“n., v. awed, aw•ing. n.
1. an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, or wonder produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, etc.
2. Archaic. power to inspire fear or reverence.
3. Obs. fear or dread.”
(From The Free Dictionary)
“Blessed is the man that senses awe always, and he that hardens his heart will fall into evil”
Aramaic Bible In Plain English
Neuropsychologist and positive psychology guru Pearsall defines awe as an “overwhelming and bewildering sense of connection with a startling universe that is usually far beyond the narrow band of our consciousness” (In Awe: The Delights and Dangers of Our Eleventh Emotion).
Awe seems to be a mix of strange and contradictionary feelings. Even there are many definitions it seems difficult to exactly express what we exactly mean by “awe”.
It’s something which obviously cannot grasped easily by the intellectual mind. Maybe it is easier to understand if we share information about “awe inspiring experiences”.
Even most of us can’t tell us what exactly a feeling of awe is it seems to be worth to think about awe. It’s not like horror or pure fear, it’s more a mix of fascination, fear and more. My impression is that if you are drawn to something beyond you know you are unconciously looking for the sensation of awe. Our drive to travel towards the most extreme points of our planet or to walk alone into the wilderness might have to do something with it. There aren’t many sufficient explanations why people are purposely looking for danger, why are they getting too close to an erupting volcano or diving into waters full of sharks.
Some mountain climbers claimed they do their exhausting and neck-breaking climbs because they want to find “themselves”. Consequently this means they don’t really know who they are.
So, awe seems about something which is connected with some sort of insight. It’s not necessarily about yourself but also an experience which leads to a new understanding of the world.
Maybe awe is a primal feeling or sensation which happens when you become aware of the otherworld. It’s happening when you stand in front of the dark gate and what is usually behind a veil becomes visible for a short moment.
We’ve heard the call and sometimes we get what we have been looking for all the time.
The connection of the feeling of awe with mind challenging experiences like sightings or near death experiences is obvious.
However, does the feeling of awe lead to true insight? Our big problem again is how to distinguish between projection, delusion and the truth.
Here is one more quote from the above mentioned book: “6. Awe results in a sense of a severe challenge to our ‘mental set,’ resulting in the need to decide between ‘accommodating’ the awe experience through creating new ways of thinking, feeling, believing, and behaving; or ‘assimilating’ what happened by briefly enjoying it and returning back to one’s prior way of thinking and being”.
Pearsall emphasizes the life changing aspect, which again is also true for otherworldly encounters. It isn’t said if the person who had the experience is becoming more joyful or more fearful. We don’t know if we have an awe inspiring experience what it could exactly mean to us. Mostly this seems to be about seeing the world in a different way. Scientists found that people who had awe inspiring experiences are experiencing time in a different way (a thesis expressed in the article “Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being” by
Melanie Rudd, Kathleen D. Vohs and Jennifer Aaker”).
The otherworldly encounters doesn’t necessarily mean some sort of enlightenment. Maybe there is a very ambiguous aspect here. One definition of awe was “Archaic. power to inspire fear or reverence”. And being blessed by sensing awe always could be also interpreted as some sort of awareness or that being alert is important, even it’s true what the scientists say that awe inspiring experience in some cases often enhance our well-being.
The phenomenon of “awe” fascinates me because of it’s not a simple feeling, it’s the ambivalence, which makes it interesting, particularly for any movie project. Stephen King wrote once that he thinks that many writers and artists working in the fantasy, science-fiction or horror genre kept a “sense of wonder”. Usually we loose our sense of wonder when we grew up. Seeking awe inspiring experiences or the attempt to create an awe inspiring experience for an audience as a writer or artist might represent our desperate and secret wish to get back childhood feelings, which had been long lost – even these feeling might have to do with primal fears and horror. It might be also a reason why people enter the dark forests of our world; sometimes we are looking for the monster which both fascinates us and terrifies us in the same moment. We want to see what’s hiding in the darkness, we’re afraid of the noises in the middle of the night in the empty house but we don’t want to go away. We could escape the storm but we follow the twister instead. We want to know what’s lurking inside the dark cave. Sometimes it’s the strange moments in life where we really feel at home.