When I was in my teens, I loved the film Harvey, with James Stewart. The story is about a guy whose best friend is a six foot, three and a half inch tall, invisible white rabbit. I told my friend Big Sue at college about the film and she, in turn, let her friends on her catering course know about it. Her classmates decided to adopt Harvey for themselves, setting a place for him at every meal, making sure he had somewhere to sit in class, and that no one bumped into, or walked through him. They had a lot of fun while irritating their lecturers, which in turn added to their pleasure.
A friend asked me recently, tongue in cheek, ‘well we know what Little Sue looks like, but what does Big Sue look like?’. It was gentle teasing, but the film Harvey crossed my mind and how everyone thought that Elwood (Stewart’s character) was crazy and how his sister tried to have him committed to a psychiatric institution. We get to see the rabbit ourselves at the end of the film, so by that time either the audience is also crazy, or Harvey is real.
There seems to be somewhat of a spiritual awakening sweeping the world at the moment, with millions of people discovering this ‘bigger part of themselves,’ but no overall consensus on what it is, or what to call it. Atheists refuse to believe that people are reporting real events, dismissing everything as imaginary, deliberate lies, or explainable as normal biological processes and getting frustrated with people’s ignorance in not listening to their evidence-based views. The problem with that stance is that many people who hold strongly to scientific values, rigorous testing, evidence-based results and the peer review system also have these experiences and know them to be real, even though they cannot ‘perform’ on cue or produce any evidence under laboratory conditions. Until atheists come up with a plausible argument that doesn’t rely on implying that people are lying, gullible or letting their imagination run away with them, then people who’ve had these experiences will never be won over by the atheist argument. Some religious people will; those who grew up in a faith, blindly accepting what they were told, without ever having real experiences of their own will be won over by those arguments, and are touted by atheists as proof that it’s all fake. The experiences are real though, and they currently have no compelling arguments to explain why they happen, at least not to people who have experienced incredible things. Atheists resort to hurling abuse (though to be fair they are on the receiving end of a lot of abuse themselves from people who profess to know the love of God), and if that’s all you’ve got in your arsenal, then you’re no longer speaking as a scientist, but merely as an opinionated jerk. It cuts both ways though, most of my anger lies with religion and the utter hatred it spits out at people, and the harm it does to the personalities of those within its grip.
So the experiences are commonplace, but opinions of what this bigger part of us looks like, or is, differ widely. Some call it God, with their own particular God being the only God and everyone’s else’s God being fake, and some reject religion altogether and call it consciousness, or the universe, etc. Either, like in the film Harvey, everyone is crazy, or what they’re ‘seeing’ is real and the explanations they hang on these experiences to make sense of them are getting in our way of a collective understanding of what is true. A person’s explanation of why they experienced something maybe complete fiction; they’re just trying to make sense of something that happened in the context of their personal history, culture, and environment, but I don’t doubt the experiences because I’ve had them myself, many times, and their stories, though different from mine, sound very familiar to me.
So what does Big Sue look like? I don’t know, I’m just trying to make sense of individual facets or attributes, and what I see gradually evolves, but the love and the peace I experience there never changes. – Sue Moseley