God(s), Late Night Thoughts, Mysticism, Religion

What is “An Objective Experience”, anyway?

When I’m in an especially mischievous mood,  I sometimes ask whoever I’m with,  “Can god be experienced?”  I was in just such a mood the other day, and the person I was with answered that god is not “an objective experience”.    That caused me to wonder what he meant by “an objective experience”?  After all, I thought all experience was by definition, subjective.

As it turned out, he meant little more by “an objective experience” than “any experience most people understand in the same way”.   Thus, god is not an objective experience since most people do not understand god in the same way.

So, I pointed out to him that humans are notoriously poor witnesses.  If a dozen people witness a car accident, you are quite likely to get a dozen accounts of what happened.  There may be some agreement between a dozen witnesses to the same thing, but there is almost certain to be less than complete agreement.

I then asked him whether it’s reasonable to expect people who claim to have experienced god to be in complete agreement.  Shouldn’t we rather expect there to be some variation between witnesses?  But his response to that question didn’t really address it.

Lastly, I wondered what he made of the fact that mystics the world over tend to be in appreciably greater agreement about the experience of god than do non-mystics the world over?  As it turned out, he was unaware of the more or less extensive agreement between mystics regarding the nature of god.

I left it at that.  My main reason for asking whether god can be experienced isn’t really mischievousness — although I’m certain that plays a role — but rather to get me thinking.   That is, I find the answers people give to that question tend to get me thinking, even when I disagree with those answers.


14 thoughts on “What is “An Objective Experience”, anyway?”

  1. “That is, I find the answers people give to that question tend to get me thinking, even when I disagree with those answers.”

    This is a good and healthy thing. We can learn a great deal from others, including people we disagree with.


  2. http://www.jstor.org/pss/2215185

    Objecive experience is an experience that will produce the same physical evidence regardless of external influences.

    Ten people who objectively experience skydiving will experience gravity in exactly the same way. Here were see the trouble with ALL objective experiences. Even objective experiences must be described by humans.

    The skydivers each trusted in technology enough to leap from an aircraft and fall towards earth. They each trusted in technology with their lives. The results of the pull of gravity is objective and will be the same regardless of the person falling.

    God is experienced by all people just as gravity was experienced by each of the ten skydivers. The skydiver who doubts the technology of the parachute the most will feel relieved when the fall is counteracted more than the diver who expected it.

    They would describe their parachute experience differently from the pilot who ejects from a aircraft. It is still technology counteracting gravity but will be experienced differently.

    God will be experienced by everyone but the perception will be different for all regardless of how closely the descriptions of the experience are.

    Objective descriptions of experiences are impossible for humans.
    The Mars rovers have objective experiences- hopefully….


      1. Yes – Humans can encounter the same physical ‘objects’.
        Gravity, flavor, color, and God are ‘objects’.

        Experiences by definition, however, are subjective.

        i.e. Seawater is too salty to enjoy according to my personal ‘experiences’ but I do not remember lack of fresh water causing difficulty for the folks on Gilligan’s island.


  3. I’m not sure that it makes sense to talk about an objective experience. Even an experience as simple and straight-forward as your eye perceiving a color as being “red” can have a subjective component.


  4. Ain’t no such thing as an objective experience. We are subjective critters and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as we can arrive at a somewhat reasonable collective agreement on a symbolic objectivity.


  5. I think that mystics agree because, by and large, there is little dogma to get in the way of sharing experiences. After all, mystics are about seeking the experience itself.


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