Various Thoughts of the Past Week
Having listened to some youtube videos describing various people’s “spiritual experiences,” I have been led to think that it is possible that one cannot say that the Jewish people have the most spiritual experiences, because other people of various faiths or of no faith have reported marvellous experiences.
However, I think it is fair to say that the Jewish people have the most Jewish spiritual experiences.
Where do we see in Jewish teachings brought to the ordinary person practices that lead or may be meant to lead to intense spiritual experiences?
I think that the answer is Breslov Hasidism.
In the modern understanding, there is a concept of spiritually intense experiences that are not “pure” but mixed with misunderstandings: spiritual emergencies, spiritual experiences with psychotic elements, delusional “insights” including grandiosity, etc.
There is now an emerging field of transpersonal therapists who help a person going through such an experience to weather it and understand it properly.
Are there such teachers in Breslov? (If you know the answer, please share them!)
Are there other schools besides Breslov that help lift a person out of “ordinary” reality?
Having marvelous psychedelic experiences is not a stated value in Torah. (Having marvelous delicatessen experiences can be.)
Rav Kook expressed his feeling that descending from higher realms to the confines of halachah was challenging and painful. Nevertheless, it was something necessary. One might speculate that one of the purposes of halachah and Gemara is precisely to deal with people who have a tendency to be so spiritual that they are not in contact with this world and to ground them. One might go even farther and speculate that this is one aspect of the function of those parts of the Torah that are morally difficult. That really grounds a person.
The Torah does an excellent job, then, in grounding a person. But too much grounding creates its own problem, because it then is boring to the person who is seeking something deeper or something more experiential.
In sum, I think it is fair to say that the Jewish people have the most Jewish spiritual experiences. The texts of Jewish spiritual experience, to the extent that I am familiar with them, blend spirituality with so much wholesomeness, groundedness and “orthodoxy” that they are safe and lead to a life of true spiritual and moral well-being and value. The side-effect is of course that the person who wishes for something to touch him on what he feels is a deep level can find it hard to find that.
Apropos of that, generally I have seen that the “fear” of God is described as fitting into either of two categories: the lower fear of God, which is the fear of being punished for one’s sins, and the higher fear of God, which is a sense of awe in His presence. What about a blend of these? In other words, a person could feel that he is in the presence of an Entity so powerful and pure that just naturally in the presence of that Entity he will be toran apart and cease to exist, in modern parlance that he will suffer an ego-death.
So I propose that we go out and do what we can do better than any non-Jew can do, which is to be Jewish.