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Talking About Spiritual Experience 

- Rev Dr Meg Gilley et al

After seeing the ghost of his father, Hamlet tells Horatio, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ [1]


Indeed.  People have all sorts of experiences that don’t make sense and cannot be explained by science or reason.  Very often, these events are experienced as spiritual, touching on matters beyond the everyday in ways that open up to other worlds, other dimensions, other possibilities, to the presence of God, angels or spirits, or to the presence of those who have died. This could be in terms of guidance, healing or supernatural promptings.


Anyone who conducts funerals will regularly come across accounts of the dying becoming aware of deceased relatives coming to meet them, or the bereaved who have had a comforting encounter with the person who has died.


These things happen.  They just do.  Even when there is no room for them in Science, Reason, or Philosophy.


People who have had these experiences often find it difficult to talk about them.  They doubt whether they will be believed or worry that they will be thought to be mad.  An impulse remains to talk about what has happened with someone they trust to make sense of what has happened and reflect on what this means.  People need to be heard, they need to be believed, and they need to find meaning.


Sometimes, people will approach a priest, minister, or a trusted leader in a church, to talk about their experience.  However, these approaches are not always welcomed.  The listener does not want to listen, is not willing to believe, and is unable to provide advice that satisfies and makes sense.  The person is left feeling belittled and unbelieved.  Their profound experience is dismissed as fantasy, or as an attempt to promote themselves spiritually.  Morton Kelsey recognised this problem in the 1970s [2], and things haven’t changed much in fifty years.


This book addresses this dilemma – how to listen to people who want to talk about their unearthly experiences in a way that helps them.  We will hear accounts of what happened when someone tried to talk to a priest about their spiritual experiences; look at the kind of things that people experience; investigate what the Bible has to say and how the Church has responded over the centuries; consider how negative responses might be experienced as spiritual abuse, and explore more positive approaches. Questions are provided at the end of each chapter, which can be used for personal reflection or as discussion points in a group. At the end of the book, there are suggestions for further reading, and information about the Churches Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies (CFPSS), which can offer information and support.


As Morton Kelsey observes:


These experiences can be integrated into the fabric of our religious lives, giving them more depth and completeness and excitement … [3]


This book is primarily intended for clergy, ministers, Christian counsellors and spiritual advisors who might be entrusted with accounts of unusual spiritual experiences and who want to respond in a helpful manner.



Meg Gilley

TASE Project Lead

Retired Anglican Priest

Author of Praying for the Dead


[1]  Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5, Line 168

[2]  Kelsey, Morton T., The Christian & the Supernatural, 1977, p. 20.

[3]  Morton Kelsey, ibid., p 143

The book will be available to pre-order in September.

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