Experience of God

Mystics claim direct experience of God, usually a person God such as Jesus or Krishna. Science's ontology does not include person Gods so science must either avoid speaking about the experiences of the mystics or consider such experiences delusion or hallucination. Our ontology accepts science's ontology but adds an element: the One, the ultimate ground of existence. Therefore, we might describe purported experiences of some person God as in fact unrecognized experiences of the One. But experiencing the One requires that the One exist as more than a concept; it requires the One exist as an objective entity.

Sometimes ideas correspond to something in the real world, sometimes they do not. Ancient Greek philosophers created the idea of the atom but for centuries no one knew if atoms existed. In 1667 Johann Becher's investigations into the nature of heat led him to create the idea of phlogiston, the "element" which comprises heat. And in the late 19th century, physicists trying to understand the nature of light advanced the idea of the luminiferous aether, the medium through which light travels. Ideas such as component entity and relative existence led us to the idea of the One.

We know today that atoms exist and have the same kind of real existence as a tree or a rock; we can even create images of atoms. But we also know that phlogiston and the aether don't exist. (Each exists as an idea, of course, and always shall, but does not correspond to anything in the real world.) The One exists as an idea, but does it correspond to anything in reality?

We know trees and rocks exist because we can directly experience them. We experience electricity in an immediate, nonmediated manner when we touch a live wire. Can we verify the existence of the One in a similar way? Can we show the One possesses real, objective existence? Can we show it exists as more than an idea?


Genevieve Foster, a Jungian psychiatrist in her forties, had an unusual experience. Raised Protestant, she had read about mystical experience as an English major in college, without much effect. But for five days in the spring of 1945:
[t]here was light everywhere. . . . [T]he world was flooded with light, the supernal light that so many of the mystics describe . . . [T]he experience was so overwhelmingly good that I couldn't mistrust it. . . . [G]lory blazing all around me. . . . I realized that some of the medieval poems I had been so innocently handling were written to invoke just such an experience as I had had. (That stuff is still alive, I tell you.)
Writing forty years later, at age 82, she says her experience was
. . . so far from anything that I had thought in the realm of the possible, that it has taken me the rest of my life to come to terms with it.

The French mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal experienced something similar. He saved a record of his experience on a parchment sown into his doublet, keeping the memento always close to his heart. Upon his death, a servant discovered the parchment and read, around a drawn figure of a flaming cross, these words:
From about half past ten in the evening until half past twelve
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and savants
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.

Foster describes a supernal (i.e., of or from the divine) light that mystics experience, which suggests experience of God. Pascal describes an experience of FIRE (light? heat?) and explicitly calls it an experience of God. The topic of experience of God brings us into the field of mysticism, which (in its proper sense) concerns direct experience of God or ultimate reality. (We often see "mysticism" improperly used to refer to the nonrational, pseudoscientific, or paradoxical, but we do not use it in that sense.) And we use "mystic" to refer to someone who claims to have had an experience of God (not someone who claims to foretell the future or speak to the dead).

Can we say anything meaningful about the experiences mystics describe? At first sight, prospects appear unpromising because methodological naturalism avoids discussion of the supernatural while mystics claim "supernatural" experiences—of person Gods like Yahweh, Jesus, Krishna, or Allah; of nonperson supernatural entities like the Buddhists' Clear Light of the Void; and of entities who rank below gods, like angels, or demons, or the Virgin Mary.

But should we accept something as supernatural simply because some people label it such? Long ago, religious leaders called lightening a supernatural tool of God's punishment. So when Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1749 religious leaders called it "the heretical rod" and described it as "attempting to control the artillery of heaven". In 1755 Massachusetts pastors explained an earthquake as God's punishment for the use of lightning rods in Boston. Today we understand electricity and lightening as natural phenomena.

Until we know the full extent of the natural universe we cannot with confidence label anything supernatural, as existing above and beyond the natural universe. Therefore, until proven otherwise we may treat any and all phenomena as natural phenomena.

Moreover, shouldn't any theology consider the possibility of direct experience of its God a valid theological question?

In this chapter we seek to explain experiences like those of Foster and Pascal in terms of our theology; in other words, we propose a monist account of mystical experience, a monist account of experience of God.

Let's give our theology a name. We'll call it "SaNT theology", a natural name for a theology described in a book with the title Science as Natural Theology.

