Spirituality & Peak Experiences

One Sunday—while attending an unprogrammed Quaker meeting after a long absence—a Friend walks over and kneels down beside my chair.  From his pocket he produces a small notebook and pen.  Opening the notebook, he begins drawing a triangular solid with multiple sides.


As he is drawing he explains, “Each side represents a different faith tradition.

“I have been working on this theory,” he continues.  “Most of us start somewhere near the bottom, where we simply accept what we were taught.  Then, some people—those who are more attuned, perhaps—make decisions and choices, leading to spiritual experiences that cause them to travel up.

“At the pinnacle of the form is where the people of universal compassion, understanding, love and goodwill reside.  You know, like Desmond Tutu.” he continues.  “These people have a perspective about our interconnectedness.”

An image of Maslow’s hierarchy comes to mind, as he finishes talking to me.  According to Maslow, persons who self-actualize describe having “peak experiences.”  Maslow defines peak experiences thus:

Feelings of limitless horizons opening to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstasy and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that important and valuable has happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences.