Trying to enter a discussion/debate with someone using reason vs experience, I realised the power that experience has to fix ones mind on a religious doctrine regardless of the reason for that religious doctrine. Because someone experiences “the divine” it immediately seems to fix for him the truth of the particular belief system that he already holds or to which the experience is associated. This connection, I believe, is used expressly by Mormons in the process of making new converts.
From experience hearing/reading a number of experiential stories from people of many different faith backgrounds and my own personal experiences, I can see that, regardless of belief, people dedicated to spiritual matters have almost the same experience of the divine, at least to a certain, yet very deep, extent. Thus, I have heard testimonies from Japanese Buddhists that profess very similar experiences as Evangelical Christian testimonies. Also the experiences of Buddhist monks are very close to experiences of Orthodox Christian monks.
How can we explain this? Given that the experience is genuinely perceived, many may say that this proves that no matter which path one takes one will meet the divine and so religious doctrine, which speaks of a right way to God, must be ultimately false, although participation in any religious group is often seen as nevertheless more beneficial than rejecting particular religious affiliation altogether. Others may state that religious doctrine that teaches of a divine being transcendent to the universe is therefore obviously not true and that these experiences are normal to humans that act in a manner as to be able to experience them. Those committed to a particular religious path may see such experiences as being perhaps of the devil, a delusion, or even of God, but that the experience is not in itself conclusive of being on the correct path. There may also be many other nuances of explanation or combinations of explanations.
What is clear is that experience in itself is unable to define the truth of a particular religious path to salvation without that path also being tested by other means of determining truth, such as reason. This does not mean that experience of the divine is not an essential part of one’s life nor that there is no particular path to salvation but only that the experience in itself cannot be said to be enough of a reason to guarantee the truth of the particular religious path that one follows. So, to say that one has decided to believe in Jesus and that due to this decision one’s life has changed for the better, an experience which may very well be true, does not mean that one is necessarily saved or even on the right religious path; this will depend on one’s doctrine, the truth of which requires reason as well as experience.
This is a perspective on what the Lord meant when he said that it is necessary to us to revere God in spirit and truth. Thus, the orthodoxy of our reverence is as important as any experience of our reverence, even if the experience seems to be beneficial and like that expressed in the Scriptures or seen in the Saints. It would seem that one cannot rest on experience with the first doctrine that seems to explain it but one must ensure that one is revering God in truth even if this means to some extent questioning the validity of one’s experience.