More and more in the literature and on internet one encounters stories of such “mystical” experiences. I put the word between quotes because there is no universally accepted definition of the term. For me, it means a state of exceptional clarity where the understanding is no longer so much on the level of the mind – sometimes not at all – but on the level of the heart. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence.”
My first such experience was after a year of tough and often challenging social work I undertook at the age of 20 in the city port of Marseille in the south of France, before entering university.
On the way home, I decided to make a short retreat in the Community of Taizé, at the time the first community of essentially protestant monks, now a worldwide movement still based in Taizé near Clugny.
I had gone to bed early – something very rare for me – and awoke at midnight with a little voice saying, ‘Pierre, go to the church and pray.’
I immediately mentally heard the voice of my very reasonable father saying ‘Pierre, don’t be ridiculous. One doesn’t get up at midnight to pray. Go to sleep.’
Fortunately, the little voice was more insistent. It even had a sense of humour, whispering: ‘If Jesus had been reasonable, he would have been selling peanuts on the steps of the temple.’
So, I proceeded to the little church. There was nothing mystical, it was even a little spooky. I just sat down with my New Testament and quietly started reading, taking notes as I went along.
Suddenly, without me being aware of it, I lost all sense of time. It just vanished. And for the rest of the night I had a vision which has stayed with me ever since, of the whole universe governed by the law of love, the ultimate law governing all, to which one day absolutely everything will bow in total submission. It was an incredible immersion into an infinite field of love.
I even saw that one day I would be imprisoned because of my pacifist convictions – and this happened 30 years later when I refused to perform in the paramilitary civil defense system serving anti-atomic air raid shelters.
Suddenly, I heard a rooster crow. It was five o’clock in the morning. I had stayed perfectly alert, without the slightest sense of sleepiness or tiredness for five hours.
For me, such experiences are pure gifts of divine grace. One cannot seek them out. They take one completely by surprise, often disappear as fast as they came and leave one with a profound sense of wonder and awe.