Quotes from
The Creative Encounter

How to feel, and at the same time be intellectually self-respecting, makes for real conflict.  (9)

The individual is never an isolated, independent unit.  He brings to this religious experience certain structural and ideological equipment or tools.  This equipment is apt to be very determinative in how he interprets the significance not only of his religious experience but also the significance of the experience itself.  (20)

Included in this totality is what the individual means by the term God.  This preliminary residue of God-meaning , however it may be defined, is the starting point of communication between the two principals in the religious experience.  It is at this point that the meaning of the experience takes hold.  Initially, it cannot be more than this or it would be meaningless; it cannot be less than this or it would be utterly unworthy.  (26)

In religious experience God meets the individual at the level not only of the individual's needs, but also, in my judgement more incisively, at the level of his residue of God-meaning and goes forward from there. (27)

The human spirit sees inherently allergic to isolation.  It cannot abide a sense of being permanently alone or stranded in all the vastness of the universe or lost in the midst of the complexities of personal experience.  We cannot finally abide being ignored.  (31)

In any wilderness the unsuspecting traveler may come upon the burning bush, and discover that the ground upon which he stands is holy ground.  Wherever such occurs, we ay be sure that even though the context itself may be casual or even random, the experience itself is not.  (33)

When I was a minister at Oberlin many years ago, I notes that one of my most active parishioners in the life of the church always went to sleep a few minutes after the sermon began.  Her embarrassment was evident.  One day when I went by to see her husband who was ill, she took me aside to apologize for sleeping during the sermon.  I took in the total situation in which she lived--it was the noisiest household I think I have ever seen.  I said to her that the church rendered her a distinct service if it provided her with a quiet place, in inspiring surroundings, at eleven o'clock in the morning, in which she could have a few moments of deep relaxing sleep.  In much more important ways the church can contribute to the quiet place for the "readying" process [for prayer].  (35)

It is as important, if not more so, to quiet the inner noises than to isolate oneself from the outer noises.  (36 )

Religious experience in its profoundest dimension is the finding of man by God and the finding of God by man.  This is the inner witness.  (39)

It is small wonder that so much is made in the Christian religion if the necessity of rebirths.  There need not be only one single rebirth, but again and again a man may be reborn until at last there is nothing that remains between him and God.  (40)

Here in the religious experience itself; if a man begins to understand what manner of man he truly is and what it is that he undertakes to define with his life as the meaning of his enterprise.  (41)

The intuition says that I bring you knowledge which has been there and in you all along.  (47)

It must be kept in mind that, how the person relates the intuition to the context of his life so that it becomes a handle by which he is able to connect himself with the living world of living events, is determined by the equipment which he brings to the experience.  (47)

It is difficult to escape the demand to be completely preoccupied with one's suffering.  (50)

Hostility tends to keep up the illusion of self-importance and pride.  There are many people who would feel cheated if suddenly they were deprived of the ego definition that their suffering gives them.  (53)

The two spiritual problems created by suffering--the personalizing of the problem of evil, and hostility against God that is inspired--may become handmaidens or guides into the very midst of the encounter which is the heart of the religious experience.  Suffering requires an ultimate answer.  (54)

Unless the individual is able constantly to identify himself with his fellows even in the presence of God, he will vitiate his insights so that what is a good in him at last becomes evil in its very uniqueness.  But if he maintains his sense of identity with his fellows, then what he is experiencing or experiences, all men everywhere stand in immediate or indirect candidacy to experience, and a part of his response to God is the shared knowledge of God's availability to all.  (59)

It may be here taken for granted that to the individual who has the religious experience, there is a logic and an integrity to the experience itself.  And yet in the very nature of the case, he must test it.  The experience must make a difference and a difference of such significance that the cause of the difference stands out clearly.  But suppose it does not? What if never under any circumstances there is any difference?  If the experience is persisted in, then the individual cannot ever escape the necessity for searching.  This is one of the great paradoxes of religious experience.  The validity of the religious experience does not ultimately rest upon the effect that it has in the world with which the individual has to do but, nevertheless, the individual is not ever relieved of the judgement of such a necessity.  (64)

[T]he struggle to achieve selfhood is rugged, tempestuous and ruthless.  (67)

