We will deeply explore the varieties of spiritual experience that unify us in the mystical thread woven within Friends’ non-creedal theological diversity. Spiritual experiences are a cross-cultural universal phenomenon of profound emotions, perceptions, and thoughts. Experiential exercises will take us beyond theology to discover, "What canst thou say?"
"Spiritual Experience: explorations beyond theology" will focus on varieties of spiritual experience, starting from a non-theological definition of "spiritual experience" as a particular widely shared cross-cultural human experience consisting of emotions, perceptions and thoughts that generally have a profound effect on people. Reviewing William James' "Varieties of Religious Experience" and Maslow's "peak experience" concept, and moving to historical and modern Quakers' descriptions of their spiritual experience, the group will create and share their own experiences and quests. Most of the time we will be using exercises and practices that will extend our seeking by supporting our development and openness to this "spiritual experience." We will read some scientific articles on neuroscience and religious experience to see if science can help us understand spirituality. In worship-sharing we will examine the meaning and significance of this form of human experience for each of us. We may question is it valid, in the sense that it leads us to true knowledge of the world and ourselves, or is it delusional, as Richard Dawkins would have it? Is there a range of ability to experience spirituality, a sort of "spiritual intelligence" like musical, spatial, emotional or kinesthetic intelligence, and if so, can it be learned or developed or strengthened? How is our notion of spirituality integrated into our world-view? Does spirituality require any particular theology? Ultimately does this form of human experience provide any legitimate value in assessing and developing a sense of the purpose and meaning of one's life?
About the leader :
I co-led the workshop "Nontheism Among Friends" with my daughter at the Gathering in 2010, and led the same workshop individually in the 2011 Gathering. I have led workshops on exploring Friends' theological diversity in my Monthly Meeting. I have considerable past experience in group leadership in social work advocacy settings and I am currently a college teacher in psychology.