Nearly all humans recognize that some kinds of transcendent experience open our minds to new ideas and perspectives. While a theist typically believes that the most important revelation originates from a divine source, all humans are united in seeking revelation, broadly defined—all of us value insight into our nature and connectedness with one another and the universe regardless of our belief in God(s).
Like “love languages,” sources of revelation can be thought of as “spiritual languages.” Some people may receive more revelation from one source than another, and perhaps the volume of revelation from different sources may change over the course of a person’s life. There is probably value in trying to understand which sources others resonate with most and occasionally exploring or revisiting sources that we may have neglected in our spiritual development.
Six Sources of Revelation
- Personal Revelation: Personal revelation is arguably the most important source of revelation, because it emphasizes personal responsibility for discovery and growth. Benjamin Franklin once wrote “God helps those who help themselves.” Personal revelation encourages a person to learn as much as they can and sift through ideas to find what resonates most with them and what they view as being most grounded in transcendent goodness.
- Teachers: Life is a very difficult journey for all of us. Going to those who are personally trusted for guidance often makes life easier to navigate. Those whom we seek guidance from can have many different titles and can include family, friends, or spiritual leaders.
- Community: Talking and serving with others helps us learn and build connection. Some find community in formal groups dedicated to spiritual growth. Formal groups create space for sharing personal revelations, discussing scripture, and performing rituals. Others may find community in less formal associations (e.g., a group of close friends with whom spiritual insights are shared).
- Scriptures: Scripture may be viewed as sacred writing (typically, but not necessarily, from past generations) that convey valuable lessons or reveal truths about our nature or inter-connectedness. These writings may be fiction, non-fiction, or somewhere in between.
- Tools: Tools are often used as a reminder of something or are used to produce greater understanding. Tools may include things like jewelry, symbols, clothing, grooming styles, names or titles, food, or entheogens. Tools may also include places of worship or reflection such as churches, temples, or being in nature.
- Rituals: Rituals are formalized and/or symbolic actions that are based in tradition. They often mark a milestone in life, symbolize a commitment, give advice or comfort, or convey a desire for things to change. Formal religious rituals might include things such as prayer, fasting, baptism, or weddings. More secular (but still sacred) ritutals might be graduation ceremonies and memorial services.
Typical sources for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Latter-day Saints may receive revelation during or through the following means (not meant to be exhaustive, merely suggestive):
- Personal Revelation: Latter-day Saints view the most important sources of personal as the Light of Christ, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and perhaps for some the Second Comforter (i.e., personal visitations from Jesus Christ and maybe even God the Father).
- Teachers: The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, other General Authorities, parents, Sunday school and quorum teachers, quorum and class presidencies, and peers.
- Community: Latter-day Saints belong to a ward that is itself part of a larger stake, region, and area. Individuals are part of quorums and classes throughout their lives. Students attend seminary and institute together. Ministering assignments and other activities (like basketball or zumba) also create cross class relationships.
- Scriptures: LDS scripture includes at least the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. General Conference is viewed as a kind of living scripture that may update or supercede past scripture or conference with the expectation that it will always harmonize. Patriarchal blessings and journals may be viewed as personal scripture.
- Tools: Oil for blessings, conservative business apparel (especially white shirts), garments, ceremonial temple clothing, appelations like “brother”, “sister”, “President”, and “Bishop” may be viewed as tools that call to remembrance or help in the reception of revelation.
- Rituals: Latter-day Saints engage in fasting, prayer, blessings on food, annual tithing settlement, baby-blessings, baptism, setting apart, conferral of priesthood and ordination to offices. In temples, publicly recognized rituals include washings and anointings, the endowment, the sealing ceremony, and baptisms for the dead.
Typical sources for a secular humanist
Secular humanists are not tightly grouped as a culture, so any representation will be vastly inadequate. I will speak from my own experience as a secular humanist as to sources of revelation for me.
- Personal Revelation: A secular humanist might view the process of concious and subconcious engagement with a problem or theme a source for generating new ideas and sudden strokes of insight. Understanding new or different models of reality and comparing their ability to capture and predict data often produces new insights.
Teachers: Without fully embracing a single philosophy, thought-leaders or commentators across the professional, religious, and political spectrum may contribute important insights (e.g., Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Ezra Klein, David Brooks, Jorge Bergoglio, the Dalai Lama …)
- Community: …
- Scriptures: …
- Tools: …
- Rituals: …
The 6 sources of revelation were first compiled by Gileriodekel here. This presentation follows closely after his. I originally copied the post, but I have made fairly extensive modifications over time.