I had this intense need for peak spiritual experiences.
I don’t mean like “feeling the spirit” attending a church meeting. No, I mean like breaking through to the unseen world, and having the power of that world change the course of my life.
Up to the age of fifty, I had become practiced at having those kind of profound spiritual experiences. Not a lot, but enough to give me the confidence to have an experience that would push me to the edge of what was possible. That, for me, was seeing the face of Jesus Christ.
I accomplished it. This is how I did it.
One, I started creating a visual image of what I thought Jesus looked like in my mind. His hair was chestnut color; it came down near his shoulders without touching them; he wore a sand colored open necked tunic or kandura; his eyes were light brown; his skin was tanned with a light bronze caste to it; he wore brown sandals; he was clean shaven; there was no facial hair; his smile was pleasant, open, and welcoming.
Two, I worked at stabilizing that image so that I could pull the image up when I needed to.
Three, I worked at having the image move toward me inside my head.
Four, as the image came close to me, I let words flow from his mouth in the form of small discreet messages.
Five, as the exchange ended, the image of my Jesus would turn to his left and walk out of my vision of sight.
My image of Jesus always gave me reassuring messages. These messages were not focused on theological promises, but on simple thoughts like, “don’t worry, all will work out.”
My image creating process was a form of visualization. I had used visualization when I played water polo in high school. For example, in my senior year at Millikan High, the night before a match with Wilson High, I visualized playing the game in my head. It was the first time I had ever done that in athletics. During the game that next day, I scored four or five goals of our team’s nine goals. We won – I think in overtime. It was the most goals I had ever scored in a game. And it was an unusual experience. I felt like the game was being played in slow motion. I would pick the ball up in a crowd of players, hold it high over my head, and wonder why others players weren’t trying to take the ball away. Finally, It seemed like I gently lobbed the ball into the net with the goalie treading water in front of me, not even trying to block the shot.
I also used this technique through out my thirty year management consulting career. I introduced it as a tool to aid senior managers focus their attention on creating a vision of their companies in the future.
Back to my visualizing of Jesus. After about a year of visualizing Jesus, I consciously stopped, not because it was difficult, for there came a time when it became fairly easy, but because I had reached a break point. I concluded I was spending too much time engaging in this kind of peak spiritual experience, because in the main I felt the messages started repeating themselves.
As I was pulling back, there was a concurrent experience taking place inside of me: a renewed respect for rational thinking and scientific discovery.
What caused me to want to have peak spiritual experiences in the first place?
First, I was raised in a religious environment where the leaders of my religion taught and shared their spiritual experiences. As a result, I was predisposed to feel I too could and should have similar experiences.
Second, I was most apt to have peak spiritual experiences when I found myself in deeply distressing conditions where I was under considerable mental stress. It’s not unusual for those of us who were raised in a religious environment to call upon God to help us when challenges arise.
Last, my personality resists falling into mundane cycles of repetitive behavior. If I commit to a way of life, I want the full experience it promises, not bits and pieces as seen in attending weekly church meetings. When it comes to religion, I admire Opus Dei practitioners in Catholicism. They want the full spiritual immersion. In Opus Dei, I respect the idea of “mental prayer”, in other words, having “a conversation with God”. That’s not too far from my own tactics of visualizing a mental image of Jesus and commencing to talk and be talked to.
Creating images of Jesus in my mind is not the same as Jesus choosing to come and interact with me directly. Once again, I am a personal and professional practitioner of visualization. There are few who have ever recorded an experience of Jesus choosing to come to them. In visualizing, you create the image of Jesus in your mind. You control the time of the experience, and the fact that it happens.
There was nothing evil or vile or inappropriate or pathological about my experiences. In fact, Jesus’s words were always reaffirming, ” all shall go well for you”, ” be patient, all shall work out for your good”.
In my opinion, the power of Jesus is not in miracles or resurrection, but in his alternative teachings to what was considered true in the Mediterranean area where Jesus was born and raised. For example, Hellenism or classical Greek writings were considered superior to any other teachings at that time. Greek philosophy and literature taught the importance of strength, power, victory over the enemy, and dominance over the weak. In his time, Jesus taught the very opposite: meekness, humility, forgiveness, forbearance, kindness, tolerance, and care for the weak and suffering.
In my personal visualization of Jesus, he appeared as the embodiment of those qualities.
My theory about myself is that I am an integrator of knowledge, meaning I am not inclined to compartmentalize knowledge. I try to connect different thoughts into a whole. For example, I trace all my spiritual experiences back to attempting to succeed in the secular world by being supported by the spiritual world.
Succeeding in the secular world ( whose modern birth came from ancient Greek literature, science and philosophy) has been hard work for me. I discovered that the spiritual world would support me in my effort at succeeding in the larger secular world. The world of spiritual experiences has had the effect of calming me down, focusing my energy, and mustering the confidence needed to successfully function and compete in the secular world.
So, in the instance of my private experience of creating the image of Jesus in my mind, I have concluded I took my professional knowledge of visualization, placed it into my religious environment, and created the image of Jesus, who communicated meaningful values that strengthened me as I participated fully in the merit driven secular world. In my mind that was a very meaningful gestalt: a kaleidoscope of all that I am, coming together in a unified design at one time, to create an important new direction for my life.
WHY DID I STOP?
It was time to move on.
I felt I had become very dependent on direct spiritual experiences, it was time, I concluded, to become more self-reliant and independent.
I also felt I had pushed my spiritual experiences to the limit of my capability. I had reached a peak, anything beyond that would have created an endless series of feedback loops, resulting in continuous repetitions.
When challenges come, and I feel stress and tension coming on, often a voice will come into my head and say, “all will be well.” That voice calms me down, focuses me and leads me to being patient in thinking and working through the challenges of the everyday world.