The following was written by Matthew Wickman for the Deseret News. To read the full article, click here.
“Could someone actually do that? Could I?”
These are familiar questions to me, and probably to most people who seek inspiration. They indicate things brought to mind we had not previously considered, and that may require us to leave our comfort zones or undergo a trial of faith. For that reason, I associate these questions with a peculiar compound of feelings: excitement and anxiety; joy and terror; anticipation and dread.
Three years ago, I experienced a wave of these feelings as I pondered teaching a course on literature and spirituality. The idea intrigued me, moved me and even frightened me a little. But few models for such a course exist in the secular field of literary studies where I dwell professionally. To teach this subject, and potentially write about it as a scholar, would mean stepping out a long ways on a slender limb. And even if it held, I wasn’t sure my balance would.
One can resist spiritual promptings. But I have learned, am trying to learn, not to. Three years later, I have taught this course three times. It’s the richest intellectual (and, yes, spiritual) experience I have ever had in the classroom. It has opened new horizons to me as a scholar and helped me better understand how spirituality works and why it sometimes confounds our habits of thought. I now have a fuller grasp of why spirituality often brings those heart-stopping questions, those supercharged feelings.
By their nature, spiritual experiences are neurologically and psychologically intense. 19th century Latter-day Saint Apostle Parley P. Pratt once observed that the gift of the Holy Ghost invigorates our “physical and intellectual” capacities and “strengthens and gives tone to the nerves.” Modern scholars of spiritual experience, even those who are nonreligious, confirm Pratt’s insights.
To read the full article, click here.