Where do our spiritual beliefs come from – experience or study? The answer will likely evolve over time. As we have more spiritual experiences, our beliefs will naturally lean to the philosophy or religion that best reflects those experiences.
When we’re children, that doesn’t quite work. Children don’t often recognize spiritual experiences because they are so foreign to the beliefs they learn at home or at their family’s place of community worship. When I was a kid, I had a number of spiritual experiences that I didn’t recognize as spiritual. The experiences were alien to the Presbyterian church we attended. They were beyond everything I was taught.
Those childhood experiences seemed like a form of madness rather than spirituality. Many involved the natural world, though at the time, I didn’t realize the natural world was spiritual. I also had childhood experiences of being someone other than myself. That certainly didn’t seem spiritual. Looking back, it very much was.
As an adult, I’ve followed spiritual paths that felt warm and encouraging – Unity, Science of Mind, Self-Realization Fellowship. Those were positive learning centers that helped deepen my spiritual understanding.
In recent years, I have been drawn to Hinduism and Taoism, especially the teachings from The Upanishads and Lao Tzu. I am not attracted to these teachings just because they are beautiful – they are – but because they explain what I’ve been experiencing.
Spiritual experiences can be simple – life just showing us who we are. Or they can be a matter of noticing that the world appears quite different than it used to. The world I see now is more like the world I saw as young child – before I was taught that what I thought I was seeing was not there.