university campus at any given time? Well, probably quite a few. What is the probability that one such pencil would appear at the tip of my toe a split second after I had prayed to find one? I guess you know my answer to that one.
The French philosopher Rene´ Descartes saw great value in skepticism. He even insisted on proof of his own existence! He is well known for stating the basis for his belief in his existence: “Cogito ergo sum. (I think, therefore I am.)” To anyone who is skeptical of the existence of Spirit, I would recommend a variation on Descartes’ formulation: When asked, it answers, therefore it IS.
There are other occasions, however, when I have received help from Spirit even when I am not aware of having asked for it. In a sense, Spirit has answered even when not asked. Such occasions are difficult to recognize when it is easy to explain them in conventional, nonspiritual terms. In my above example, if I had not found the pencil very shortly after I had prayed to find it, I could have more readily explained it in other terms. Despite having been helped by Spirit, I may have attributed it simply to my good fortune or to coincidence or to the ease with which pencils can be acquired on college campuses. Occasions in which we are given help by Spirit even though we are not aware of having asked warrant more attention than this posting can give, so I will leave that to my next post.