Several years ago my wife and I traveled to Europe with some friends. It was a river cruise on the Danube and the memories of it are still strong.
The first city we visited was Prague. This is the “City of a Hundred Spires”, which is a reference to its lasting beauty, having never been bombed, and the many churches which populate it.
One of the first sites we visited was Prague Castle.
Standing above the city, seemingly to watch over it are the stunningly beautiful spires of the St. Vitus cathedral at the castle. It is truly no exaggeration to call it breathtaking.
We arrived early in the morning and already there was a lineup at the door of the cathedral. It was a warm, ideal morning and the people were friendly. I recall wondering what the big deal was about getting inside this St. Vitus. What was so special about this one other than the fact that it was part of the larger property that was Prague Castle?
We slowly made our way to the inside and were able to enter the main cathedral. The interior was beautifully ornate with that gorgeous architecture that sweeps one’s attention upwards. All the voices that were chatting prior to entering went quiet as they entered the main space. Ah, I thought. This is the big deal. A stunningly beautiful architecture combined with a hushed silence.
As I was trying to capture as much of our trip on video as possible, I made my way to the center of the cathedral from which I could pan the camera in a full circle to get the entire space.
I didn’t get a single shot…something started to happen…
As I stood there, readying the camera I started to feel a tingling in the bottom of my feet. The sensation quickly enveloped my feet to the ankles and started to move up my legs. I was frozen on the spot. What was happening?
The sensation continued up the legs into my body until my entire body from toe to head was tingling as if having plugged some kind of battery. It was not uncomfortable and there was a sense of warmth. The sensation lingered for about minute which is a long time to feel captive by something like this. Watch a clock for a minute to see what I mean. Then, it dissipated all at once with the only lingering effect of feeling that I was drawn upwards.
This image is an accurate representation of the upward sweeping effect of the architecture. The spot where I stood was in the center of the space in front of the middle section of seats. As you can see, I was surrounded by upward sweeping architecture. Surely that had something to do with the experience, but clearly not the whole story.
I turned to my companions and asked, “Did you feel that?” The sensation was so tangible that I assumed for a moment that it had affected all of us. But they looked at me momentarily for almost simultaneously saying, “Feel what”?” I described what I had felt and, while sympathetic to my having felt something, they had not experienced it.
So what had happened?
Other than a variety of explanations I’ve been offered, from the “touch of God” to a confluence of ley lines (energy pathways in the earth), all I know for sure is that something happened. I felt that tangible tingling throughout my entire body. Furthermore, the memory of it is still strong and evokes a sense of “something beyond” that is not readily explained.
Interestingly, we went to several cathedrals on our trip, all of which were gorgeous, but none offered me that same experience. In each case I would head to the center of the cathedral and stand quietly, waiting for the tingling to start. It never did. It happened that one time only.
I still don’t know what to make of that experience, but to this day I look at places like churches and temples with a quiet reverence. As I wrote in my piece on the visit to a Buddhist temple, something happened in these places for me. Yet the exact nature of these experiences remains a mystery. Perhaps the touch of the mysterious as all one needs to cultivate a sense of wonder.
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Maybe that is the point.