Beyond the Veil

PipeDo you believe Jesus literally rose from the dead? This question is sometimes asked in a Unitarian Universalist church, often with a subtle undertone of, “I dare you to embrace such a preposterous notion.”

Truly, it is doubtful we will ever prove this question one way or the other. I, for one, am not going to rule it out. But maybe there is a more interesting question we could be asking this Easter that, rather than setting us against each other, deepens our connection and sense of awe and mystery.

What if we asked, “Have you ever had an experience of someone ‘beyond the veil of death?’” My anecdotal experience is that most people have, given enough non-judgmental space to share that.

In both my role as a spiritual counselor and also just as a friend, I’ve heard things like, “Walking on the beach, I felt my mother’s presence.” Or “Two days after my father died, I think he appeared in my bedroom.” Or “My grandmother’s voice was suddenly in my head telling me not to push so hard.” Or “The week after my beloved dog died, I heard him barking in the yard.”

What is going on? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. In all of these accounts, friends and clients have said it was unexpected, but that the sense of connecting “beyond the veil” provided comfort and direction.

So in this season of Resurrection, might this be a question you could ask to stretch your sense of what is fact vs. mystery? Personally, I’m choosing to keep an open mind. Isn’t that some of the lesson Jesus was teaching?

I’ve been noodling about this blog for a few weeks, but procrastinating writing it. This morning I took our dog on one of our usual neighborhood routes. It was early; I saw few cars and no other walkers. I was feeling rather down. It was a gray March day with dirty snow banks and mud everywhere. Like a good UU, I was feeling despair about climate change causing this brutal winter, kidnappings in Africa, and even failing nuclear talks. My 60-year-old knees were aching, and I was feeling stressed about work.

On a short, empty suburban street, suddenly, and for about 10 seconds, a strong waft of warm pipe smoke was present. It’s a distinct smell. One I remember from childhood because my grandfather smoked a pipe. He’s been gone 45 years. With the pipe smell came this overwhelming feeling of peace. I’m not kidding, I just started laughing.

This Easter I’m going to just bask in the Mystery.


3 Responses to “Beyond the Veil”

  1. Cathy Finn-Derecki

    Joy, if you get a chance, read Karen Armstrong’s “The Case for God.” She’s the only theologian who has ever successfully enabled me to be a true agnostic and enjoy the not knowing. Not knowing, and being willing to not know, is in itself a spiritual practice. So much of our culture wants us to “believe” something, or not believe something. That binary crowds the conversation. Living in the space of not knowing what our limited minds CAN know, and keeping open through our unavoidable ignorance, is an act of humility. We are small, the universe so big. We cannot know, and that is the way of things.

  2. Joy Collins

    Hi Cathy – We used to use Armstrong’s book, “Spiral Stairs” in Wellspring. I agree, she is a terrific thinker! Lately, I’ve been into Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgault, and Judith Blackstone. They all are into “non-dual reality”. Basically we cannot “know” but with practice, we can “Know.” It helps me try less hard with my thinking mind!

  3. I believe that we are not asking the most important question about the ‘resurrection’. I believe the most important question is : what in my life has or is possible to resurrect me, when I have been so discouraged/depressed/ exhausted/emotionally ‘dead’? I believe that the Easter story is myth. I have studied at university many approaches to religion, scriptures, and myth and symbols themselves. I think this myth, ( very similar to tot hose of many other cultures), is a very important one. What it has taught me is that even grief from the most terrible loss, brings redemption, forgiveness and eternal love. While there is no justice for most losses in my life, the Easter myth renews my spirit, just as much as those ‘resurrection myths do from other cultures. What has lain dead within me, begins to re-animate and grow. Even though it grows ever so slowly most of the time, I begin incrementally, to come alive!


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