I got to write this paper for my Hindu Religions class about "The Holy", so I thought I would share it with you. It is an academic essay, so remember to read it through that perspective, but I figured someone would find it interesting. Enjoy!
My first experience of the holy came to me at a church camp. We were singing songs in worship after the sermon when all of the sudden I just felt this urge come over me. The pastor’s message was out of Isaiah chapter six and involved the vision Isaiah had of heaven. I believed that primed me for the similar experience I had next.
For some reason I felt overwhelmed, as if there was too much emotion in the room. The music possibly put me in the right mindset for this experience. I closed my eyes, and I suddenly felt so small and so inferior, like space and time literally split in front of me. It felt like I was in a different place. A wave of something… other… hit me. I couldn’t describe the feelings, but it made me fall to my knees and duck my head. I wasn’t fully afraid, but fear was present in my mind. I wasn’t overly euphoric either; I was at peace. A mixture of emotions flooded my mind: respect, contentment, compassion, humility, love; so much emotion made me bow down, my face to the ground.
As I lie there, the vision described in Isaiah chapter six filled my mind. I was in the throne room. The floor was tiled with large, pearly white and solid gold checkered squares. The room was indescribably large, yet at the same time did not feel large. I felt like I could walk over to the large pearly, Corinthian-style pillars that lined the “walls” of the room. For some reason I could not separate the walls from the floor and ceiling because there was no definite distinction between them.
I “looked” ahead and saw a large throne with two square pillars next to it, basins with coals suspended with gold hooks above them. As my eyes looked up the throne—which was simultaneously tall and distant, yet intimately close—seraphim flew around with two wings covering their face, two covering their feet, and two flying. For some reason I could not bring my eyes to the top of the throne, where I knew He—my God—was seated. As I tried to look up more, my eyes were suddenly diverted back down to the ground.
Again, a wave of the “other” feeling hit me. I ducked down once more and started crying out of the raw emotion hitting me. I looked up briefly again to see a majestic purple cloth descending from the throne, sweeping around the floor, as if being blown by some unknown wind.
The room began to shake and what seemed like lightning filled the room. Every time a “bolt” hit me, I was reminded of all the things I did wrong. I was both embarrassed and humbled at the touch of the “bolt. I didn’t want to look up. As I was lying there, suddenly I felt something soft touch my back and a wave of pure peace filled my body. It felt like everything was going to be okay; it felt a form of love that went beyond the physical and relational. This love, to this day, I cannot describe, but it gave me so much peace and security. I looked up to see the purple robe fall off my back and continue sweeping across the room.
The music died down and I slowly came out of the trance I was in. As I climbed to my feet, my mind was confused. Was what I experienced real? Was it a dream, a vision? Was it just my mind reacting to the message and the music? Was that God? To me, it did not matter what just happened. I did not care if people would not believe be or said I just hallucinated. I still vividly remember that vision to this day. The emotions I felt and the vision I saw was real enough for me. It spoke to me on a different level, a level no person had spoken to me ever before. No feeling on this world made me feel better than that experience, even with the feelings of shame and fear mixed in with the positive feelings. This experience forever altered my life; it was my first experience with pure holiness. From that day on, I dedicated myself to Christ and His teachings.
Based on that experience, holiness to me is a beautiful paradox. Paradoxes normally have a negative connotation and evoke confusion and dissonance in a person. However, these paradoxes describe something else entirely. Both sorrow and joy existed at the same time. I felt both anger and calm simultaneously. Parallel and intersecting with these feelings was, as I stated before, this feeling of the “other.” It was not something that I was familiar with, an emotion totally foreign, yet comforting and familiar. Most of the feelings intertwined with the feeling of the “other” I was familiar with, yet the feeling of the “other” was so foreign. The closest thing I can describe the “other” to is the feeling you get when someone is watching you or you feel someone else is in the room. Yet, this feeling was welcoming and lovely.
From my studies of Judeo-Christian culture, Judaism envisions their God as “the Other,” and that description seemed to make sense. The Jewish God was paradoxical: distant, yet intimately close. There was Elohim who created the world with all powerful might and YHWH, who walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. This Other, seemingly contradictory relationship is what I view as holy and consequently relates to my religion.
Holiness is not confined to an object or a person; it cannot be for it is entirely other. Since nothing material can gain sacredness, consequently it cannot lose sacredness. I would connect holiness to a deity, given that I believe in a higher power. Holiness is not something tangible, but an experience. It is not something that can be handled or given, it is something revealed.
Which brings an interesting point: Hebrews 10:10 states that “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” To me, this holiness is not material, but spiritual. Our spiritual bodies have been made right and clean like His in order that we can experience the holy completely. Without Christ’s sacrifice, no one could experience the holy totally. In my personal experience, God reveals himself to certain people, it is not something we can control or experience on our own accord.
All in all, holiness can be described as a spiritual experience, revealed by God, which is indescribably other from the self yet paradoxically encompasses all of the emotions of the human experience. On one hand, the experience felt cannot be described with language and on the other hand, the experience enraptures all human emotions simultaneously: from fear to euphoria, from sorrow to contentment, from worry to compassion. God exposes this feeling to humans through revelation, an experience not achieved from one’s own purposes. Despite what people may say about my own experience, to me it was life-altering enough to where it still impacts my faith today.
Following His Call,