A spiritual experience is something that is felt. “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us” (Romans 5:5), exclaims Paul.
Even the cerebral Pascal had to exclaim with astonishment, “Feeling! Joy! Peace!” Anyone who insists on not mixing emotion with his religion diminishes greatly the possibility of personal experience of the divine. It is like trying to fall in love without becoming emotionally involved.
In his autobiography Dwight L. Moody recalls: “Right there on the street the power of God seemed to come upon me so wonderfully I had to ask God to stay His hand.”
Charles Finney, whose writings greatly influenced William and Catherine Booth, in his memoirs describes in vivid terms his experience: “The Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through me. It seemed to come in waves of liquid love. I wept aloud with joy and love.”
Stanley Jones describes the infilling which transformed his ministry: “The divine waves could be felt from the inmost center of my being to my fingertips. My whole being was being fused into one, and through the whole there was a sense of sacredness and awe—and the most exquisite joy.”
But moments of spiritual encounter are not only felt, they are moments of insight. The mind perceives truth in a supernatural way, it is illumined in a way which defies description but which is real beyond doubt.
Illumination came to Martin Luther through a sentence of the Creed: “I saw the Scriptures in an entirely new light; and straightway I felt as if I were born anew. It was if I had found the door of paradise thrown wide open.”
A further aspect of that which is perceived in spiritual experience is the sense of affinity, harmony or even unity which emerges between the experiencer and the created world. The created world often seems suffused with a new glory as a result of a divine revelation.
The actual moments of revelation are usually brief. Having entered into a new dimension, the presence of the Lord is sensed in a new way, not perhaps with the intensity of the original moment of glory, but nevertheless quite differently from anything known prior to that experience.
John Larsson, Spiritual Breakthrough