“In a wide variety of cultures, God has become unmediated and local, animating the natural world and human activity in profoundly intimate ways...What was once reserved for a few saints has now become the quest of millions around the planet—to be able to touch, feel, and know God for oneself.”
Diana Butler Bass (Grounded: Finding God in the World A Spiritual Revolution)
Long ago, Saints and Seers like Teresa of Avila, Joan of Ark, St. John of the Cross, and Black Elk had visions and experiences that led them to believe in the immediacy of the sacred, human contact with divine beings, and direct and personal instructions from that which we call God. Before that, dozens of Old Testament prophets and kings had direct and on-going relationships with Yahweh. I think of Samuel, who heard God calling his name, Moses who listened to God from a burning bush, Joseph who correctly interpreted the dreams of the Pharaoh, Isaiah who more than once had to hide in caves to escape the wrath of the people because he had faithfully delivered Yahweh's message to them. New Testament figure, Saul, later called Paul, was struck blind on the road to Damascus, reportedly by the spirit of the ascended Jesus, who asked him directly to stop persecuting his followers. These stories, we tell and retell, but until now, we believed they only happened to special people—chosen people.
Nowadays, as the churches and synagogues empty out, people are moving away from reading about and studying other people's accounts of direct contact with the divine, and seeking their own. The means of that search is as individual as the people who embark on it. Drumming circles, sweat lodges, a variety of forms of meditation, sacred dance, chant-like praise, centering prayer, walking the labyrinth, yoga, and, in a million different ways, contact with, and immersion in, the natural world. It is as though, the more mechanized and technological we humans become, the more we seek out the sacred in personal and individual ways. We seem to be balancing our increasingly heady work, with a deep desire to sit with the sacred. I think this change is evolutionary.
Humans, as far as we know, are the only species who have consistently sought to relate to something that we perceive to be greater than ourselves. From our cave days until now, that has never diminished; it has only evolved. That singularity may be because the rest of the animal kingdom is so connected to its source that there is no need to search, or it may be because of the unlimited nature of our ever curious cerebral cortex. Whatever the source, we humans have it. We seek, we knock, we question, we experience. One wonders where it will lead in the next hundred years.
In the Spirit,