Wednesday, April 3, 2013


I recently noticed a FB status that referenced the first part of the blblical writing of Revelation, traditionally placed as the last writing in the Christian New Testament.  This writing appears to have been controversial since its beginning.  If not the last, it was among the last of the New Testament writings accepted as canonical by the church.  Some did not want Revelation to be included in Christian scripture.  This writing continues to be controversial.  The imagery and symbolism is bizarre and outside of most human experience.  The writing presents itself as a description of visual and auditory ecstatic experience.

                I can say that I have never had an ecstatic experience anything like what is described in Revelation, although many people report having dreams, myself included.  Some of my dreams have been scary and bizarre; but, I have never been motivated to write down any of my dreams.  I suspect that, if I did, none of my descriptions would be as extensive and detailed as Revelation nor so important or famous.  Even though the study of humans reveals that humans dream, it seems that most of us do not remember most of our dreams.  Although, it seems as I get older and sleep more lightly, I seem to remember more of my dreams.  However, I think Revelation was not exactly like a dream.  Many would interpret it as a result of an ecstatic experience.  If indeed the writing is in some way prompted by ecstasy, I doubt that all of the long, complicated, and detailed imagery was part of the ecstatic experience.  But, it may very well be a writing inspired by a state of ecstasy.  The content provided by a particular literary genre, early Christian culture, persecution, and judgment against a political power both oppressive and claiming more authority and ultimacy than anyone person, organization, or system deserves.

                I am a very rational person, so the idea of ecstasy is hard for me.  Yet, I think I can speak of it a little since I can claim at least two ecstatic experiences in my 58 years.  Other parts of the Christian scriptures and other religious literature report ecstatic experiences.  It seems that many of these experiences are described in terms of an experience of God.  In our secular age some would reduce these experiences to chemical interactions within the human brain.  Many of my Christian friends would not like for me to state that I am quite alright with that interpretation.  But I suspect that the completely materialistic among us humans would also object to me stating that these strictly chemical interactions are still an experience of God.  I view God as in all and for all.  God does not exist, but, in some way, God is existence.  Probably said much better by a famous theologian, God is Being-itself.

                For me, an ecstatic experience-- in times of separation, isolation, experiences of exile, persecution, loss, anguish, despair—can engender hope, assurance, empowerment, and discernment that enables human life to continue.  Ecstasy seems to me to be beyond words.  All of my words above are the result of a rational mind trying to explain an experience of religious ecstasy---an experience of God.  None of the words will do but they still need to be stated.

                For the writer of Revelation, his ineffable experience of God, centered in the Christian tradition, in the context of a real life experience of persecution and exile started with a description of a vision of Christ:


I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.


The experience provided the writer with hope, assurance, empowerment, and discernment for human life, a completing, growing , transforming life – an adaptive, human experience that advantaged the writer and all the readers up to the present whose reading of the words prompted the experience anew, for the Christian, an experience of God in Christ.  Relax, let go, do not be afraid of your own ecstasy. God might find you.