Two of my favorite words are “ineffable” and “numinous.” I didn’t know what they meant until last year. I had to look them up. My writing teacher used ineffable often. It means “incapable of being expressed in words.” I’m not sure where I got numinous from, but it means “filled with a sense of the presence of divinity.” I’ve had a few experiences that fit these definitions and stayed with me over the years.
In 1980, I was newly divorced and driving home from a friend’s house. My young son was with his dad for the weekend. At a stop light, I had this thought: “I’m all alone.” In an instant, another voice in my head said, “I’m here.” Now who was that? God? My Higher Self? My guardian angel? The collective unconscious? I don’t know, and I really don’t need to know. I didn’t need to know that night, either. It was ineffable.
When my father was dying in January, 1999, I saw a groundhog. It was late and I couldn’t sleep. Sometime in the wee hours, I roamed the little house where I grew up, looking out the windows into the snowy yard. The moonlight on the snow was what I’d now call numinous. Its beauty mesmerized me. And into that cold, silent scene came a little fat rodent all puffy, scuttling across my old backyard. It stayed there a long time, as if it was there just for me, as if it knew I was watching on this profoundly meaningful night. My mind eased, I went back to sleep.
On another cold winter night, more recently, I hurried down a crowded sidewalk in Manhattan toward Penn Station, my husband Steve beside me. I felt scared and anxious, almost panicky, which is not unusual for me in that kind of situation as I try to figure out who all these people are and where they’re going. I just can’t. I felt like a speck in a windstorm, a little fish in a big wide stream. Buffeted by people, and the wind, and tired. Wishing I was home, knowing it would be a couple of hours. And suddenly came this thought: “I’m always home.” Where did that come from? I do believe it’s true, that I’m always home, but I can’t explain it to you. I just know it eased my fear and calmed my soul.
I’m always home. I sometimes feel I am watched over or cared for by some higher power. I call it The Benevolent Force.
When I write, I sometimes feel as if the writing is coming “through” me from somewhere else. People have called this The Zone or Writing in Flow. I wish it would happen more often.
The philosopher Steve McIntosh, in his book The Presence of the Infinite, calls transcendence “a glimpse of something more complete or perfect” than our normal awareness. He believes “we are capable of experiencing spirit more fully and completely as we evolve, that consciousness is constantly evolving and that these glimpses of the transcendent are a kind of future echo, a foretaste of our destiny as ascendant pilgrims in time.”
I love that idea, that we are pilgrims on a journey through time. I love that we humans try so hard to find our places on that long road. And I love that you and I are ineffable, numinous pieces of some great mystery we will never fully understand. And most of all, I love that we are trying to figure it out together.
Linda C. Wisniewski lives with her retired scientist husband in Bucks County, PA where she volunteers at the historic home of author Pearl S. Buck. Linda has been published in the Christian Science Monitor, the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Sun, gravel, The Sunlight Press, and other venues both print and online. Her memoir, Off Kilter, was published by Pearlsong Press.
Psst, you'll also like this one: The Numinous Quality of Portraiture
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