Is "spiritual rebirth" necessary for real faith?


Peace, Love and Unity
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For myself it was 1995. Really, I'd been going downhill for a couple of years, but everything that was still unbroken was broken that year. I finally failed at everything in every way. I spent the summer staring at walls, sometimes crying for no reason. I stole food off friends because I was that broke, and spent most nights drunk.

Pitiful, huh? :)

As the last couple of ties that kept me to the world were broken I finally realised I had no reason for living, and no justification to remain alive. I gave myself a week to prepare for my own death - just to prove that it was not a spurious decision. (My chosen method was to lie in a warm bath and open a vein as painlessly as possible (how Roman! And long before my active interest in Rome, btw :) )).

Anyway, I'm alive because halfway through the week I decided to share my decision with someone - someone who I knew wouldn't tell me to live for other people. She said not to do it - and suddenly the decision literally lifted from me.

That, I guess, was the moment of spiritual rebirth.

What that means in this instance, is that you face life fresh, with all prior assumptions destroyed. You learn life anew - not so much as in you forgot anyone's name - as much as you suddenly have no real inkling on the meaning of anything. Preconceived notions of what meaning anything once had was gone.

This is a fundamental point. I grew up as a child feeling that something was there - sometimes feeling I could communicate with it, and on rare occasions even prayed to something. Teenage years saw me bite a hard Atheism.

Christianity was the only spiritual route I really knew anything of, then, and as I enthralled myself with reductionism I saw the evil of the world and actions of the Christian god. If "God" was real then "God" was Christian, and the Christian "God" was evil.

All that was gone. I didn't know if anything was there anymore. I had to answer the basic questions all over again. In a funny way, it was like exploring the world like a child again.

It all happened slowly, at first - but for 1997 I went into a strict ascetism and found myself going through wave after wave of intense spiritual experiences. Finally, I used the word "God" again.

Point being to this self-indulgent waffle - is a couple of questions:

1. Is this really the "Born Again" experience that the Christian religion mentions as desirable in its followers?

2. Is the destruction of any sense of self really necessary for a true feeling of Divinity?
At the risk of playing with words, the simple answer to your thread title is no. The answer to your two questions is "darned if I know" to (1) - I'm no expert on Christianity and born again theory. For the second, I think the answer is a solid NO.

I am I. I also have a strong connection to deity. The lack of self is one way to come at the connection, but I don't believe it's the only one. Starting from ground zero and reexamining all of life, the universe and everything will, I believe, tend to reinforce connection to deity, but it's not a necessary condition (nor is it sufficient).

Many paths. Many personal destinations, I guess. Glad your friend talked you out of it - the universe is a better place because you're here.
As brucegdc said, I would tend to answre "no" to teh title of the thread. I guess it all depends from the faith and from the individual. I'm sure there are a number of people who have real faith in something they have belived all their live, without any physical or mystical breaking point that would count as spiritual rebirth.

As far as the second question is concerned (I don't have a real clue about the first one), I would ay no. For people like me who believe that deity is immanent, quite the opposite is true. You have to find your true self by breaking away the walls (in Jungian terms, the persona) you build to protect yourself (often from you own gaze), find out who you really are and accept it, the good and the bad, to be able to get in deeper touch with the divine.

Actually, on the second point, I think we're talking about the same thing, Baud - though we'll not mention "Comfortably Numb" here. :)

I think perhaps brucegdc is on the same line of thinking - perhaps my example was a an extreme form of simply losing touch, then finding the connection again?
born again ?

1. Is this really the "Born Again" experience that the Christian religion mentions as desirable in its followers?

2. Is the destruction of any sense of self really necessary for a true feeling of Divinity?

From Louis...
These questions sound so alien to me they arouse a
kind of morbid curiosity...
"Born Again" suggests something being stripped down
to it's primordial form - then forced to start over with no memories of it's former existence to help it deal with its
new life. I suppose that's one way to prevent it from
repeating the same mistakes.
But the "destruction of SELF" ? ...NO WAY !!!!
Our "self" or "EGO" is what empowers us to successfuly
construct our material lives - without it, we are vulnerable
to any HERD oriented group that tries to absorb us.
People with no strong ego end up as nothing but followers.
And if the thing they follow turns out to be phony,
they're left with nothing.... not even self-respect !
Is "spiritual rebirth" necessary for real faith?

I found this thread listed at the bottom of our 'spiritual but not religious' thread, listed as similar...

I found the timing interesting that I happen upon it.

