Doug Chaplin emphasizes that there is no such thing as pure experience. We always interpret our experiences in light of beliefs we already have, and use mental and linguistic categories that are already in place to interpret, describe, and make sense of them.
Sometimes we need to speak plainly, without figures of speech. The Cylon #6 spoke of death not long before her own on this past week’s episode of Battlestar Galactica, echoing the sentiment expressed in the Orson Scott Card short story “Mortal Gods”: “To live meaningful lives, we must die and not return. The one human ‘flaw’ that you spend your lives distressing over – mortality – is the one thing…well, it’s the one thing that makes you whole”.
But sometimes metaphor, like fiction, allows us to explore things that are too mysterious, too obscure, or in some cases too painful to express in concrete terms, without anything to soften the blow.
I hope those who have had religious experiences will chime in and share what they think it does (and does not) tell them about the nature of reality, and how (if at all) one can express such experiences without metaphors or symbols, or at the very least in everyday language.