Mountains and religious/spiritual experiences

Mountains and religious/spiritual experiences

Joined: January 29th, 2004, 3:33 am

November 6th, 2008, 7:41 pm #1


Mountains and high points seem to have strong religious significance and symbolism.
Many Biblical prophets climbed high mountains for visions or to be closer to God.
Non-Christian religions too seem to attach the spiritual to high mountains.
For a newspaper project I'm working on, I wondered what the feelings of some forum users might be on this topic (with or without being specific on your religious preference) ----
Are mountain tops more than bird's-eye panoramas? Is there a religious or spiritual aspect that can be found there too?



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Joined: January 20th, 2004, 9:10 pm

November 6th, 2008, 9:53 pm #2

Some mountains don't need to be climbed to imbue some religious/spiritual significance to them. Just standing near a lava flow on the slopes of Mauna Loa/Kilauea is enough to impress the heck out of anyone. If you're knowledgeable about plate tectonics and volcanism and geology, then the flows are all explainable and "it all makes sense". It is still extraordinarily impressive. If you're a simple peasant from hundreds of years ago, the only plausible explanation is that of a god/being that is churning up the lava.

Some peaks are so utterly impressive/gigantic/beautiful that you can't help but feel there is some other-worldly quasi-religious aspect to them. Even if you know better. The primal instinct is still there to worship, or at least consider holy, the mountain.

Climbing a peak goes beyond the sights you'll see at the summit. I have had plenty of peaks where I spent just a few moments on top, never really looked around (or couldn't if the weather was not cooperating), hustled on down yet still had that exhilirating feeling that overlaps into strong spiritual connections. The views are nice but that is not why I climb.

There are certainly physical reasons why we feel "spiritual/religious" on a mountain top. Maybe it's the rush of endorphins. Perhaps the thrill of plotting a route, making it happen and doing so successfully. Placing yourself on the edge figuratively, pushing the envelope, and having success. That does it for me. The rush is amazing.

Whether it makes me believe moreso or less so in the supernatural is not the point. For those few moments I feel a rush that only summitting a peak can provide and it is amazing, and I feel like all is well in this world. I am not particularly religious but I do feel strongly the spiritual aspect.

I've had similar feelings after long desert walks where a summit was not part of the plan. I think there is something primal that connects us to the land, and that we tend to ignore it in our daily ant-lives in the city.



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Joined: January 20th, 2004, 9:10 pm

November 6th, 2008, 9:54 pm #3

I forgot to put my name in the name field.
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Joined: January 23rd, 2004, 1:04 am

November 8th, 2008, 12:31 pm #4

Mountains and high points seem to have strong religious significance and symbolism.
Many Biblical prophets climbed high mountains for visions or to be closer to God.
Non-Christian religions too seem to attach the spiritual to high mountains.
For a newspaper project I'm working on, I wondered what the feelings of some forum users might be on this topic (with or without being specific on your religious preference) ----
Are mountain tops more than bird's-eye panoramas? Is there a religious or spiritual aspect that can be found there too?


I tend to agree with 'Anonymous Surgent's response:) There are probably a variety of reasons that we feel the way we do when we reach a summit. Whether it be the endorphins, the sense of accomplishment or just the view, it all has an impact. I wonder though if the experience becomes religious or spiritual particularly for someone who rarely attempts to hike/climb. The feeling of elation, the wonder and vastness of the landscape may be somewhat overwhelming to some once they are on the summit. I regularly read through the logbooks and other tidbits of paper etc. that are left at the summits in cannisters and ammo boxes to track highpointer visitation. There are frequent entries relating to religion and spirituality from just one or two sentences to literally pages of handwritten scripture. This past summer I found a Book of Mormon in the ammo box at the summit of Black Mesa,OK. It contained a note explaining the reason for leaving it there and included the persons name and email address if they would like additional information.