Experience of God
What do we mean by the phrase "experience of God"? The phrase usually indicates an experience of a religion's deity, for example, a person God such as Yahweh (Judaism), Jesus (Christianity) or Krishna (various Hindu sects). However, in SaNT theology the One grounds all entities. So we can consider any experience an experience of the One, as an experience of God. However, using the term "experience of God" to indicate any and all experiences would rob its utility. So in what follows we'll reserve "experience of God" to mean experience of the One as the One, not as any creation of the One.

But how might we describe experience of the One as the One? Because the One underlies all that exist, we might imagine such experience as a feeling of oneness with the universe, a feeling that our relation to it resembles child to parent, that we arise out of the universe and will one day merge back into it when our body's elements return to the biosphere.

But many mystics describe their experience another way, as experience of light, not ordinary light, of course, but "light" of a different kind. For instance, Saint Augustine writes:
I beheld with the eye of my soul . . . above my mind, the Light Unchangeable. Not this ordinary light, which all flesh may look upon, nor as it were a greater of the same kind, as though the brightness of this should be manifold brighter, and with its greatness take up all space. Not such was this light, but other, yea, far other from all these.

And Symeon (often called "Symeon, the New Theologian") a monk of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and one of its most respected mystics, goes so far as to identify God with Light:
God is light, a light infinite and incomprehensible . . . one single light . . . simple, non-composite, timeless, eternal.
God is light, and those whom he deems worthy of seeing him see him as light; . . . Those who have not seen this light have not seen God, for God is light.

We may understand such statements in terms of our movie analogy: the idea that entities resemble images projected onto a movie theatre screen and God corresponds to the light which creates the images. Recall in that analogy, the light underlies rocks and people and even Gods—the light underlies any object at all. We may call anything we see on the screen "an experience of light." But imagine becoming conscious of the projected white light which underlies all images—we use "experience of God" to refer to that. We use "experience of God" to refer to experience not of any image, but of the underlying Light.

The movie analogy gives literal meaning to the idea that humanity "is made in the image of God." Further, because SaNT theology classifies any person God or nonperson God—anything other than the One—as an image of the One, an experience of Yahweh, Jesus or Krishna (if we assume for the moment they exist) would not qualify in SaNT theology as an experience of God, as experience of the One as the One. Rather, it would qualify as an experience of a creature, as an experience of an image of the One, fundamentally no different than experience of a rock. (Aside: our idea of the One resembles the Godhead in older theological literature, such as the Theologia Germanica. Our idea of image resembles what such literature calls "creatures" although such literature would not consider Yahweh a creature.)

Of course, we need not presume an either/or situation, where, for example, we experience the rock or we experience the One but not both. Rather we may imagine a spectrum where mixed experience of creature (i.e., image) and One occur. Let's imagine purely mundane experience on the left side of the spectrum and pure, "unitive" experience of the One on the right.
  • On the left we have purely mundane experience, experience of a tree simply as a tree. Everyone but the habitual mystic experiences the world this way most of the time.
  • Moving toward the right, we imagine experience of mundane objects in a "spiritual" way. For instance, in churches some people find that the purely mundane elements of stone, marble, stained glass, and icons invoke a "spiritual" feeling. We might imagine the person dimly sensing the One in the stone/marble/glass/icon image. Or we might describe a nonreligious person having a special experience—of falling in love, or the birth of their child, or on a clear spring day in the forest or by the seaside—as dimly sensing the One behind the images.
  • Next, we have a more pronounced experience of the One, as in Foster's account.
  • Next, we might imagine yet more pronounced experience, where the One occupies the foreground and the mundane world falls to the background. We may speculate Pascal experienced the One in this way.
  • Next, we might imagine pure experience of the One (perhaps as a supernal light) where we lose all consciousness of world and self and experience only the One. If we experience a loss of sense of self, then we may imagine the experience as the One experiencing itself (the unitive experience which we discuss below).
More accounts
Foster and Pascal experienced something outside themselves. Foster sees a supernal light shining in the world. Pascal identifies what he experiences not with any part of himself, but with an external person God. Yet the One underlies our mind and consciousness no less than the external world. Therefore, we might experience the One interiorly, shining within our consciousness, even as Augustine's account suggests.

