The founder of A.A. Bill Wilson had a religious experienced that changed his life. He later read the book “The Varieties of Religious Experience” by William James that resonated with him. In that book he discovered the truth that genuine religious conversion experiences have one thing in common. And that is ego collapse or ego death. Bill Wilson was a friend of the psychologist Dr. Carl Jung and wrote him Dr. Jung letter talking of this. The full letter can be found here:
It’s what all the mystics have in common. It’s a death to self as one merges with Ultimate Reality. Absolute humility dissolves ego. It’s a loss of self-identity. It’s painful and uncomfortable to die to self.
I lifted the following from a post I made to a different thread long ago. I think it is one example of a man who had a genuine conversion experience:
My cousin’s husband Charlie (who was raised to be an atheist) heard God speak to him in an audible voice, while yet an atheist! Someone told me the following account of Charlie’s experience, but I wanted to know the facts for sure. So I talked with Charlie himself later on and asked him about the event. He told it to me exactly as I had previously heard it. Here it is:
After Charlie related his experience to me, I said to him, “That’s amazing! God has never spoken to me in an audible voice.”
Then he said, “Don, you didn’t need it! In my case, if that hadn’t happened to me, I would NEVER have believed in God. In fact, before that happened, if someone had told me that it happened to him, I would have called him a liar to his face!” Then he said, “And now… all I want to do is to serve HIM!”
If it didn’t produce a personality change then it wasn’t a true conversion experience. There must be a psychic change where ego collapses and humility forms. It’s from humility that we truly serve the Lord with the fruits of charity (love). And as the love chapter tells us, love is a humble love not just service. Indeed, it’s in humble love that we serve God. The psychic change that produces humility also makes one alive to beauty. The sign of a true believer is a confident gentleness and childlike wonder.
In the presence of Beauty
I find gentleness and love
Wonder is awakened in me
As compassion comes alive
Within this Divine Matrix
All my fears melt away
I tremble at the thought
Of being in this radiance
For I long for union with it
And to drink it in and be one
For me, Beauty brings warmth
Releasing arrogance and pride
When Beauty whispers Her
Tenderness to my soul I am
Filled with childlike wonder
I want to stay this way forever
God is the God of the beautiful, Religion the love of the Beautiful, and Heaven the home of the Beautiful, Nature is tenfold brighter in the sun of Righteousness, and my love of Nature is more intense since I became a Christian ~~ George MacDonald
We do not want to merely see beauty
We want something else which can
hardly be put into words
To be united to the beauty we see
To pass into it, to receive it into ourselves
To bathe in it, to become part of it
Outward passion and zeal is just as easily the devil’s influence as that of the Holy Spirit. What is unmistakably from God is gentleness, broken heartedness, non-showy humility. ~~ Jonathan Edwards
Holiness, as then I wrote down some of my contemplations on it, appeared to me of a sweet, pleasant, charming, serene, calm nature which brought an inexpressible purity, brightness, peacefulness. In other words…it made the soul like a field or garden of God, with all manner of pleasant flowers, all pleasant, delightful, enjoying a sweet calm.
The soul of a true Christian, as I then wrote in my meditations, appeared like such a little white flower as we see in the spring of the years; low and humble on the ground, opening it’s bosom to receive the pleasant beams of the sun’s glory, rejoicing in calm rapture; diffusing around a sweet fragrance; standing peacefully and lovingly, in the midst of other flowers round about
I believe he heard the voice, but I don’t believe it was God. It just so happens some people hear voices, tell stories. There is such a man at my church. I have met others just like him. “God told me to tell you” or really? Why didn’t God just tell me? I always chuckle when I hear that. Nothing like hearing someone tell me they have a quick dial to God and it just so happens that they talk to God about me and others. Rather than destroy such a one, I just smile and thank them. You guys are right, our struggle is not against flesh and blood (humans) but against ideas (metaphysics). Humans are captive to metaphysical ideas. There is no limit to speculation.
IMO… the “loss of self-identity” too easily becomes the seed-bed for religiosity in terms of a false humility where one has to work hard at beating one’s self down — and the inevitable focus of this — SELF.
Gabe, are you now a convinced atheist? You seem to be pretty militant at taking shallow shots at the beliefs of others, but I"m not clear as to whether you are in some sort of crisis mode or if you have settled irrevocably into the anti-God camp.
