For the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to some remarkable stories about religious experiences, though some people wouldn’t actually call them “religious.” One is Elizabeth Krohn’s extraordinary story of how her life was forever changed when she was struck by lightning. She had a “near death experience” and later, dreams about plane crashes and earthquakes that she would then read about in the next day’s news.
For years Elizabeth didn’t know what to make of these dreams. She rarely talked about them because she worried that people would laugh at her. Now, she’s telling her story.
These kinds of “anomalous experiences” fascinate me. Not just because they’re so mysterious. They also challenge any scientific or religious interpretation — and pose some profound existential questions. These stories “never make sense,” says Jeff Kripal, a religion professor at Rice University who’s written about Elizabeth’s experience. Kripal wants to strip away the dogma and God-talk of religion and instead focus on primal spiritual experiences — what he calls “religion before it becomes religion.”
Religious historian Jeffrey Kripal believes that anomalous experiences — near-death experiences, telepathic dreams and other primal spiritual encounters -- are the deep roots of religion. You might call it "religion before it becomes religion."