In fact, Symeon believes our mind possesses an innate ability to experience God interiorly. He writes:
Our mind is pure and simple, so when it is stripped of every alien thought, it enters the pure, simple, Divine light . . . God is light—the highest light.
. . . if nothing interferes with its contemplation, the mind—the eye of the soul—sees God purely in a pure light.

So it seems that we may experience the One exteriorly, with the "eyes of our body", as light shining through the world, as did Foster. Or we may experience the One interiorly, within in our consciousness, with the "eyes of our soul". Or we may experience the One in both ways; writes Symeon:
But, Oh, what intoxication of light, Oh, what movements of fire!
Oh, what swirlings of the flame in me . . . coming from You and Your glory! . . .
You granted me to see the light of Your countenance that is unbearable to all. . . .
You appeared as light, illuminating me completely from Your total light. . . .
O awesome wonder which I see doubly, with my two sets of eyes, of the body and of the soul!

Further, Symeon leaves no doubt of the experience's immediate and experiential character:
If a man who possesses within him the light of the Holy Spirit is unable to bear its radiance, he falls prostrate on the ground and cries out in great fear and terror, as one who sees and experiences something beyond nature, above words or reason. He is then like a man whose entrails have been set on fire and, unable to bear the scorching flame, he is utterly devastated by it . . .
But the prepared individual finds the experience transformative:
It illuminates us, this light that never sets, without change, unalterable, never eclipsed; it speaks, it acts, it lives and vivifies, it transforms into light those whom it illumines.

Because it suggests transformation into God, Symeon's claim that "it transforms into light those whom it illumines" presents a problem for theistic religions and a danger for the religions' mystics. Theistic religions picture God as the supreme Person, as one person among many, and picture us as having a soul eternally distinct from God. Such religions may classify a mystic's claim of being transformed into light (that is, transformed into God) as blasphemous and treat the mystic accordingly. For instance, the Islamic mystic, Hallaj, also known as Mansur, said:
I am The ONE REAL!
In another instance, someone knocking at Hallaj's door asked "Who is there?" Hallaj responded:
I am the Absolute . . . the True Reality . . .
The Islamic orthodox convicted Hallaj of blasphemy, cut off his hands and feet, and sent him to the gallows.

Yet Hallaj, apparently, claimed identity not any theistic God but with the One. Hallaj's claim seems to rest on the "Two Self" argument, which we consider bogus. For we can indeed recognize ourselves as "images of light", as constituted by the One, but we've seen how we cannot justify claiming the One as part of our self, as part of our distinct personal identity, as Hallaj seems to. We may understand Hallaj as having realized "his" ultimate ground of existence, which in no way belongs to Hallaj, which in no way differs from "our" ultimate ground of existence. But we should not understand Hallaj (as apparently the Orthodox did) as claiming identity with some supreme person God separate from creation. Indeed, the monist believes we can become some theistic God as little as she believes we can become a rock. But each of us can become more aware of the One, of "our" ultimate ground of existence; each of us possesses the potential to experience the One.

Unitive experience
We may have already gone beyond what the skeptical reader will accept but we should not leave the topic of mystical experience without discussing unitive experience, the claimed experience of being united with God, of being one with God, in a sense, of "becoming God". How should we understand such claims?

Theistic religions—which picture God as a person separate from other persons—cannot accept that an ordinary human begin can become God. In such religions claiming identity with God constitutes blasphemy of the worse kind. Yet great mystics even in theistic traditions sometimes claim an intimacy with God that comes within a hair's breadth of union—or even explicitly claim such union.

Mystics describe unitive experience as transcending the triad of experiencer, experience, experienced, or (equivalently) the triad of knower, knowing and known. We may analyze most of our experiences in terms of the triad. For instance, in the experience of seeing a tree we may differentiate the person (experiencer), the seeing (experience) and the tree (experienced). Or if someone recalls a fact we have the person (knower), the act of recollection (knowing), and the memory (known). The triad applies to mystical experience, too, when the mystic experiences something less than unitive experience. For instance, in Foster's case she experiences a Light suffusing the world as something ultimate and profound but nonetheless as something other than herself. In her experience, there exists a triad of experiencer (her), experienced (light), and experience.

But imagine a conscious wave becoming conscious of the water that constitutes it. Or imagine a conscious person (i.e., image) on a movie screen becoming conscious of the light which constitutes him or her. Now imagine the wave losing all consciousness of itself until there remains only water conscious of water. Or imagine the person losing consciousness of self until only consciousness of light remains, of light conscious of itself.