Sure… but I grew up in evangelicalism and I’ve seen it, and probably been-there-done-that myself no doubt. To be ‘Christ-like’ is NOT about losing one’s identity but rather “having this mind in you that was in Christ” i.e., counting others before yourself BUT THAT is not the diminishing of self.
Paul said… “don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought” — he didn’t say don’t think highly of yourself JUST NOT more highly i.e., it’s all about heart attitude.
Self-esteem is a myth as Richard Beck and other psychologists in the scientific community have shown It’s painful to die to self but that’s what Jesus did and gave us the example to do. I can tell you from experience that I’m happier being an empty vessel for the Spirit to flow through. The grass is greener on the other side.
he emptied himself (became nothing)
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ~~ Matt. 5:3
Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, ~~Genesis 18:27
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; ~~ Romans 3:12
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. ~~ Galatians 6:3
No one settles irrevocably in any camp. Just because I doubt your version of God, does not make me an atheist. We are all on equal footing, that is, ignorant of what things are like beyond this world, if there is another world.
People are free say “God does such and such”, I am free to poke holes in it. Muslims are just as convinced as you are.
I think what helped me open up was my thread where people here admitted that they don’t hear God, except from Paidion’s brother in-law. It made me realize I am no different than the rest of you, and that allowed me to explore further. It isn’t like I am opposed to the perfect God who will save everyone, it’s just that I doubt it is true. Even less true is a God who desires worship from his creation.
Look, you can skin it anyway you like… My motives are pure. If God gave me this brain and physical senses, I would hate to shame him by not using them. I mean, that is what most Christians say to me. They say “You can’t use logic…” Why is that, I ask… You had to use logic to believe that God left his word in 66 books. It amounts to basically saying “don’t question and just believe”. I don’t think that is God honoring, if God exists. So whether He exists or not, in both cases I believe the correct stance is to challenge everything that we feel doesn’t sit right as I can’t imagine God being upset with his creation doing what it was created to do… And, uf you say we are faulty… Whose fault is that?
Extra note: it is interesting you accuse me of taking shots, but don’t notice the shots you took? For that matter, above my post when Cole basically took a shot at Paidion’s in-law by saying it wasn’t a conversion. Shots are taken all around, but I doubt they are coming from a mean spirit. Mine are not, are yours?
I was not questioning your motives or your sincerity, Gabe, let alone your intelligence that has been displayed on the forum over the years; I was just unclear ‘where your head was at’.
AS far as ‘reasons to believe’ - I look at the same evidence you do, but I’m convinced (but not dead certain) that some version of what is called Christianity’ is truth. Is my belief wishful believing? Is it ‘projection’? I don’t think so, but even if that is true, what would an atheist say when confronted with the same accusation, that he is projecting his nihilism, his ruined father-image, his insecurity - onto the Cosmos - and finding there only what he projects onto it? IMO the whole projection thing is a red herring. I read ‘God and the Philosophers’, a collection of autobiographical essays by leading philosophers who are also Christian, and while they are all different, and have somewhat different paths on the journey to God, the sincerity of their faith, and their reconciling of faith with reason, shows me that they are more than just puppets of their unconscious: There are a great many reasons to believe, that add up to a justifiable Christian faith. And that is as far as I think we can go - to give a justifiable account of our faith, and a reasonable defense as well. And then let it go and get on with our life, showing Christ’s love and wisdom as best we can. Taking care of our families.
Gabe, it sounds like you don’t subscribe to “evangelical” Christianity. I don’t either. I’m always skeptical if someone claims an encounter with the supernatural or a miracle. That’s just one type of Christianity though. Perhaps you’d be more comfortable joining a “mainline” church. I am happy with UMC.
You are correct, I definitely do not subscribe to that at all. I think I have made that known in my previous posts long ago. That said, I agree that I should be looking for a new church, but I am much more accepting of differing believes than even most liberal churches. I guess I can sum up my belief as such “If God exists, then whatever it is I do, he understands and will do what is necessarily to bring whatever result to fruition” I have no clue how this works, whether it is wishful thinking, but I definitely am not dogmatic towards any religion any longer… In fact, if I am dogmatic against anything, it would be against dogma. As far as I am concerned, the ‘default’ position of humanity is ‘not knowing’ and as such, anyone who tries to tell me that he/she “knows”, well… Let’s just say I disengage at that point.