In his 1966 essay, The Search and the Seeker, Greenleaf writes: I never got theological notions when I looked through a telescope but when on one brilliant night I saw the fantastic image of one of the great nebulae in the 100-inch mirror on Mount Wilson I had a deep religious experience, I shook with awe and wonder at the majesty and the mystery of all creation.  

 This primitive unstructured feeling, the powerful sense of awe and wonder, is to me the source of religious feeling at its greatest depth.  Experimentally, I have found that my own sense of ethical sureness follows from an intensity of this feeling. (I submit as the ultimate test of the efficacy of religious feeling: does it nourish the insight and the resolve that are the root and ground of creative ethics?  Does one because of it act responsibly and with greater rightness and determination in the outside world?) [my unpublished draft, p. 3]

Gentle Reader, my response to Greenleaf’s words emerge as questions to hold rather than statements (observations, insights, declarations).  Here are a few of the questions that emerged for me as I reflected upon Greenleaf’s words.

  • When have I shook with awe and wonder at the majesty and mystery of creation?
  • From whence does my sense of ethical sureness flow?  How do I define and understand ethical sureness?
  • Do I have a religious feeling and if so, what stimulates this feeling in me and how would I describe it?
  • If I have a religious feeling, what does it nourish?
  • What is my motivation to act responsibly and with greater rightness and determination?
  • What motivates me to act irresponsibly and with less determination?

Gentle Reader: What are some others questions that emerge into your consciousness as you read and reflect upon Greenleaf’s words?

Here is the famous 1995 photo from ‘Hubble’ — for me, it captures the ‘awe and wonder’ of the universe.



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