But the One cannot experience itself as object because if it did, at that moment there would exist at least two: the One as experiencer and the One as experienced. So, we might imagine a unitive experience where the mystic loses their separate self and for that moment only the One exists. Rare mystics describe exactly that experience.

The Hindu mystic Ramakrishna likened such unitive experience of the Eternal to a salt doll dissolving in the ocean. His followers claim that Ramakrishna himself experienced this state; one follower described the state as follows:
Beyond the realm of thought, transcending the domain of duality, leaving [the world] with all her changes and modifications far behind, . . . shines the glory of the Eternal Brahman, the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute . . . Knowledge, knower, and known dissolve in the menstruum of One Eternal Consciousness; birth, growth, and death vanish in that infinite Existence; and love, lover, and beloved merge in that unbounded ocean of Supreme Felicity. . . . Space disappears into nothingness, time is swallowed up in Eternity, causation becomes a dream of the past, and a tremendous effulgence annihilates the oppressive darkness of sense and thought. . . . [O]nly Existence is. . . . His illumination is steady, his bliss constant, and the oblivion of the phenomenal universe is complete.
(Ramakrishna's followers consider him exceptional and claim a person usually does not return from such vision, that absorption remains unbroken and after a few days the body dies.)

With unitive knowledge, our tree illustration fails. No possibility exists for a person, in any sense, to transcend the triad and unite with, become one with, a tree. There is, however, an apt Hindu analogy. The mystic who aspires to less than unitive experience of God is like someone who wants to taste sugar. To enjoy the taste of sugar, the taster must remain distinct from sugar. The mystic who seeks unitive experience of God, on the other hand, is like someone who wants to become sugar. That mystic seeks actual and literal union, until separate selfhood dissolves and only the One remains.

Alternative explanations
We've developed a monist explanation of mystical experience, an explanation consistent with SaNT theology, where we accept that some people genuinely experience deity and we explain their experience as (possibly unrecognized) experience of the One.

Of course, alternative explanations of mystical experience exist, as do obvious doubts concerning our explanation. We'll discuss two doubts and three alternative explanations.

Doubt one: Do people really experience deity? Can we better explain their experience as delusion or hallucination? This doubt leads us to our first alternative explanation where we describe any purported experience of deity as delusion or hallucination, as caused by some mental illness or chemical imbalance. We'll call this the null explanation.

We can make two points in support of the null explanation. First, methodological naturalism avoids discussion of Gods and other supernatural entities so we shouldn't accept any purported experience of some person God. Second, our explanation depends on the possibility of direct experience of the One, of direct experience of something below the level of the atom, of the proton, of the quark. How can we think such experience occurs, even if only in rare instances?

What reasons can we give to doubt the null explanation?

We might point out that many mystics in many different places and times report strikingly similar experiences, although they had no contact and had different religious views. We could then argue similarity of report indicates the existence of some objective reality that they experience. But a skeptic might respond that just as similar reports of alcoholics in delirium tremens don't prove the objective reality of the snakes or insects that they hallucinate, similar reports of the mystics don't prove the objective reality of what mystics claim to experience. In other words, mystics might have experienced some similar sort of delusion or mental disorder.

We might also claim that the lifelong aftereffects which mystics (such as Foster) experience seem to indicate some sort of objective experience, but the skeptic might respond that perhaps hallucination can have lifelong effects.

Last, we might ask: how can we think of direct experience of the One as not possible? In SaNT theology the relation of a person to the One resembles the relation of a wave to the ocean. How (we might ask) can a wave not experience the water of which it consists? How could a conscious iceberg not directly experience the water that constitutes it? The possibility of direct experience of the One seems to naturally derive from our theology's premises. If we accept those premises then understanding how we can avoid experience of our ultimate ground of existence becomes problematic.

Probably in the last analysis we cannot prove or disprove direct experience of the One as a real, objective fact. So we must leave the ultimate judgment to the reader and the future; so the null explanation remains a feasible alternative explanation.

