The Aspiring Mystic

Here is an excerpt from my book The Aspiring Mystic: Practical Steps for Spiritual Seekers (2000), which unfortunately is out of print, although used copies are fairly easy to find. This passage describes my own initiation into an embodied, luminous encounter with the Divine, after which “spirituality” for me would always be a lived reality, not just an abstract idea.

The highlight of the weekend was the Saturday night communion service. With all one hundred or so of the participants present, we’d have a long, comfortable, folk-style service, with plenty of singing as we stood arm in arm, swaying to the music. Although I had participated in such acoustic-guitar-driven worship services before, this one seemed different, from the start. As we sang, and eventually shared the bread and wine of Holy Communion, it seemed to me as if the entire room began to glow. Not a physical glowing, as if someone had turned on additional lights, but a radiance, a presence—words fail to describe. Slowly, but suddenly and obviously, things were different. Only words associated with light seem to capture the experience. Luminous, resplendent, glowing. It’s as if everything—the walls of the room, the various people within it, the bread and the wine being passed from hand to hand—shimmered with a light that I could still perceive even when I closed my eyes. Call it energy, perhaps. It wasn’t just as if there were a nonphysical light, it felt as if a new kind of love or joy had become manifest for the first time ever. I felt loved like I never had before.It seemed to me as if every person in the room became radiant with a visibly miraculous glow. Once I noticed it, I felt simply carried along by this serenity and joy that I had never felt before. It wasn’t ecstasy, for I didn’t feel like I left my body; nor was it a vision, for physically things appeared just as they always had. It had nothing to do with drugs; indeed when at a later date I experimented with LSD or cocaine or magic mushrooms, those substances always seemed pale and physically jarring in comparison to the loveliness I had known that night in Massanetta. Nor was it any kind of psychological breakdown—it had no ill effect on me physically or emotionally, other than to leave me with a sense of serenity and a feeling of connection to the God whom we were worshipping that evening.

This supernatural energy was so gut-level real to me, and so far beyond anything I might have imagined or tried to concoct, that I thought something objectively miraculous had happened in the room, some sort of profound moment in which God chose to reveal himself. By “objective,” I mean I thought everyone must have experienced what I did. Honestly. It never occurred to me that this might have been just a subjective experience! But I soon discovered to my surprise—and somewhat dismay—that others hadn’t felt or seen anything at all unusual that evening. After the service ended, I said to two or three people, “Wasn’t that amazing?” to which they replied with a totally noncommittal “Uh-huh.” Soon I realized that, for some reason, I had been given a unique gift.

It happened at church camp, but this wasn’t about church. I’ve been to plenty of church-sponsored events both before and since, and never did the windows of eternity open like they did that evening. No, it was something far deeper, far more profound, than mere religion.

— from The Aspiring Mystic: Practical Steps
for Spiritual Seekers
by Carl McColman.

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