Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thor's Day: Experiencing Jesus

Could we do a scientific experiment?

By Morris Dean

We sometimes argue over whether a person can actually experience Jesus – as opposed to imagining experiencing Jesus. Well, maybe we can design an experiment to find out [i.e., decide the question]? I'll need your help to do this. Consider this an open letter asking for your assistance.

Kyle Garza, I hope you will have time to help. You have already helped, as a matter of fact, for I'm pretty sure that your recent comment on my August 13 post, "On whose authority?: Whom do you trust?" prompted my muse to suggest this experiment to me a couple of mornings ago. You commented that your
trust is placed in the authority of a Person Whom I consider to be the Author of my experiences of reality, and with whom I have daily personal experiences. My[s] in the real, daily experience of the Person about Whom [the Bible] is written...Unless I invest myself personally in knowing Him as a person, a mere idea He shall remain.
    That suggests that in order for human subjects to attempt some sort of communication with Jesus, they're going to have to do something that you refer to as "invest themselves personally." Could you specify that in order for us to work the details into an experimental protocol?
    Patrick Sawyer, you too may be able to contribute to this part of the design. And you, Robert Regallie. Both of you have indicated to me – whether by way of public comment or private email – that you communicate with, or have experience of, Jesus. Please help us specify what preparatory steps our experiment must include in order to select and orient appropriate human subjects to participate. Thank you all!

Chuck Smythe, I hope you will be able to add scientific rigor to our protocol. As an agnostic in the matter, neither knowing that communication with Jesus is possible nor knowing that it isn't, you even seem to me to represent the idea human subject. And, of course, you are a scientist – a retired scientist at any rate – trained in scientific experiment and objectivity, and experienced in scientific experiment. Please weigh in, although I think I can understand that you might first need to see what Kyle, Patrick, and/or Robert might suggest. Thank you!

And, anyone else , if you have something to contribute, please, by all means, contribute! When you attempt to comment, just remember to save your text to the pasteboard prior to clicking "Preview" or "Publish," in case the first attempt to preview or publish fails. I apologize that first attempts do sometimes fail, but there is nothing that I can do to get my Blogger host to fix the problem.

And, of course, anyone who considers him- or herself a potential subject by reason of dispassionate objectivity and neutrality with regard to the question of belief in the possibility of experiencing Jesus, register your willingness to serve as a research subject when we have the protocol well-defined and ready to go. I suspect that Chuck Smythe is going to prescribe a fairly large number of subjects in order to meet statistical standards for a scientific experiment of this sort.
    Unless we get a grant from the federal government or a wealthy philanthropist, I'm afraid that participation can't be compensated with cash. I hope that other kinds of personal reward can be had by all concerned. Thank you!

Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean


  1. How do you prove a feeling is real or not real. To the person having the feeling it is very real but to others it is not. Jesus is a belief, millions of Jews and others don't believe there was should a man. Millions more believe there was a Jesus and he is the Jesus written of in the Bible. No matter how you keep asking the question it will always be the same answer---you belief or you don't.

  2. Glendower:
    I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

    Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them?

    I'll have to wait for comment by those who believe they have communicated with a deity - but I suspect they will say that it takes more than an experimental procedure to make this happen. I believe Kyle was referring to a lifetime of emotional commitment, a horse of a very different color.
    For what it's worth, I've tried doing what various religions instruct you to do to "summon the spirits"; e.g. reciting the Lord's Prayer with all the humble sincerity an agnostic can manage, or spending an afternoon in the best meditation I can manage without years of training. The greatest challenge was to not make any assumptions in advance about what a positive result would look like. In any case, the result has always been negative. Not a surprise, I grant you, but I feel that intellectual honesty requires that I give it my best shot from time to time.
    Truth to tell, I suspect that if there is a deity, it won't permit itself to be summoned, but will manifest in its own time and manner.

  3. Ha, so far the feedback [from Chuck & Ed] isn't very encouraging. However, one of the several persons to whom I sent a preview yesterday of today's column did reply: OOooooooo I love the idea! I foresee it becoming a fun epistemological discussion.
        So...I still hope for something enlightening to come from our attempt to mount an experiment. Or at least something fun. (I, for one, would like to stop sweating all this religion stuff and start enjoying it.)

  4. First it is a historical fact the "man" Jesus lived breathed and was crucified and there was an empty tomb. There is plenty of non-biblical evidence by Roman and Jewish historians. Read Bill O’Riley’s book killing Jesus. I believe he used non Biblical references for his book. Jesus being God would be one of the major difference that separate religions. The Jews were looking for an earthly king not a spiritual one. I am not sure how you want to conduct this experiment. I think you would want to change the title to God not just Jesus. It is only Christians that believe Jesus is God. If you believe in intelligent design and God is the designer it would stand to reason his existence would be written in our DNA. How the metaphysical part of our humanity functions has escaped science, how the synopsis of the brain works, I believed this once was referred to as the ID. I would describe communication with God as mind to mind.

    1. Robert, thank you very, very much for your input! I appreciate it. The experiment will try to steer clear of any question of whether Jesus is or is not God. For simplicity (and to try to facilitate our even conducting an experiment at all), we will focus only on whether or not our human subjects in the experiment have an experience of Jesus and can distinguish whether it was real or only imagined. Also, as scientific investigators, our beliefs about intelligent design, etc. are not relevant or pertinent. In fact, I expect that Chuck Smythe (the actually experienced scientist on the staff of Moristotle & Co.) will advise that the human subjects in the experiment should be "agnostic" in the sense of being open to the question whether Jesus can be actually experienced; that is, they do not claim either to know that Jesus can be experienced for real or to know that he cannot. They are open, and open-minded. They have no preconceived conceptions or prejudices.
          As I said in Thursday's post, Chuck Smythe himself meets that criterion for being an appropriate human subject for the experiment. While I am technically agnostic in the sense that I do not claim to know that Jesus cannot be actually, really experienced, I nevertheless tend to believe that he can't and that anyone's experience of Jesus is imaginary. Note that I am not claiming to know this, and I am keeping my mind open to the possibility that the experiment will establish that Jesus really, really can be actually experienced by some of the human subjects.
          It might be that some people are capable of such experience, and others simply are not, I am willing to accept that some people really experience Jesus, even though I don't feel that I, after years of trying, ever did experience Jesus, not even in my imagination.
          Any further advice you have to offer us will be much appreciated. Again, THANK YOU.