Exodus 19: The Deadly Presence of Holiness

This is the type of mystical experience that leaves us in fear and trembling. This passage is the Grandaddy of that type.

mount-sinai-egypt-moses-1244104-wallpaperIn the middle of the desert a lone mountain rises up.  It is called Sinai. The Israelites camp at the base, and Moses climbs up. Somewhere along the way, God calls from the mountain. God tells Moses to remind the people below how God rescued them from the Egyptians to “be my own little flock….a kingdom of priests to God, a holy nation.”  The context is important. God appears with fire and thunder in the passage below, and then he gives to Moses the commandments for creating that reverent and just society: a holy nation. 

God appears once again without disguise, even the disguise of a burning bush.  This aspect of holiness that we see in Exodus 19 is unpopular or unknown these days, even despised–even among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, sometimes.  To believe someone is so different from us, so set apart (one of the meanings of “holy”), so much better than we are, may defy our democratic principles. It certainly hurts our egos.Exodus-19-21-1024x658

But unless we understand this aspect, we cannot understand how infinitely morally good God is compared to us. But when we do understand it, we also get a glimpse of how much love and humility is poured out in the life and death of Jesus Christ.  We understand why we need Jesus, why he is “the way, the truth, and the life,” the end as well as the means. We understand that only a man who was God, and a God who would become a man, could bridge that awe–full gap between us and God. 

Exodus 19

Moses returned from the mountain and called together the leaders of the people and told them what the Lord had said.

They all responded in unison, “We will certainly do everything he asks of us.” Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.

Then [God] said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in the form of a dark cloud, so that the people themselves can hear me when I talk with you, and then they will always believe you. Go down now and see that the people are ready for my visit. Sanctify them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothes.  Then, the day after tomorrow, I will come down upon Mount Sinai as all the people watch.  Set boundary lines the people may not pass, and tell them, ‘Beware! Do not go up into the mountain or even touch its boundaries; whoever does shall die— no hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot to death with arrows, whether man or animal.’ Stay away from the mountain entirely until you hear a ram’s horn sounding one long blast; then gather at the foot of the mountain!”

So Moses went down to the people and sanctified them and they washed their clothing.

He told them, “Get ready for God’s appearance two days from now, and do not have sexual intercourse with your wives.”img_5635

On the morning of the third day there was a terrific thunder and lightning storm, and a huge cloud came down upon the mountain, and there was a long, loud blast as from a ram’s horn; and all the people trembled.  Moses led them out from the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  All Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because Jehovah descended upon it in the form of fire; the smoke billowed into the sky as from a furnace, and the whole mountain shook with a violent earthquake.  As the trumpet blast grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God thundered his reply.  So the Lord came down upon the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses up to the top of the mountain, and Moses ascended to God.

But the Lord told Moses, “Go back down and warn the people not to cross the boundaries. They must not come up here to try to see God, for if they do, many of them will die. Even the priests on duty[a] must sanctify themselves, or else I will destroy them.”

Through Mine Own Eyes

From Katharine Trevelyan’s above-named autobiography.  This is an example of a mystical experience that transforms nature itself.  “Seeing face to face at last” is likely a reference to the Bible’s I Corinthians 13, Paul’s famous chapter on love: “For now we see only a reflection as if in a cloudy mirror; then, we shall see face to face.”  More from this experience of Trevelyan will be published next time.


When I knew myself as nothing but a prize fool in love, I took my pain and foolishness in both hands and quite simply offered them to God, whom I recognized through this last anguish to be the backcloth of my life and my eternal love.

What followed was beyond me to understand.

Whether it was predestined or whether the Heavens had been waiting with an open question to hear an uncomplaining acceptance of this last sorrow, I cannot say.

It felt as though an infinitely complex machine had in all its parts, between one moment and the next, clicked silently into gear and started to work with inexorable power.

I saw face to face at last.

Light streamed down from the sky such as I have never beheld. The sun shone with a new light, as though translucent gold were at its heart. I saw not only the physical sun, but the spiritual sun also, which poured down on me as I walked in the garden at Coombe.

The wonder was beyond anything I have ever read or imagined or heard men speak about. I was Adam walking alone in the first Paradise. That it was a garden near the outskirts of London in the twentieth century made no difference, for time was not, or had come round again in a full circle. Though I was Adam, I had no need for Eve, for both combined within me. Marriage and maternity fulfilled and surpassed, I had run beyond womanhood and become a human being.


Photo by Mehdi-Thomas BOUTDARINE on Unsplash


The Inspiration Begins

This is a place for inspiration–bold, naked, and unashamed.  Thanks for joining me!  In some lives at some times God has broken through. Your heart is pierced. Your mind is lifted to unforeseen heights.  For those weighed down with baggage about the word “God,” then we can say someone or some things from a higher dimension have entered our third.  Miraculous intervention, divine love, profundity made visible: All these have somehow been experienced on our planet by people of all races.

I hope to upload a new item daily, but my schedule and the length of some passages may intervene.  You are welcome to submit your own, from your own experience or others’.

All these accounts are true, or at least alleged to be true by their authors.  I do not write them.  I copy and paste them. This is a service.

Most of these accounts are joyful. But some are terrifying. For God is holy, absolute and infinite goodness, and we are not.  Since “inspire” originally meant “infused with Spirit,” and if the Spirit can motivate us to abandon the worst part of ourselves, then these readings are inspiring too.  One thing you will find here is what the word “awesome” originally meant.

The site will eventually include wisdom about the nature of these experiences; I have a master’s degree in spiritual theology from a major, accredited Canadian institution of higher learning. Don’t make me string cliches like that together again or I will find you.  But seriously, guidance can be useful. The wisest guidance of all is that we do not seek these experiences for themselves. That makes for a destiny of disappointment.  We seek the One who makes them, who gives us a glimpse of reality more real than the everydayness we must live in here.

The experiences are like telescopes in this way.  We use them to see beyond. We are not going to learn about the stars by admiring, collecting, and stroking the brass of the telescopes.  And to keep perspective on the moral importance of mystical experience we might apply the mysticism of the poet William Blake:

God appears, and God is light
To those poor souls who dwell in night
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

So: Many things on our journey are more important than ecstasy and mystical experience:  Seeing the image of God in your neighbor, loving her or him as yourself.  Just keeping faith when you have to slog through another day of what seems like winter with no Christmas or a desert sans oases.  But sometimes we need a cup of hot chocolate or a cool cup of water to keep on going.  Sometimes we need what medieval writers called consolations.  If we cannot have it ourselves at least we can be glad that others have, and we can be reminded that we live in a world of possibilities not impossibilities.  Ask your nearest quantum mechanic.

That’s enough spiritual theology.  For now, enjoy.

Mystical experiences are rare things, but we will begin with one of the most widely read, from a man who–many years later– had as large a spiritual impact on our modern age as any writer.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton