Epiphany (revealing moment)

When I was growing up, Catholics believed that Epiphany celebrates three kings who visited Jesus in the manger. Today the word epiphany is more pregnant with meaning. Various definitions of epiphany show its intangible quality—flash, insight, inspiration, realization. Epiphanies are sudden flashes of awakening to the inner realm.

To illustrate, I am re-posting a story I wrote about in this space before.
In Fingerprints of God, Barbara Bradley Hagerty never speaks the word “epiphany” but that’s what she writes about,  reluctantly. She was a little embarrassed, “spooked,” to find herself experiencing transcendence.

An NPR correspondent, Hagerty explores whether science can find physical evidence of God in her book, Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality. She wanted to know,
Does brain activity reflect encounters with a spiritual dimension? 
I’m glad she used terms like “spiritual dimension,” “transcendence” and “spiritual reality” and never reduced God to a humanlike individual or god.

Belief in matter-only dominates science—93% of scientists believe God is a delusion conjured up by the brain. Spiritual matters, it’s assumed, are no subject for scientific observation, but in the last 20 years some neuroscientists have started looking for physical evidence of the spiritual world.

Is God only the result of chemical processes? Of a God spot in the brain? Only the activity of nerve cells? Or do people actually touch the Transcendent? Hagerty concludes that science can’t prove or disprove God, but she believes there’s something there.

There is a lobe in the brain that apparently registers awareness of Spirit and there is a phenomenon called temporal lobe epilepsy. Some scientists to believe that religious greats like Moses, Joan of Arc, Mohammed, Teresa of Avila, Joseph Smith, the Buddha, and Paul on the way to Damascus had this condition. But Hagerty doesn’t buy it. She thinks the temporal lobe mediates spiritual experience instead of causing it.

She illustrates. Turn off a radio and you don’t hear the music but it’s still being transmitted by the station. Just so, Spirit is always transmitting, but some brains turn it off or have the volume so low it’s hard to hear.

Others are sensitive to it, attuned to it, and a few have the volume so high they actually may need medical help. Hagerty thinks people with better antennae have more transcendent moments.

Right here is the crux of disagreement between non-believers and believers. Believers can be well aware of religious tyranny, fraud, and foolishness but not dismiss religion entirely. We think some spiritual entity initiates transcendent events. We believe epiphanies come from a reality outside of our individual consciousness, although we can cultivate habits that develop better antennae to receive them.

We can’t be shaken from our profound conviction of Something Beyond this surface world, and we base this on experience. The philosopher/psychologist William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience quotes such persons:
God is more real to me than any thought or thing or person.
God surrounds me like a physical atmosphere.
And he comments about this conviction:
These feelings of reality . . . are, as a rule, much more convincing than results established by mere logic ever are. . . . if you do have them . . . you cannot help regarding them as genuine perceptions of truth, as revelations of a kind of reality which no adverse argument, however unanswerable by you in words, can expel from your belief.
James addresses rationalist pooh-poohing of anything spiritual.
If you have intuitions at all, they come from a deeper level of your nature than the loquacious level which rationalism inhabits. . . . something in you absolutely knows that [the transcendent moment] must be truer than any logic-chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that may contradict it.
Because William James looks at spirituality as a disinterested observer, his conclusions have more credibility for me than those of any religious writer. The same applies to Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s Fingerprints of God. Both console and uplift me.

Vincent Smiles commented, "The notion that scientists reject belief in God because of science is not accurate." For more of his comment, go to Epiphany vs. materialism.


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