Sense of The Presence of God
“Modern psychologists have struggled hard to discredit the ‘sense of the presence’ [of God], sometimes attributing it to the psychic mechanism of projection, sometimes to ‘wish-fulfilments’ of a more unpleasant origin. The mystics, however, who discriminate so much more delicately than their critics between true and false transcendental experience, never feel any doubt about its validity. Even when their experience seems inconsistent with their theology, they refuse to be disturbed.
“Thus St. Teresa writes of her own experience, with her usual simplicity and directness, ‘In the beginning, it happened to me that I was ignorant of one thing—I did not know that God was in all things: and when He seemed to me to be so near, I thought it impossible. Not to believe that He was present was not in my power; for it seemed to me, as it were, evident that I felt there His very presence. Some unearned men used to say to me, that He was present only by His grace. I could not believe that, because, as I am saying, He seemed to me to be present Himself: so I was distressed. A most learned man, of the Order of the glorious Patriarch St. Dominic, delivered me from this doubt, for he told me that He was present, and how He communed with us: this was a great comfort to me. …
“Such a sense of the divine presence may go side by side with the daily life and normal mental activities of its possessor; who is not necessarily an ecstatic or an abstracted visionary, remote from the work of the world.” ~Evelyn Underhill
The presence of God
So what Underhill is saying is that men of material science say that a feeling that God is actually present is having hallucinations, wishful thinking, or a mental breakdown. Mystics, on the other hand, believe that it is real. While that is largely true, I think it may be an oversimplification.
The psychologists are not wrong. In many cases, perhaps a majority, the people who claim to feel the presence of God do fall in with those who claim they have been abducted by aliens or who say they themselves are aliens from another planet. Only a small fraction of those claiming to sense the presence of God is actually doing so, and mystics would naturally be among them. Of course, when I say mystics, I mean real mystics just as Underhill does, not the pretend mystics and spiritual adepts of today’s New Age movement.
So the mystics are correct when speaking about themselves and fellow mystics or spiritual adepts, but the psychologists are correct for the vast majority of other people. Continue reading “Sense of the Presence of God”