One of my favorite words from ministerial school is “numinous.” A numinous experience, or a numinous place, is filled with the presence of Divinity. For me many things can trigger a numinous experience:
- Walking into a magnificent cathedral such as the Gothic Cologne cathedral or Notre Dame (so glad I saw it before the 2019 fire!)
- Seeing my newborn baby daughter for the first time.
- Standing in the Muir Woods National Monument and looking up at the towering Redwoods trees.
- Listening to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in concert for the first time.
- Seeing Van Gogh’s The Starry Night painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
When I remember each numinous Kodak moment, the world seems to stop. My heart is filled with utter joy and love that pours out of my soul, out of the presence of the Divine. I sense the inspiration that lifted up the human or Divine artist that created the beauty before me.
And yet there is something even greater – the sense of transcendence, that I am One with the Divine, that I, too, am a Divine Creation. At the transcendent level, our consciousness rises above the physical level and all of its conditions to the level of Spiritual reality. We experience a sense of wholeness and deep abiding love and know that we are completely unified with God and all of creation.
The experience of transcendence transforms our lives forever. We can never be alone. That transcendent sense of Oneness is always there beneath our everyday physical existence. We look at our neighbor and see that they, too, are part of the One, part of who we are. Our Oneness transcends all differences since they, like us, are only individualizations within the Infinite One. As our transcendent perspective opens our eyes and hearts, we find space to include more and different cultures and points of view. We realize that all of humanity, all of life, shares a common destiny. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. suggested, the “Beloved Community” must and can be built on the Divine foundation of love, compassion and inclusion, loving our neighbor as ourselves.