Submodalities are the Interface between God and Our Experience of God.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with a friend now deceased and we were talking about how exactly to know about God, and whether it would be possible to know God directly. We decided there would have to be some kind of conduit or interface between our animal beings, and the spiritual creator. NLP opened my eyes to an important aspect of how the mundane temporal and spiritual timeless worlds would communicate if they could.
In NLP we ask “how do you know that”, or “how do you do that”? The how reveals a lot about how experience of things outside are laid down on the inside. All experience is sensory, and all sensory experience can be described by their submodalities, and those submodalities differ from person to person. From there, we add cultural and personal meaning to the actual neurological experience as it was recorded.
In this discussion, we are not interested in a philosophical discussion about what God is or is not (which is metaphorical or symbolic). We are not interested in defining God. We are more interested in how God is experienced directly, in sensory terms, and in exploring our own experiences in those same sensory terms.
Let’s start with a reminder of the sensory modes: Seeing, Hearing, Feeling, Tasting and Smelling. Each of these sensory modes has qualitative aspects to them, called submodalities, which are scribed in our neurology. From there our direct sensory experience is imbued with meaning from prior experience.
Now, Let’s examine the submodalities of our experience of God, one sense mode at a time.
Submodalities of Seeing
It’s difficult to find anyone alive today who could tell you what God looks like from their own experience. Though there are religions that stand by the holy word that God spoke face-to-face to some prophet or another, no contemporary religious leader could defend his or her own visions publicly. The fewer the details, the more credible they are. Specificity is a place they cannot go. Various forms of God are depicted in art, but nobody can agree on whether God is more or less than 6 feet tall, parts his or her hair on the left or right, or has any other distinct physical characteristics. God is powerful, if not photogenic.
So from our respective cultures, we absorb what data is available to us. We rely on art and sacred stories to sketch a conceptual model of what God might look like, and we fill in the details. To a white child raised in the West, God is a white male, and to a black child God is a black male. On the other side of the globe, God is more likely to be pictured as imminent, or present in all things.
Are these images reliable? Maybe empirically no, but they are salient and pervasive to the subjective mind, and form an important part of our identity, our worth and value in the world, and our privileges and direction through life.
Explore your own images of God. Do you see God a person? If so, is God male or female, or both somehow? Does God have a glow? What is God wearing? Is God moving, or still like a photograph? How big is God? Are there boundaries or edges to God’s being? How near or far? Does God resemble an image you’ve seen somewhere before? When you focus your vision on your image of God, what happens? Does it get clearer, or fuzzier?
Submodalities of Hearing
Holy books announce that God has spoken in times past to or through prophets, saints, sages, gurus, wise men, scientists, philosophers, bodhisattvas, and his words have been written, and often translated for us. To the degree that we do or don’t believe those accounts depends on how that voice resounds in our inner ear, and whether that voice then is a motivating force.
People who might hear God’s voice in the present day as often report that there is no sound as that there is. Some say that God’s voice is silence. For those who do hear his voice, there are certain submodalities, which again cannot be agreed on empirically, but which are subjectively substantive.
Explore your own perceptions of God’s voice, or if you have difficulty, what would it sound like if you could hear it? How would you recognize it as God’s voice? What is the tone? How loud is it? Does it have a certain timbre or instrumental quality? How quickly does God speak? What direction does the voice come from? How far away is it? What other possible effects such as reverb or echo are there? What language does God speak to you? Is there an accent? What is the choice of the words? When you listen even more to that voice, is it your own voice? Is it very similar to someone else’s? Whose? As you tune your ear even more to the sound of the voice, does it get clearer or harder to make out?
Submodalities of Feeling
Some people feel God intensely, and others cannot feel God at all. Whether one can or cannot feel God’s presence is strongly correlated with one’s belief in God.
Feelings are never “out there”, they are always “in here”… always subjective. Feelings can be talked about, sung about, but they cannot be pointed to, weighed or measured. We may think we are sharing feelings, but what we are really doing is empathizing, reflecting or mirroring on the inside.
Explore your feelings of God. Where is that feeling? Is the feeling on the skin, or in the viscera? Where does it start and end? How does it move through you? Where does the feeling seem enter and exit, or start and end? How long does it last? Does it have weight or lightness to it? Does it spin, twist or rotate? Is the feeling warm or cool? What places or situations are conducive to that feeling? Do other people or literature tend to bring that feeling on? Are those feelings anchored to anything that might be deliberately controlled by someone other than God?
Submodalities of Taste and Smell
Though Eastern religions have use “one taste” as a metaphor for God or Spirit, there is not much literature, art, or discussion on the taste and smell of God. One would have to be very close to God indeed to have tasted or whiffed. Intimate contact would have to be made. This cannot be done from any distance at all.
Explore whether you have any kind of taste or smell of God as you hold God in mind. Is the lack of any experience due to your own distance from God as you perceive, or might there also be a complete cultural vacuum where the taste of God is unknowable, let alone something to be celebrated.
Location in Space and Time
Finally, we enter the dimensions of Space and Time. Sight and Sound are our best senses for knowing where we and others are in space, and our feelings can tell us whether we are in the present moment or carried by our thoughts into memories of the past or possibilities of the future.
Explore where you position God in space and time. Does God have an address? Can you point to the direction where God is? How far or near? How much space does God inhabit? Is God up, or down? As the world rotates, where is God relative to your position? Does God cast a shadow? Is God around you, or within you, or some combination at one time or another?
Now let’s explore your timeline. Is God a figure from the past? Is God available in the present? Will there be a meeting between you and God in the future? If so, what lies beyond that meeting? Does God’s form change as you compare past, present and future?
From this article, I am not taking a position whether God exists or not. Rather, I am trying to discover a common ground for understanding our cultural and personal differences.
With the understanding that submodalities offers, we can be catalysts for positive influence on ourselves and others. Change the submodalities, change the experience. Change the experience, change the map. Change the map, change the territory. There are as many paths to experiencing or denying God directly as there are people. Whether faith, devotion, agnosticism, or atheism is your creed, understanding direct experience can offer a bridge from where you have been to where you want to be.