Monday, September 25, 2006

In the Garden of Spirituality: Rod Cameron

“We are not on earth to guard a museum,
but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.”

- Pope John XXIII

Continuing a series of reflections on spirituality, I offer today the perspective of Australian writer and Catholic priest Rod Cameron OSA.


No exploration of human living could be complete without close attention to the world-wide experience of the Sacred. This experience has been central to every recorded culture.

But besides this general awareness of God there are special moments of insight that come to individuals and deeply affect their lives. These may be moments of awe and wonder when the individual feels as one with humanity or with the world. These are moments of peak experience.

It was the renowned psychologist,
Abraham Maslow, who introduced the term “peak experience” into modern use. He saw how important it is for science to study the psychology of mentally healthy and alert people. Such research indirectly helps us to understand mental illness. We need to know what it means to be healthy.

In the course of his research he discovered the importance of the peak experience which commonly plays a key role in the lives of creative people who are really “alive”.

This experience may come at the sight of a sunset or a beautiful landscape. It can occur in the excitement of city lights or in the charm of a person. Sometimes it occurs in very ordinary circumstances when there is a sudden insight into the understanding of things. We cannot “bring it on”. It simply comes.

One important effect of the peak experience is that it gives a deep sense of belonging. The person feels as one with the land, with humanity, or God. The opposite of this deep sense of belonging is alienation.

We are not dealing here with rare mystical experiences reserved for great saints. We are dealing with normal, healthy people who have allowed these experiences to remain as influences on their lives. Research suggests that such peak experiences are very common.

- Excerpted from Karingal: A Search for Australian Spirituality by Rod Cameron OSA (St. Pauls, Homebush, 1995).

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Garden of Spirituality: Zainab Salbi
In the Garden of Spirituality: Daniel Helminiak

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