There is a point at which for the individual the surrender of the self in religious experience gives to the life a purpose that extends beyond one's own private ends and personal risks.  What happens to the individual is determined by that to which he surrenders.  (73)

There must be about God an "altogetherness" in which all conflict is resolved and all tensions move into a single integration.  (76)

There is no more searching question than this: Under what circumstances would you yield your life with enthusiasm?  As long as a man holds his physical existence of supreme importance, then he cannot make the surrender inherent in any profound commitment.  (77)

If a man holds his life of supreme value above all values, then he can always be controlled, enslaved, tyrannized, mastered.  All that is needed for his subservience is the threatening of his physical existence. (78)

We are apt to be more influenced by the image we have of ourselves than by the fact of ourselves.  (88)

One of the results of a healthy personality is the ability to so understand both the image and the facts that they become more and more integrated and the individual becomes increasingly whole.  (90)

[T]need for love is an essential element in the structure of personality.  It is responsible for the establishing of a pattern of response to other human beings that makes possible all forms of community and relatedness between human beings in society.  (105)

There is no feeling quite comparable to the adult feeling that someone cares for you as you without any extras involved.  Each person longs for the kind of relationship with others in which it is no longer necessary to pretend in any sense whatsoever,  In other words there is the deep need to be dealt with in some sense that is total, that is all-inclusive, that is completely complete.  (106)

There is nothing more searching in its exhilaration than the experience of meeting the need in another person at the point that the need is most acutely felt.  (107)

All other experiences of love at the other levels are what may be regarded as "readying" experiences for the great and tremendous experience which is the significant element in the religious experience itself.  This is the essence of the meaning of the love of God.  (115)

In the presence of God all of the things that stand between me and the total exposure of myself to His love must be systematically or radically gotten rid of.  (121)

No man can look on God's face and remain as he was. (122)

Central to the growth of the personality in God is the demand that the experience makes for giving up or sacrifice.  (122)

The profoundest disclosure in the religious experience is the awareness that the individual is not alone.  (123)

If in something as significant as the religious experience the individual personality is the crucial point of reference, not because of who the individual is, or what the individual is, or the shape of his head, or the color of his eyebrows, then it follows that a society that is personality-centered would provide a climate predisposed to religious experience and all that it indicates for the enrichment and meaning of life.  (129-30)

At the point of the ballot, the individual practices his personal responsibility for the state of which he is a part.  Thus, and to that extent, does civic character become synonymous with religious character.  (133)

We are surrounded by a climate of fear; fear of communism; fear of democracy; fear of one another; and fear of tomorrow.  The task of the religious man in whom there is a reigning sense of his own worth validated for him by the dynamics of his religious experience is to reinject into the state the sense of responsibility to the individual.  (133-4)

The way the mind makes its initial contact with ideas is as varied as it is miraculous.  (137)

It is a wonderful sensation--to feel the growth of an idea in the mind.  (138)

The story of the conception, growth, birth and development of an idea is one with the miracle of life itself.  (139)

The concept of denominationalism seems to me to be in itself a violation of what I am delineating as the Jesus idea.  The separate vision of a denomination tends to give to the individual who embraces it an ultimate, particularized status, even before God; as one of the older men in my boyhood church who admonished me because I was attending too many activities in the Methodist church: "Sometimes," he said, "I think that I am a Baptist first and  Christian second."  (140)

[W]hen the church, even within the framework of discrimination inherent in denominationalism, further delimits itself in terms of class and race, it tends to become an instrument of violence to the religious experience.  (142)

The ideal that is fundamental to the Jesus idea, as we have defined it, is a vision of all men as children of God and the church as a social institution formally entrusted with this idea in our society cannot withhold it from any man because of status, of class, of any social definition whatsoever.  A part of its instrumentality in society is to a commitment of attack on any binding social classification that takes precedence over the intrinsic worthfulness of the individual as embodied in the centrality of the religious experience. (emphasis Thurman's, 146)

It is my belief that in the Presence of God there is neither male nor female, white nor black, Gentile nor Jew, Protestant nor Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, nor Moslem, but a human spirit stripped to the literal substance of itself before God.  (152)