Spiritual experiences are a powerful and wonderful part of being human – but what do they mean? Do they prove one religious path is right over all the others? What does the evidence show? What happened during my spiritual experience? Here is some discussion of these points, in this video of a service at a Unitarian Universalist church:
(Because I give talks extemporaneously, I don’t have a text version of this.)
Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997. He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature. He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University. Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see www.thegreatstory.org, and the blog at evolutionarytimes.org). Jon’s youtube channel, with videos about DNA, spirituality, and more, is here. Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality. He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism and maintains a hub page for Naturalistic Paganism.
Jon is also a regular columnist here at HP. His column is called Starstuff, Contemplating.
See all of Dr. Jon Cleland Host’s Posts
Great talk, Jon! So if I understood you correctly, the interesting question is not whether spiritual experience is real, but in what context does spiritual experience occur, and what connections result from it?
As a fellow Pagan UU, I love using the 4th principle as a filter for spiritual experience. Choosing to be open only to spiritual experiences that pass the tests of voluntariness (freedom), reason, and compassion–that seems right to me.
Thanks! Yes, those are important tests. I wanted to simultaneously point to the power and importance of spiritual experiences (to counter the idea that we naturalists are killjoys), while also encouraging respectful discussion and the reliance on evidence (because a spiritual experience doesn’t prove much by itself, as is often taken to be the case).