I had several other experiences of that Presence when I was young. When I was eleven (I always know how old I was for any childhood memory because we moved nine times in the same little village), I was wandering in the woods surrounding the Crooked Springs pond. We had only lived for a year in that house on
School Street, the purchase of which had occasioned such joy. I came upon what I later learned was a fairy ring. In a glade in the woods was a perfectly round circle of grass with an outer circle of mushrooms. Again I experienced the Presence and the awe that I had felt at the tadpole pool. Now, at this moment, the image of the fairy ring is here in my head, but I can’t bring the Presence to mind, can’t recreate it, even though I remember that it was there.
In college one night I walked out on the footbridge that spanned the
Lower Lake, looked down into the shallow water illuminated by a lamp at the edge of the bridge, and saw a fish swimming. Goosebumps crept over me when the Presence emerged.
Later I could give a name to what I experienced on these occasions--numinous awe at the sudden manifestation of the mysterium tremendum.
Mysterium tremendum: The feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship. It may pass over into a more set and lasting attitude of the soul, continuing, as it were, thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at last it dies away and the soul resumes its ‘profane’, non-religious mood of everyday experience. It may burst in sudden eruption up from the depths of the soul with spasms and convulsions, or lead to the strangest excitements, to intoxicated frenzy, to transport, and to ecstasy. It has its crude, barbaric antecedents and early manifestations, and again it may be developed into something beautiful and pure and glorious. It may become the hushed, trembling, and speechless humility of the creature in the presence of—whom or what? In the presence of that which is a mystery inexpressible and above all creatures. Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy