Here are some examples of how people have spoken of their experience of God in similar terms through the ages, though they don’t all say exactly the same thing. I’ve also included Sam Harris’s account of meditation, because he sounds a lot like Paul Tillich talking about faith, except that Harris despises faith and the very idea of God. That’s why the above heading has a question mark. It’s food for thought.
God is not far from each one of us, for in God we live and move and have our being.—St. Paul (c. 5-c. 67), Acts 17:27-28.
With you as my guide I entered into my innermost citadel,… and with my soul’s eye, such as it was, saw above that same eye of my soul the immutable light higher than my mind – not the light of every day, but a different thing, utterly different from all our kinds of light… When I first came to know you, you raised me up to make me see that what I saw is Being, and that I who saw am not yet Being. And you gave a shock to the weakness of my sight by the strong radiance of your rays, and I trembled with love and awe. And I found myself far from you in the region of dissimilarity, and heard as it were your voice from on high: “I am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on me. And you will not change me into you like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into me.” … And you cried from far away: “Now, I am who I am.” I heard in the way one hears within the heart, and all doubt left me.—St. Augustine (354-430), Confessions 7.10.16
Strange, then, is the blindness of an awareness which does not consider that which it sees first and without which it can know nothing. The eye, concentrating on various differences of color, does not see the very light by which it sees other things; and if it does see this light, it does not advert to it. In the same way, the eye of awareness, concentrating on particular and universal being, does not advert to Being Itself, which is beyond every genus [i.e., transcendental], even though it comes to our awareness first and through it we know other things … Thus our awareness, … when it glimpses the light of Being Itself, seems to itself to see nothing. It does not realize that this very darkness is the supreme illumination of our awareness, just as when the eye sees pure light, it seems to itself to see nothing.— St. Bonaventure (1217-1274), The Soul’s Journey into God 5.4. (Bonaventure actually uses “intellect” and “mind” instead of “awareness” here. But in medieval thought intellect and mind were modes of awareness, i.e., experiencing.)
[Religion is] to be one with the infinite in the midst of the finite and to be eternal in a moment.—Friedrich Schleiermacher, “the Father of Modern Theology,” in On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers (Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 1988 ), p. 140
The whole notion of our massive experience conceived as a reaction to clearly envisaged to details is fallacious. The relationship should be inverted. The details are a reaction to the totality. … They are interpretive and not originative. What is original is the vague totality… The primitive stage of discrimination… is the vague grasp of reality, dissecting it into a threefold scheme, namely, “The Whole,” “That Other,” and “This-My-Self.” … This is primarily a dim division.… There is the vague sense of many which are one; and of one which includes the many. … There is the feeling of the ego, the others, the totality. This is the vague, basic presentation of the differentiation of existence… We are, each of us, one among others; and all of us are embraced in the unity of the whole. … The unity of a transcendent universe, and the multiplicity of realized actualities, both enter into our experience by [a] sense of deity… We owe to the sense of deity the obviousness of the many actualities of the world, and the obviousness of the unity of the world.—Alfred North Whitehead, Modes of Thought (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968 ), pp. 109-110, 102.
Faith is not an opinion but a state. It is the state of being grasped by the power of being which transcends everything that is and in which everything that is participates. He who is grasped by this power is able to affirm himself because he knows that he is affirmed by the power of being-itself.—Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000 ), p. 173.
[In our experience of God,] God can never be object without being at the same time subject. … The same experience expressed in abstract language is the disappearance of the ordinary subject-object scheme in the experience of the ultimate, the unconditional. In the act of faith that which is the source of this act is present beyond the cleavage of subject and object. It is present as both and beyond both.—Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith (New York: HarperCollins, 2001 ), pp. 12-13.
All talk about God always only points to … an experience in which the one whom we call “God” encounters us … as the absolute and the immeasurable, as the term of our transcendence which cannot really be incorporated into any system of coordinates.— Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, trans. by William V. Dych (New York: Seabury Press, 1978), p. 21.
[In meditation] our sense of “self”—of subject/object dualism in perception and cognition—can be made to vanish, while consciousness remains vividly aware of the continuum of experience.—Sam Harris, The End of Faith (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004) p. 217.
We must let God, the name (of) “God,” weaken into the name of an event, of an unconditional call, into the folly of a call to lead an unconditional life. It is God, the name of the still soft voice of an insistent call, that has need of the kingdom, of those who would make the kingdom come true in word and deed … The kingdom of God is something that circulates within … quasi-systems of forces, under its own inner impulses, pulsing with the pulse of the event, not being ruled from on high. We in turn must make ourselves worthy of the event that happens to us in and under this name … The call calls. The call calls for a response, which may or may not transpire … The call is not a Mighty Spirit, but a soft aspiration, the soft sighs of a perhaps. The call is not a mighty being but a might-be. The call is not the ground of being, or the being of beings, but a may-being.—John Caputo, The Folly of God: A Theology of the Unconditional (Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, 2016), pp. 127-128.
We cannot encounter the world without encountering at the same time the being of the world, which is a mystery that can never be dispelled by any physical explanation of reality, and inasmuch as it is a mystery logically prior to and in excess of the physical order. We cannot encounter the world, furthermore, except in the luminous medium of intentional and unified consciousness, which defies every reduction to purely physiological causes, but which also clearly corresponds to an essential intelligibility in being itself. We cannot encounter the world, finally, except through our conscious and intentional orientation toward the absolute, in pursuit of a final bliss that beckons to us from within these transcendental desires that constitute the very structure of rational thought, and that open all of reality to us precisely by bearing us on toward ends that lie beyond the totality of physical things … All this being so, one might plausibly say that God—the infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality—is evident everywhere, inescapably present to us, while autonomous “nature“ is something that has never, even for a moment, come into view. Pure nature is an unnatural concept.—David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), pp. 297-298.