Discussing a character from a David Foster Wallace story he writes
The center of religious feeling for this character is a kind of magic – the ability to believe that things one cannot verify empirically nevertheless are the case. But somehow this seems to miss the phenomenon that’s interesting. At least it misses the phenomenon that Homer describes, and that I see as in some sense or another running through various later expressions of the sacred.This seems true (as far as it can seem true to someone who doesn't remember reading the story), although I think we need a new word instead of 'wonder.' I think my feeling that I must eat the apples from my apple tree was religious. I've also had experiences that I can't describe except as religious, and these weren't feelings of wonder or gratitude--the feeling was jointly that everything was all right and that God was present or everything was one (I think these expressions do equally well at expressing the feeling, but it's been a while since I had the feeling). This is close enough to what others report that I think it's a pretty common kind of feeling, and I hope you know what I mean. I assume it's the kind of thing that Wittgenstein had in mind in the Lecture on Ethics.
As I see it, the center of Homer’s phenomenon is a kind of wonder, and occasionally gratitude, that things are as they are. When a Homeric character is overwhelmed with this kind of wonder, and immediately feels gratitude for the events at hand, then Homer describes the situation in terms of the presence of a god. This phenomenon seems to me to have literally nothing to do with the magic of believing that there’s a leprechaun behind the rock even though every time you look he’s not there. And the question whether we should feel grateful when good things happen or whether we should feel indifferent – because we know it is simply a matter of luck – seems to me more of a question about what sense of ourselves we aspire to than a question about whether all truths are empirically verifiable or not.
It's a strange kind of feeling anyway. According to some very amateurish research I did once in high school, it can be induced by such methods as sensory deprivation and suspension from straps. So having it proves nothing at all. But it's hard not to be affected at all by this kind of thing, simply to dismiss it as a curious hallucination. And then the task is to find a way to respect it without giving in to sentimental metaphysics.
Anyone who ever had a heart...