Getting high and mountain top experiences

We all talk about mountain top experiences in the Church. Most of the mountain top experiences that I have heard people talk about are located in nature and there is a warm fuzzy feeling that wells up inside. It is a time of great happiness and joy. A time that, if it could be photographed, would hang over the mantle and recalled at each meal. A vacation. A retreat. A "once in a lifetime" experience. All have been told to me as mountain top experiences. 

And who am I, you may say, to be one to question these experiences. They may very well be high moments in peoples lives. But what is important for me to remember is that just getting high is not a mountain top experience. 

We can be high and feel exhilarated. We can be captured by the beauty of the world around us. We can even try to take a picture and capture that moment for our lifetime. But if our vision is not changed then we just got high. We did not have a "mountain top" experience. 

Throughout the Bible there are people who had mountain top experiences. March 2, 2014 marked the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain, which is a story that is often cited as when the disciples had a mountain top experience. Maybe they did. I don't know. What I do know is that if their vision was not changed, they were just high. The still were just as dense as they were prior to their experience. They still "did not get it". They still were blind. They still did not see the Way. 

Moses and Elijah, who each make a cameo in the Transfiguration story, each had an experience on a mountain that changed their vision. I would say they had a "mountain top" experience. Moses' apathy toward or disengagement of the enslaved people of Egypt was changed and he became a leader toward freedom. Elijah who fled to the mountain out of fear of being killed, encountered God and then went down the mountain with a new vision of his situation. 

Having a mountain top experience means that our vision changes. Things seem paradoxically bigger and smaller at the same time. The world seems bigger on a physical mountain top. Rocks. Sky. Earth. The whole of creation seems massive. At the same time things seem smaller on a physical mountain. One human being. Situations. Problems are all put on a landscape that dwarfs these things. 

Popular expressions of Christianity seek out the high rather than the mountain top. Because lets face it, we all would rather just feel really good about our lives than to have to change them. So beware of the mountain top, it may feel great - but it also may change you.

And we all know what is said about how much we like change...

Just a problem with living in the moment

A common practice in popular spirituality is to "live in the moment". "Live in the moment". "Savor the moment". "Being in the present", There are a number of slogans that emphasis the importance of being present moment-centric.

There is a story of Jesus going up on a mountain with some disciples and Jesus is transfigured before them. While some of the disciples want to 'live in the moment' and build shrines so not to come down the mountain, God commands that they must come down from the mountain.


When we are present moment-centric then we do not think about the future. Which is a bit problematic for those who believe that we should be doing what we can to better the world around us. Why would I want to better the world around me if I am only living in the moment? 

It is clear that to live in the moment does not take seriously the work of the future or the lessons of the past. Present moment-centrism might be good for the individual for a time, but that is all that it is. Good for the individual.

And when we have a spirituality that is focused on the individual I am not sure if that spirituality is not just an idolization of the self.