My answer is no.

But a spiritual speed bump may be required.

Or a spirtual baseball bat upside the head.

Or a spirtual forclosure, divorce, death of a loved one...

Of maybe it'll just be a spiritual hiccup, or the opening of a flower in a crack in your sidewalk, or the cardinal calling for a mate outside your window, or the negative ions flowing over you as you sit next to a waterfall...

When Jesus spoke of being 'born again', He was speaking to Nicodemous, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, in other words, a religious leader of the Jews. Nicodemous' inquiry was about who Jesus was, "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." (John 3:2). In the first place, he calls Jesus, 'Rabbi', and therefore elevating Jesus to Nick's level. But obviously he sees something much more than a teacher in Him.

Jesus' response was a bit cryptic, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

One would think that Jesus would have answered something along the lines of, "By golly, you're right, Nick, I am come from God. Please state the nature of your emergency."

Instead, Jesus uses rhetoric to make Nick think. Alas, Nick thinks in temporal, physical terms, asking about mother's wombs and such. And this is what I believe Jesus sees wrong in the teachings of the Pharisees. Over and over Jesus berides the Pharisees for straining a gnat when it comes to the Law. Apparently the traditions of the Pharisees were making the Law of God of no effect in the lives of the Jews. Something was missing.

Jesus confirms this later in the passage:

"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?"

In essence, Jesus was calling on returning to a spiritual relationship with God. A reawakening to the purpose of the Law: to bring people to God and to find eternal life in the Spirit. If Jesus' words hold true, then believe Him.

If what you mean by 'born again' is a reawakening to God or 'spiritual awakening', if it changed your perspective of things spiritual, where you are now sensitive to the things of God, if it changed your life, then I would say 'Yes'.

Your 'witness' was that 'someone' who saw in your desperation a twinge of light and she saw a potential in you that caused you to change your mind. She loved you enough to say 'No, don't do it'. And thankfully, you listened. :)

This is the kind of thing I was trying to establish in my "Except Ye Be Converted..." thread
I'm glad you listened to her, Brian. :) This site has been a real blessing to me and I'm sure many others... and it exists because you exist.

1. Is this really the "Born Again" experience that the Christian religion mentions as desirable in its followers?

I don't know. I have had many moments of spiritual awakening in my life; they come one after another.

I cannot remember a time when I did not have awakening, only gaps in between when my commitment to practice my faith was lacking. My earliest experience of personal spiritual experience that I remember is about when I was 4, but I began experiencing empathy and expressing distress at the world's suffering when I was about 2-3. I can't remember that far back.

This is one of the reasons that I can't answer some Christians' litmus test of "born again" correctly. I have never been born again, and yet I am born again every day of my life, some days more than others. :) I hope one day to be fully reborn each day and each night, that I might be continually awake.

I have gone through depression, but I have never lost complete sight of the Divine. I find it to be impossible for me so far. Invariably, even when I despair, I find in the acuteness of my despair an embrace of every anguished sigh... and I am gradually restored to joy. I find that my depression usually comes when I am not putting enough time and effort into worship and contemplation, and because of this, it is as though I lack the energy to withstand the world's suffering. It feels like wave after wave of suffering, but much of the time it has little to do with my own life. My life can be going great, but if I'm not attentive to my spiritual life, the suffering of the world is overwhelming. Conversely, right now my life by most people's estimation is rather crummy, but I am exceedingly peaceful and joyful. It's my awareness that makes the difference.

It seems that many people go through a conditioning as a child that results in their conceptualizations of self, other, God, religion, and so forth that really limits one's awareness. Many have to go through a lot of personal suffering to lose this conditioning and emerge open to direct experience, which their mind perhaps had previously closed as an option.

As Dondi puts it, this might be understood by some to be God's shaking someone to awareness. My dad says it is like everyone on earth walks around with God's thumb on the top of their head. It's very light unless someone is ignoring it, and then it begins to press down with more and more pressure until the person falls to their knees. That's not how I'd describe it, but it's a similar analogy.

2. Is the destruction of any sense of self really necessary for a true feeling of Divinity?

For me, the destruction of the egoic, temporary self is necessary for lasting joy and peace, which occurs when we cease to fear our impermanence and to trust the Divine. But this is not so much a destruction as a natural diminishment that occurs as I find the "real" me.

A few brief highlights from my own spiritual life...