For myself, I feel it has always been the journey to the summit that has been the most rewarding. The summit just means I completed the task at hand. It is traveling in the woods or mountain areas whether on trail or bushwhacking to a viewless peak or climbing on a glacier; it is the heightened awareness that comes to the senses. In particular the sense of hearing and the sense of smell come into play. Maybe it's the primal thing coming out especially when solo. Every step of my boots are heard from the snap of a twig or splash of a puddle. The rustle of leaves, maybe a bird or squirrel? A falling branch crashing through the trees, maybe the scrape of antlers? It becomes survival and living in the moment more than a religious or spiritual experience for me.
Stony
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Joined: January 20th, 2004, 5:18 am

November 9th, 2008, 1:37 pm #5

Mountains and high points seem to have strong religious significance and symbolism.
Many Biblical prophets climbed high mountains for visions or to be closer to God.
Non-Christian religions too seem to attach the spiritual to high mountains.
For a newspaper project I'm working on, I wondered what the feelings of some forum users might be on this topic (with or without being specific on your religious preference) ----
Are mountain tops more than bird's-eye panoramas? Is there a religious or spiritual aspect that can be found there too?


Good post, Lynn. From my own point-of-view, I can't say that there is anything "religious" about climbing/hiking mountains but it has always appealed to my "spiritual" side in a big way. Great way of blocking out all the day-to-day static and giving a dose of perspective about all the things we all get stressed out about. There is something soothing and peaceful about knowing that the mountains were there long before us and will remain long after we're gone. All of man's creations and concerns are nothing more than blips in time.
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Joined: January 23rd, 2004, 4:53 pm

November 10th, 2008, 7:27 pm #6

Mountains and high points seem to have strong religious significance and symbolism.
Many Biblical prophets climbed high mountains for visions or to be closer to God.
Non-Christian religions too seem to attach the spiritual to high mountains.
For a newspaper project I'm working on, I wondered what the feelings of some forum users might be on this topic (with or without being specific on your religious preference) ----
Are mountain tops more than bird's-eye panoramas? Is there a religious or spiritual aspect that can be found there too?


Mauna Kea has significance to the Hawaiians as we all know.

We made it to Hawaii courtesy of an inheritance from my grandmother. I'm not terribly religious but am spiritual about a number of things. Upon leaving the summit I really & truly felt my grandmother's presence up there. There was just something I felt that she was communicating she made it to the other side and was in a better place and it was ok to move on.
Alot of people think that all sounds hokie but I felt it up there.
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Joined: November 11th, 2008, 11:36 pm

November 11th, 2008, 11:42 pm #7

I always say prayers at the summit. Glad to hear about your experience on the mountain and with grandma. I just became a grandparent and hope to be remembered as fondly by one of my grandchildren from a summit(your friend Dr. Bob)
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Joined: June 21st, 2006, 11:43 am

November 13th, 2008, 12:45 pm #8

Mountains and high points seem to have strong religious significance and symbolism.
Many Biblical prophets climbed high mountains for visions or to be closer to God.
Non-Christian religions too seem to attach the spiritual to high mountains.
For a newspaper project I'm working on, I wondered what the feelings of some forum users might be on this topic (with or without being specific on your religious preference) ----
Are mountain tops more than bird's-eye panoramas? Is there a religious or spiritual aspect that can be found there too?


I have not had spiritual experiences in the mountains that were any different than those I have felt in other places in the wild. I marvel at what God has created just as much when paddling on Emerald Lake in Ontario, when caught in a thunderstorm while hiking on Rib Mountain 1924' near Wausau, Wisconsin, while biking in the Mead Wildlife Refuge at sunset, or when sitting in the woods behind the barn near the Rocky Run Creek when I was a kid. I'll have to admit that sitting at Camp Shurman after reaching the Rainier summit, standing on top of Mount Hood at 5:30 AM, hiking the Glacier Trail in the Wind Rivers, climbing the Chimneys on Granite Peak, hiking the Ammonoosuc Trail in NH, filtering water in Dollar Lake near Kings, and skiing to the Mount Arvon summit on New Years Eve were all inspiring. Usually I say "Thank God!" I didn't fall in a crevasse on Rainier or have a rock fall on my head while climbing Gannett or Granite Peak, or get bit by a rattlesnake in North Dakota.
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