Wednesday, December 20, 2006

An Apology, and a Little Story

I apologize to those brave few who check in on The Philosophical Midwife now and again. I've had a busy semester and haven't had the time or "brain juice" to post. (Einstein talked of "mental grease". I prefer "brain juice".)

I've decided to change my career. Before I was a moderately successful philosopher. Now I hope to become a moderately successful mathematics teacher. Before I began work in philosophy, my studies were devoted to mathematics, and to it I now return. But I hope to continue, now and again, to think and write about philosophy and religion.

A few months ago, as I sat for mass at St. Thomas Aquinas, I had what for me was an extraordinary experience. It seemed to me that I saw Christ walk down an aisle. I felt that I would succumb to the vision, that I would loose myself in it, and out of fear I pulled back. When I did, the vision ended.

My wife asked me after mass if I felt that I had imagined him. I replied that it did not seem to me that I had. Rather I had the sense that the vision came to me from without. This of course does not prove that it did come from without, but all that I wish to do is report how it seemed to me at the time.

The experience was not purely perceptual in nature. It was cognitive as well. As I've noted before, one of the foundational tenets of Christianity is that at present the world is not as it should be. Indeed for the Christian we are not now as we should be. Moreover, Christianity projects a future in which all that is not right will be made right. As I sat for mass, I took the few minutes of peace it afforded to reflect upon this Christian tenet. I began to wonder what precisely the world was like before the Fall, and what it would be like after the rift between God and man opened by the Fall was healed. The thought occurred to me that perhaps the Fall, as it were, pulled the entirety of the world through a Carrollian mirror. Perhaps it remade the world, from its constituent fundamental particles and the laws that govern them through every level of matter that supervenes upon them, and left it in a state of deep imperfection. (I take it that this view contradicts what most hold. Most hold that the Fall in some way infected humanity but that it left most of the rest of creation intact. On the common view, the nonhuman world - at least insofar as it has not suffered the consequences of human sin - is as God designed it. On the contrary, on the view that I've described, nothing is now as God designed it - not humans, not animals, not the Earth, not the solar system, not the galaxy, not the universe.)

I know that this is but the barest sketch of a view. I don't mean to develop it here. Instead all that I mean to say is that this is what occupied my thoughts when the vision of Christ began. Indeed that vision served to strengthen my conviction that this view of the Fall is true. I do not know how or why it did so, but it did.

These thoughts about the Fall did not exhaust the cognitive aspect of my experience. Concomitant with them was a deep sense of just how utterly foreign was this man who walked down the aisle. It was almost as if the culture of his time and place hung about him as a nimbus. I thought to myself that if this man were to walk among us, were to talk with us, we would think him wholly foreign. We would not understand what he did. We would be offended by what he did.

Last I was struck by the sheer physicality of the man. In my vision it seemed to me not that he was a spirit who appeared in bodily form. Rather he was a man as surely as am I.

I find that at this point words fail me. The vision was richer than I am now able to express. Perhaps I will return to it in a later post.

I have little idea of the significance of the vision, and its effects seem to have largely worn off. I am as I was before the vision. But I do retain a fear of mass. I'm afraid that the vision will take hold of me again and that, when it does, I won't be able to put a stop to it.

5 comments:

Timothy said...

I am one of the brave few. I'm glad you haven't abandoned your online writings. I have always found them agreeable enough with my own ideas to afford me the delight of intellectual affirmation, but still at odds with them enough to keep my own thoughts stirred up.

All the best with your new career.

Franklin Mason said...

Thank you for the kind words.

I do plan to post over the next few weeks, but I'm afraid that I'll probably put it aside again until summer.

So, check often for a few weeks!

C Grace said...

Franklin,

I have been offline for a long time and have just today decided to browse your blog. I find your description fascinating. Having some experience of my own with visions yours sounds genuine.

Just two comments. Your view of the fall is actually quite Biblical. Romans 8:20 "For creation itself was subjected to futility, not willingly but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that creation itself also will be set free from slavery to corruptionto the freedom of the glory of the children of God."
italics mine

"I'm afraid that the vision will take hold of me again and that, when it does, I won't be able to put a stop to it."

"God is love" and the love of God when known experientially pulls us out of ourselves. It calls us to lose ourselves in it, more intimately, more fully then ever we can lose ourselves in the eyes of a human lover. God is a magnet to the human soul calling us to let go of our self-contained nature and self-reflecting thoughts becoming absorbed in Him.
But, yes, fear prevents us: fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of being swept away and loosing control. And most of all fear of the truth, fear of being pulled back through that Carollian mirror and finding that all our neat logical categories are in a sense false, that the world is not as we think it and we are not who we think we are.

from Merton's Palace of Nowhere, James Finley
" 'Every one of us is shadowed by an illusary person: a false self. ...This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy.

My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God's will and God's love -outside reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.

We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves --the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin. For most people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist. A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin.'(Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation)

The primordial event of Adam's fall continues to live in every act we make in service of the false self. In contrast to this, the spiritual life of the Christian is a life in Christ, through whom we are enabled to remove the shackles of sin and the mask of illusion. In Christ we find the hope of a face to face realtionship with God, in which is hidden the self He created us to become. "

"After Adam had passed through the center of himself and emerged on the other side to escape from God by putting himself between himself and God, he had mentally reconstructed the whole universe in his own image and likeness. That is the painful and useless labor which has been inherited by his descendents--the labor of science without wisdom; mental toil that pieces together fragments that never manage to coalesce in one completely integrated whole..." Merton, The New Man

Please forgive the length of the quotes but I thought you might find in them some insight.

One last thought, God has offered you an invitation. He respects our freedom more then we respect it ourseves and will not force Himself on you without your consent. After all love cannot exist apart from freedom and He created us to love Him and be loved by Him. Once the invitation is offered He waits for us to respond or not as we will.

Celinda Grace

Franklin Mason said...

That's a very nice quote from Merton. I think I'll go track down the book.

The strange thing is that my little vision (if "vision" is the right word) didn't seem like an invitation. It was given to me, but it wasn't about me. I didn't have the sense that much if any notice was taken of me.

It's all a mystery to me. I don't know what to make of it.

C Grace said...

I wouldn't worry about making something of it. To be in the dark is a good place to be, far better than thinking we know something we don't.

Having the courage to admit what we don't know and keep asking the questions is far better than knowing the answers.

Here is another quote from Merton you will like

"One of the moral diseases we comminicate to one another in society comes from huddling together in the pale light of an insufficient answer to a question we are afraid to ask." No Man is an Island