An Agnostic’s Encounter with God, Part 3

This post was originally an article on the Support4Change website. Because if its length, it has been broken up into 4 parts, and posted on Thursdays. Begin with Part 1.

This personal story describes the gradual movement from religious faith to agnosticism to spiritual awareness.

Who’s That Knocking on My Floor?

In the years after I first learned about Psychosynthesis, I met many people of different faiths. For the most part I couldn’t distinguish between them based on their outward appearance or behavior. Wonderfully kind and generous individuals were sincere atheists, questioning agnostics, and devote Christians, Jews, Muslims, and members of assorted other faiths and philosophies. Narcissistic, overbearing, unpleasant characters espoused a variety of religious beliefs, often fervently.

There was something, however, that struck me as perhaps an important distinction between people. Some people walked through life with an extra measure of grace, peace and calm. As I got to know them, I discovered their genuine love for others and sense of self-confidence arose from a connection with a “power” greater than themselves that they referred to by a variety of terms, but which essentially was “Spirit.” It was a genuine connection that seemed to make a difference. “Belief” in a personal God — without the experience of that connection — wasn’t enough. Yet even Buddhists who claimed there was “nothing” out there seemed, to me, to be gently different because they were in touch with who they were at their core.

I realized that here was the expression of “self” and “Higher Self.” It didn’t seem to matter whether one interpreted his or her experience as coming from God or Allah or Nothingness or from simply deep in one’s core. What seemed to matter was the experience, not the belief that arose from interpreting that experience.

So I began to meditate more frequently and, although I always felt better when I was through and often had interesting insights, I didn’t feel particularly connected with a power greater than myself. I didn’t feel “enlightened.”

Then I began to experiment with various techniques for getting in touch with that “Spirit something.”

I would imagine a stream of energy flowing down into my body, filling me with light. Nothing felt particularly different.

I would talk out loud, a method I often use when sitting alone and trying to figure something out, and would say something like, “God, Spirit, Higher Self, Intuition, Great Being, or Whatever you call yourself — that is, if there really is a Being out there somewhere — I want you to know I’m ready to get in touch with who or what you are. Let’s just say I’m open and whenever you’re ready to talk, I’m ready to listen.” Sometimes I’d shorten the request to the single word “open.” Nothing felt particularly different.

I added movement, holding my hands up in the air and saying, “Here I am. I’m open.” Still I didn’t have an awareness of anything outside of myself and there was no sense of a “spirit” moving inside.

Nevertheless, I remained patient and decided that IF there were a God and IF He-She-It wanted to get my attention, He-She-It would have to be the one to figure out how to do it.

It was about this time I began to notice something odd. Primarily during those times I would be meditating, I would hear sounds coming from the floor and doors as though a person were knocking. I didn’t believe in ghosts and there wasn’t anything I knew that could have made the sounds. I didn’t have a clue what it was about.

Then one day I heard a crash in the bathroom. “Strange,” I thought. “That sounds like a pinecone has just fallen.” Checking it out, I discovered a large sugar pinecone (about a foot high and eight inches across) from the Sierra Nevada mountains, one that moments before had been sitting on the wide edge of the bathtub, now lay in the bathtub with many broken pieces. Weird. Maybe we had a little earthquake I hadn’t felt and that’s what caused the pinecone to roll off its perch. Maybe a bug came along and pushed it over.

However, there was a disquieting in my heart because I was afraid it had been thrown down by some mysterious force. And as much as I wanted to experience the “God” that others easily accepted, I wasn’t ready for anything “weird” and had always dismissed such events as self-delusions when reported by others. Certainly this wasn’t how the physical world was supposed to operate.

A day or two after that, I was alone in the house and working in my office when I heard a loud noise. It sounded like an object, such as a book, dropped on the floor. Checking it out, I discovered that, in fact, a book had mysteriously been taken off the shelf in the front room and deposited on the floor.

This was not something I could ignore.

That evening when I went to bed I said, “Okay, Spirit Being, or whatever you are that can toss objects around, I’m going to close this medicine cabinet right now (it stays shut with a ball that snaps tightly into an opening). If you are something with non-physical properties that wants to make contact with me — but only if you are benevolent and work for the betterment of the world — open this door tonight. If it’s open tomorrow morning, I will believe in the reality of a spiritual dimension.”

As you may have guessed, the next morning the medicine cabinet door was open (my husband uses a different bathroom) and I was stuck with my agreement. I’d said I would believe and now I was being forced into it. However, since there wasn’t a guidebook for this kind of experience, I’d have to figure out what all this means by myself.

I now put greater effort in the time I set aside for quiet and for meditating. No longer focused on whether or not there was “Spirit,” I now focused on how I could respond to this call of the Spirit. I began to place more faith in the very still, very quiet voice of intuition I had first acknowledged years before. For example, now when during meditation I would often suddenly understand the meaning of an old hymn or a familiar bible verse.

And I finally experienced a profound sense of oneness with this Spirit, this transcendent dimension I had not known or acknowledged before. Eventually I decided the word “God” would work for me even if it might mean something different to other people.

Incidentally, if you think it would be great to have strange phenomena occur in your house and assume it would lead to great spiritual insights, let me disuade you of that opinion. There was a lot of frustration in all of this. I’d frequently say, “You know, I get a vague sense you’ve been waiting a long time for me to realize there’s actually something to this spirit and soul business. I’ll even agree that it maybe you’ve come to help me uncover a different my purpose for me life, because I gather you want me to understand something or you wouldn’t have gone so far as to create these events, unless, of course, you simply have a strange sense of humor. It’s as though you’re running one software program and I’m running another. We need a better interface here, guy or guys or gals or whatever you are. A little handwriting on the wall would go a long way.”

Unfortunately, no handwriting appeared. But off and on for about a year unusual things continued to happen. Pictures that had been hanging securely on the wall the day before would lie, glass unbroken, on the floor in the morning. And the knocks continued, although they diminished somewhat and are seldom heard anymore.

I’d like you to know that even though I said I accepted the reality of a spiritual dimension when the bathroom cabinet door was opened mysteriously, there were still times when I wondered if perhaps my husband HAD gone into the bathroom and used something in the medicine cabinet that night. I was 99 percent sure he hadn’t, but maybe he did and I was basing my belief on false premises. So I could possibly dismiss the idea of spirit except for the little matter of the pinecone in the bathroom and the book in the living room.

Then one day I was in my office and saw a paperback book fly off the shelf, exactly the kind of unnatural phenomena I’d dismissed for years when reported by others. “Well,” I said to myself, “of course it came off, I just put that book up there yesterday. I must not have set it on the shelf very carefully and it’s gradually been sliding down until it just happened to fall today when I was here.” I could have accepted that explanation EXCEPT that the very next day ANOTHER book, one which had been on the shelf for several years, also came flying off!

My intuition responded immediately with something like, “You’re a hard nut to crack, Arlene. What more should the force behind the universe do? There IS a spiritual dimension to life and it’s time you paid attention.”

That event finally broke my last resistance. I couldn’t avoid the reality of what I saw. How I interpreted it was up to me and it would take a very long time before I sorted it out enough to make a difference in my life.

Come back next Thursday for Part 4 of An Agnostic’s Encounter with God.

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