Now, moving on to doubt two: why accept our explanation as the best? Even if we could prove the mystic experiences some objective reality, we would still need to address doubt two. After all, most mystics don't describe their experience as experience of the One. Rather, someone describes an experience of Yahweh, another person, of Krishna, yet another person, of light. Pascal reports experience of FIRE which he interprets as experience of the person God Yahweh. And although Symeon says "God is light" he also calls it "the light of the Holy Spirit" not "the light of the One". So with what justification do we describe any genuine mystical experience as experience of the One, possibly encased in a mind-created person God? By what rationale do we impose our explanation on someone's account, an explanation possibly foreign to the mystic who wrote the account?

The questions lead us to two intermediate explanations that lie between the null explanation and our explanation. If we want to accept mystical experience as genuine (but not as experience of the One) then we either accept it as genuine experience of a select one or few Gods, or we accept as genuine experience any God.

Our first intermediate explanation accepts that someone can have a valid experience of a particular religion's God(s), but says that people who experience a different God experience delusion or hallucination, caused by mental or chemical imbalance (or satanic deception). For instance, someone might judge Moses's experience on the mountain or Pascal's experience as genuine experiences of the person God Yahweh, but deny the validity of any claimed experience of Krishna.

Believers often choose this rather narrow-minded explanation although it not only denies the validity of most other Gods humanity has worshiped in the past or worships today, but also denies the validity of other Gods worshipped anywhere in the universe at any time. This explanation seems profoundly contradictory to the nature and spirit of the scientific enterprise, which seeks to uncover universal laws and phenomena.

Our second intermediate explanation says that people of different religions may validly experience their religion's God(s). Although more accepting and universal than the first intermediate explanation, this explanation seems to contain an internal contradiction. For if multiple different Gods exist then we may ask if any one of them possess power over the others, i.e., omnipotence? If no, why call them Gods? If yes, wouldn't that make the omnipotent God the true God? So this explanation seems to lead logically either to the first intermediate explanation (in the case of one omnipotent God) or to the null explanation (in the case of several less-than-omnipotent pseudo-Gods).

Because our ontology does not accept person Gods, we cannot accept either of the intermediate explanations as valid. We are left, then, with only the null explanation and our explanation, which we'll restate.

Our explanation: the explanation we have offered, that regards God as Light, as Godhead, as true God, and classifies all other "Gods" as manifestations of the One, and explains mystical experiences as (possibly unrecognized) direct experience of the One.

Notice our explanation has the advantage of not favoring one person God over another, or of favoring one religion over another. It allows the possibility of mystical experience in any and all religions. For example, we might understand a report of seeing the God Shiva surrounded by blinding light and clouds of glory as an unrecognized experience of the blinding light of the One encased in a mind-created image of some person God. Thus, SaNT theology allows us to accept a claimed experience of Yahweh and a claimed experience of Shiva as possibly unrecognized experiences of the One. Other theologies might force us to deny the validity of one experience or the other.

Further, if humanity ever contacts intelligent extraterrestrials who look like, say, rabbits or spiders, the extraterrestrials might feel as averse to acknowledging a human-like person God as God as we would feel to acknowledging some rabbit- or spider-like person as God. But we might agree to recognize the One as God.

A working hypothesis
Our discussion leaves us with two feasible explanations: the null explanation (no true experiences of deity) and our explanation (mystic experience as direct experience of the One). If we cannot prove or disprove either explanation, how should we proceed? We might accept one of the explanations as a working hypothesis. But which explanation should we accept?

The choice seems clear. Our book concerns theology. But the null explanation removes mystical experience from the domain of theology and puts it into the domain of psychology. That is, if we classify mystical experience as delusion or hallucination then the psychologist, rather than the theologian, should study and explain it. Accepting the null explanation closes an avenue of investigation for us. On the other hand, our explanation says mystical experience belongs primarily in the domain of theology, and opens that same avenue. So we should accept our explanation as a working hypothesis and see where it leads, and attempt to derive various consequences of our explanation. (However, we acknowledge our conclusions may one day prove empty or false if the null explanation proves true).

Theoretical constructs
Our reason for accepting our explanation instead of the null explanation might seem to reduce to "We like our explanation and it opens an avenue of inquiry". Can we offer a better reason to accept our explanation as a working hypothesis? Science's usual treatment of theoretical constructs might give us such a reason.

We digress concerning theoretical constructs.