When I was a little girl, about four to six, I had many nightmares and worrisome dreams. I now think some of these were memories, some were projections, and some were empathic awareness of suffering. I dreamt of people starving in famines that actually occurred in Africa... but I was sheltered from the news. I dreamt of fires due to an explosion of a drug house in the ghetto in which I lived. I dreamt of running and hiding from a horrible force- I can't exactly explain what it was- a sort of corruption, an unmaking. My mother told me when I woke, to tell my fears to God. I learned that God could be a personal being that would comfort me. My mother also told me that I could change my dreams, and choose to fix these problems in them. In time, I learned to lucid dream and have not had nightmares since. When I have negative dreams, I know I am dreaming and I look at them to try to understand their purpose. I change them if it becomes more than I can stand.

The dreams stopped being about these negative things, and mostly have been about space and traveling ever since. I have no idea why, and while they are elaborate and complex and interesting, I find them tedious. LOL I am forever traveling somewhere and seeing various worlds. Most of the time just traveling. There are a few worlds I dream about repeatedly and really love, the rest is more like watching a series of shows or movies that get kind of boring after a while. :p But every now and then, I get a special kind of dream that is as real as my waking life, and totally changes my perspective on everything... absolutely everything...

When I was about ten, I had a new kind of dream. This was what I call a visionary dream; I remember these in greater detail than my waking life. At ten, I had a dream in which I entered a doorway in a dream and found myself in an infinite intelligence or consciousness. I say "in" because it was precisely that. All was white light. I had no sense of space and no sense of time. I could not sense any boundaries or limits to this being in which I somehow "stood." There was a great sense of watchfulness, and in this total attention, love. Not mushy fuzzy love. A type of love I could not imagine and cannot express. It was a watchful love- a sense of justice and mercy rolled together with a totally unchanging and uncompromising reality. I felt as small as anything could feel, yet intensely significant. I knew that my actions and thoughts mattered- these were part of some sort of memory and consciousness that was utterly truthful. And it entirely changed my way of thinking about God.

At that time, I already thought that reality existed as many realms, only some that we have access to and fewer still that the world conditioned us to experience. I questioned the reality of anything observable. This first visionary dream called me to understand that God was something more than a comforting personal being.

I had a series of increasingly intense dreams from 2000-2003, culminating in a peak experience in 2003. In that visionary dream, I went out of body and through a gateway, and at that point became energy- what I can only describe as a sound. These sounds of beings were each distinct yet were only existing as one total music, and this music created a beautiful illusion of life. My awareness at that time was entirely momentary. I had no personality of my own. I had no desires. I had no sense of time or space, and no memory. Each moment was like discovering myself for the first time, every moment was a source of awe and wonder. I cannot begin to describe how beautiful it was. It was utter peace and joy, complete unity. The remembrance always brings me to tears.

When I woke up, my world was shattered. Who was I? What was my purpose? What was this God?

I began to realize that what brought me to this complete sense of peace, joy, and love for all beings was the utter lack of everything to which I was attached. My personality means I have boundaries. My intellect means I have limitations. My memories mean I have negative emotions and longings for what has past. How could I live in a way that acknowledged this new kind of me and God that I'd found?

I'm still trying to answer that question...

I don't know if others can awaken without the loss of the self as it was. The way I see it, I had to be deconstructed a bit in order to be recreated.

Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Yes, some times real growth especially of a spiritual nature requires we go through a "death" experience of our older self..

It's essential for us to unfold and cast off the earlier shells or layers so the innermost essence can make itslef known and it can happen in a lot of ways.. death of an earlier lifestyle and passing through life changes that shake to the foundations our earlier assumptions..

I'm reminded of a few quotes from the Baha'i Writings:

Until man is born again from the world of nature, that is to say, becomes detached from the world of nature, he is essentially an animal, and it is the teachings of God which converts this animal into a human soul.

~ Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith, p. 290

The purport of these words is that whosoever in every dispensation is born of the Spirit and is quickened by the breath of the Manifestation of Holiness, he verily is of those that have attained unto "life" and "resurrection" and have entered into the "paradise" of the love of God. And whosoever is not of them, is condemned to "death" and "deprivation," to the "fire" of unbelief, and to the "wrath" of God. In all the scriptures, the books and chronicles, the sentence of death, of fire, of blindness, of want of understanding and hearing, hath been pronounced against those whose lips have tasted not the ethereal cup of true knowledge, and whose hearts have been deprived of the grace of the holy Spirit in their day. . Even as it hath been previously recorded: "Hearts have they with which they understand not."[Qur'an 7:138]

~ Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, pp. 118-119

- Art