WHILE I HAVE HAD many powerful experiences at Unity North Spiritual Center, the most profound was during an exercise called Maieutics. In our Bible study class, we consider culture, climate, the political influences of the times, the various other religions in the region, the Aramaic spoken at the time, and the various translations of the Bible.
“Maieutics is a Greek word having to do with birthing,” notes our church newsletter. “In this case, it is birthing new ideas and new understandings from scripture. If you love Bible stories or you just don’t understand why anyone is fond of them, come to this entirely different experience of Bible stories. Includes visualization, storytelling and role playing.”
My profound experience with Maieutics took place in 2011. In Bible class, we decided to do an exercise on the story when Jesus asked Levi, a tax collector, to follow him and then join him when he ate with people Jews of the time didn’t usually eat with — prostitutes, other tax collectors, etc. The Pharisees confront Jesus, and he says, “It is not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick; I did not come to invite virtuous people, but sinners.”
We read that biblical passage and discussed how Jesus had violated the custom of the times. We discussed the role of the Pharisees in aiding the community to follow their spiritual laws. We imagined the scene, noting the climate and the surroundings. We then began guided visualizations where we imagined ourselves in each of the roles in the story. We tried to experience how each person might have felt as the story enfolded. Afterward, we discussed our interpretations on how the people felt at the time, and then we were asked to choose roles and act out the scene.
“Who will be Jesus?” asked Carol Kniskern, our spiritual director and leader of this exercise.
After a pause, I said, “I will.”
After the other roles were chosen, we came together to recreate the scene. It was then that I felt the enormity of what I had said I would do. I became really anxious. Me, Jesus? No way. Meanwhile, the cast was identifying where the tax collector’s custom house was, where the dinner would take place and where the Pharisees would stand. It was too late to back out.
I took a huge breath and sunk way down inside myself. What happened next was almost indescribable. A presence welled up from inside me. I remember watching all this and feeling it from a space behind my left shoulder. We started acting out the scene and my body moved and I spoke, but it was this presence that moved me and spoke. “I” was watching it all happen.
I noticed that the others in the room were looking at me strangely, although they played out their roles. I remember feeling intense compassion for everyone in the room. I also remember that I barely remembered what I should say from the passage, but the appropriate things came out of me.
Afterward, we spent time discussing our experiences. I recall having little to say except that I described the presence — which I still felt — and everyone said they witnessed it also. I continued to feel it, although less strongly, throughout the next day.
We did another maieutics exercise a few months later, and someone else played Jesus. While her experience wasn’t exactly like mine, she also felt a presence also and we all could see and feel it.
I believe that this process brought the divine part of me out in a profound way — and it has changed my life. I haven’t felt it that strongly since, but I know it is there. It gives me peace and strength.
Unity North Spiritual Center, 11499 Martin St. NW, Minneapolis, has roots in New Thought Christianity, and other spiritual traditions are experienced, including shamanic rituals, Sufi dances of Universal Peace and healing services. Maieutics is offered from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7. Visit unitynorthmn.org.