Science's ontology includes observable physical entities such as trees, people and electromagnetism. We know such entities exist because we can see and touch them, or measure them. Science's ontology also accepts observable nonphysical entities such as logical facts (for example, "If A implies B, and B implies C, then A implies C.") and mathematical facts (for example, the Pythagorean Theorem) which we "observe" not through our five senses but via a type of direct mental insight analogous to seeing, an insight which sometimes requires extensive education to develop. For instance, we need a course in calculus before we can "observe" that the derivative of x2 equals 2x. Last, science's ontology also includes unobservable entities, i.e., theoretical constructs. We mentioned some theoretical constructs above, for example, phlogiston, the luminiferous aether, and the atom.

A theoretical construct begins life as a concept, as when ancient Greek philosophers created the idea of an indivisible a unit of matter called the atom. But any armchair philosopher can create an idle concept. Science demands of its theoretical constructs that they do useful work in the form of explanatory or predictive power. Thus in the early 19th century John Dalton reintroduced the atom as a theoretical construct to explain various chemical reactions. Similarly, in 1964 Peter Higgs proposed the theoretical construct known as the Higgs boson, which helped physicists predict several phenomena, which they eventually verified experimentally.

Yet supporting evidence notwithstanding, until we observe a theoretical construct the possibility persists that it corresponds to nothing in the objective world. Humanity once worshipped numerous gods and goddesses recognized today as lacking real existence, i.e., as imaginary. Science eventually found that several of its theoretical constructs (phlogiston, the luminiferous aether) correspond to nothing in the real world.

Therefore, science takes it as part of its mission not to let something forever remain a theoretical construct: it seeks to prove or disprove its real, objective existence. For instance, an international team of over ten thousand scientists and engineers constructed the 27 km (17 mile) circumference Large Hadron Collider in the hopes of (among other aims) verifying the existence of the Higgs boson. Even disproving the objective existence of a theoretical construct can lead to eventually success. For instance, failure to prove the existence of the luminiferous aether led directly to Einstein's discovery of the theory of Relativity.

End of digression. Now let's apply what we've seen to the One.

We initially introduced the One as an idea. We've seen the idea has explanatory power: we used it to explain the creation of this universe and to explain mystical experience. But until we verify the real objective existence of the One, SaNT theology remains a conceptual edifice with possibly no grounding in the real world; the One remains a conceptual God of the type created by "philosophers and savants", not a real, empirical reality such as Pascal experienced.

So how might we determine whether the One possesses real existence? We might accept our explanation as a working hypothesis and try to prove or disprove it. For if it proves true—if it can be shown that some people genuinely experience the One—then we would also show the One possesses real objective existence, which in turn would transform the status of the One from an unproven, possibly non-existent, theoretical construct into an objective reality.

But how can we verify that people can have direct experience of the One? Of course, just as many people live their lives without directly observing that the derivative of x2 equals 2x, many people live their lives without directly observing the One. But if we can demonstrate that some, even if only a few, people have experiences best understood as direct experience of the One, we would have reason to accept the One as really existing.

But how and who can possibly demonstrate that?

As to the "who", experimentalists—psychologists, physicians, and other investigators—would have to devise experiments to test the hypothesis, because an armchair theorist, that is, a theologian, can only present the idea and use it to explain existing phenomena.

As to the "how", we must leave that question to the experimentalists.

Of course, we admit the prospect of proving or disproving that some people directly experience the One (as the One) may seem daunting, even hopeless—but once the prospect of understanding lightening, the orbit of the planets, or the history of the universe may have seemed equally hopeless.


We wished to prove the real, objective existence of the One as something mystics experience, because that would prove SaNT theology contains not merely a bloodless, cerebral concept of God, but a vibrant, living Reality, a reality so immediate and intense that some mystics have accepted torture and death willingly, and even joyfully in some cases, rather than deny or renounce their experience. Unfortunately, we cannot prove it. The true ontological status of the One—real objective reality? or idea with no real referent?—remains an open question. But for reasons we discussed, we take the real, objective reality of the One, as well as the possibility of direct experience of it, as working hypotheses.

But we have shown that some people (e.g., Hallaj and Ramakrishna; also Foster and Pascal?) regard the One as an empirical Reality. Thus, we may regard SaNT theology as more than a mere conceptual framework; rather, SaNT theology possesses the possibility of becoming a genuine, deeply held religious worldview.

SaNT theology lies between the atheist and theist worldview: classify the One as an empty concept and fall to one side, to atheism; anthropomorphize the One as a person, a Supreme Person, and fall to the other side, to theism.