By Adriana Roman, VI Form
The majority of people do not believe in the existence of anything if it cannot be seen, felt, smelled, or touched. This notion has to do partly with the time period we live in—the era of technological advances, where almost anything in the world can be proven through tangible proofs and reasons. As a result, everything we experience externally, through the world, can be “known”, or believed in, because there is irrefutable evidence that will produce the same result every time a specific situation occurs or a question is brought up. For example, gravity’s existence can be “known” because we have experienced countless times that a dropped pencil will fall to the ground due to the pulling force of gravity. Experience therefore, becomes a crucial part of what we validate as truth. The pull, in this scenario, is the physical proof of gravity, a proof that is not subjective to each person, and one that can be experienced by all.
However, this specific kind of evidence is categorized as “empirical evidence” where proof is tangible and more easily believed in. But what about the experience of emotions and feelings that cannot be seen or touched, like love or hate? Does the failure of acquiring empirical evidence mean that someone cannot “know” love or hate? No, of course it does not. The experiences humans go through that deal with these emotions are still there, and the fact that these experiences cannot be proven does not make it any less real. Experiences themselves are subjective things, and they are the instances that craft individuals’ reality. For an average person, knowledge of anything is gained through the experience of things, which is similar to Hume’s way of thinking. If an individual has not had the chance to experience love, pain, or hate, then that specific individual does not and cannot have any knowledge on what love, pain, or hate actually are. The only difference between Hume’s way of thinking and my way of thinking is that empirical evidence, as well as everything in the phenomena, is not strictly the only kind of evidence that can influence an individual’s knowledge. The noumena can also be known through individual experience. This theory then brings up a second source of experience—spiritual evidence.
Spiritual evidence is the “proof” and “knowledge” gained through experiences that cannot be replicated from person to person, nor can they be proven. Regardless, the ability to experience spiritual evidence is available to anyone; the question becomes more of whether or not we are open to seeing it. As we studied in Calvinism, all humans have God as a natural “endowment,” and have a natural curiosity for God or any transcendent. All humans have the ability to experience a sense of spiritual revelation because of our innate appeal to the idea of God, and our eagerness of discovering whether or not He exists. Thus, if we were to look at this appeal through a Calvinist lens, the fact that all humans desire to know, at one point in their life, whether a God or a transcendent exists, suggests that God’s existence must be real.
However, this explanation does not fully satisfy most people, myself included. Therefore, the strongest way to prove that everyone can truly experience spiritual evidence is to know of divine revelations that have been experienced by all different kinds of people, not just Christians. To describe divine revelation, I would connect Sister John of the Cross’s “visions”, where she experiences pain and then God, as an extreme kind of divine revelation. It is an experience that clearly feels different than any other kind of experience. It is an experience that is neither explainable nor provable. Moreover, from the selections of three good examples of spiritual revelation, we see three different people from three different religious or non-religious associations experience this “divine revelation” and spiritual enlightenment as a significantly distinct experience. That a Buddhist, an atheist, and a Christian have all encountered a similar kind of spiritual experience is proof that it can happen to every person. The question remains in whether or not we embrace the ability to experience this particular spiritual knowing.
As a result, it is then possible for anyone and everyone to “know” God. All of our experiences have direct roles in explaining what we “know” and what then becomes “knowledge” to us. Spiritual evidence is nothing different from empirical evidence: the latter gives us “knowledge” of the physical world, while the first gives us “knowledge” of the metaphysical world. Because we have established that every human has the innate desire to know if God’s existence is true, we can also establish that every human has the ability to receive spiritual knowledge and experience through feeling something divine and enlightening. Because our realities as humans stem from what we experience, spiritual experience can be included in this statement as well, allowing religion and God to become a reality for many people. By that method of thinking, it is very possible for someone to “know” God and know that He exists.
Adriana Roman is a VI Form boarding student from the Bronx, New York. She is the youngest of two, and she loves to color, play the flute, and learn new languages.