Francis Bacon, one of the founders of modern science, said that ‘experience is the best proof’. But what is experience?
If I have some bad news and feel depressed and pessimistic that is an experience. It’s proof that I am affected by what happens or people say. It doesn’t mean my pessimism is proven right. The same applies when the wheel of fortune turns and brings me good news and a positive outlook on things. Experience in itself does not prove very much except that I am sensitive and up and down. What matters is the depth of experience. The deeper it is, the more it will reflect a level that can be better trusted as true because it is less liable to changing circumstances and mood swings.
I quoted Maria and Albert from Lviv yesterday saying that as ‘everything around us is dying we are finding in ourselves what cannot die’. This reflects an experience born not of ideas but insight. Ideas like feelings are very changeable. Good ideas can excite and then disappoint us when we see through them. Insight is more like Bacon’s sense of the kind of experience that proves the truth. To prove means to test something, to try or to demonstrate. Even great, staggering insights need to be tested. We shouldn’t believe anything unless we accept the process of testing. The word also has an old sense of ‘being out in front’. Experience in relation to truth is always leading us to know and understand more deeply.
So we don’t stop meditating and think we’ve arrived the first time we have a really ‘good meditation’. Experience will demonstrate that there are patterns and cycles we will pass through as we go deeper. Our relationship with meditation over an extended period of time reveals the nature of our connection, relationship and ultimately our union with God. There is no arrival. Only an ever renewed beginning, a boundless I AM.
Lent is a reminder to test our experience and challenge our complacency and shake up our half-conscious habits. A Lent where we accompany the suffering and outrage of Ukraine has the strange potential to take us deeper than we would otherwise go. Maria and Albert’s remarks demonstrates this as does the heroic resilience of the national resistance. In whatever I have read or seen about the mood of the country and the leadership of President Zelenskyy I do not remember any deranged hatred of Russians but rather a sacrificial love for their country and of freedom.
The insight they are manifesting to the rest of the world is a proof of something hopeful about humanity, a deep-level teaching about truth.

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022