It's late Wednesday night. I'm in our downstairs office with headphones on, listening to Mark Isham's lush music. His Pure Mark Isham album is one of my favorites.
I'm reading Origin's essays on prayer, in Bernard McGinn's The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism. Origin writes:
"The grace of God..., through the co-operation of the Spirit, makes possible through his will things which are to our rational and mortal nature impossible. For they are very great, and beyond man's compass, and far transcend our mortal condition." (In McGinn, 82)
Indeed. I have called such things non-discursive experiences.
Then, Origin refers to 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, where someone is "caught up to the third heaven."
What does that mean?
Craig Keener has a section on this in the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Craig writes:
- The context suggests that "this man" was the apostle Paul himself, writing in the third person, since he does not want to brag about his experience.
- "Some Greek thinkers expected the pure and unencumbered soul at death to rise to heaven, and so sought to practice contemplation on the pure heavens beforehand."
- "Some Jewish thinkers tried to mystically cultivate visions of God’s heavenly throne, e.g., by depriving themselves of food and sleep, by meditation, and so on."
- Paul was "caught up," meaning he did not program this experience.
- Many Jews at that time believed there were several levels of heaven, and "paradise" (God's presence) was in one of them. (Ancient estimates range from 3 to 365 levels of heaven.)