Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Creation and the hidden God

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Came across this the other day by Simone Weil –

La création est de la part de Dieu un acte non pas d’expansion de soi, mais de retrait, de renoncement. Dieu et toutes les créatures, cela est moins que Dieu seul. Dieu a accepté cette diminution. Il a vidé de soi une partie de l’être. Il s’est vidé déjà dans cet acte de sa divinité; c’est pourquoi saint Jean dit que l’Agneau a été égorgé dès la constitution du monde. Dieu a permis d’exister à des choses autres que lui et valant infiniment moins que lui. Il s’est par l’acte créateur nié lui-même, comme le Christ nous a prescrit de nous nier nous-mêmes. Dieu s’est nié en notre faveur pour nous donner la possibilité de nous nier pour lui. Cette réponse, cet écho, qu’il dépend de nous de refuser, est la seule justification possible à la folie d’amour de l’acte créateur. Les religions qui ont conçu ce renoncement, cette distance volontaire, cet effacement volontaire de Dieu, son absence apparente et sa présence secrète ici-bas, ces religions sont la religion vraie, la traduction en langages différents de la grande Révélation. Les religions qui représentent la divinité comme commandant partout où elle en a le pouvoir sont fausses. Même si elles sont monothéistes, elles sont idolâtres.

* Texte repris dans « Attente de Dieu », préface de J.-M. Perrin, La Colombe-éditions du
Vieux Colombier, 1950. 

I am not sure whether it is possible to have a ‘less than God alone’, but I can see where Simone Weil is coming from in saying that in the act of creation God caused something to exist which was not himself. There is a profound truth here which says something about the humility of God. And about the nature of love. Love is not coercive. It always includes the possibility of rejection. In order to give us this freedom God hides himself – a very anthropomorphic way of putting things. It reminds me of the story of children playing hide and seek. One boy hid himself so well that after a time the others, who couldn’t find him, got fed up and went off. Eventually the boy emerged and, dismayed at being abandoned, went crying to his father, a rabbi. The rabbi, when he heard what had happened, wrapped the boy in his arms and said, ‘Now you know what it is like for God. He is hidden everywhere but no one is looking for Him.’

What a complex process this journey through life is. The Ten Ox-herding Pictures beloved of Zen describe it well – again in simple anthropomorphic terms. The important thing is the initial insight, moment of curiosity, question, call it what you will. And so often the beginning of the journey is full of excitement and discovery. But as the journey progresses the going gets more difficult and we have to shed so much baggage just to keep going (useful at the beginning but now a hindrance). Or perhaps it is the case that our baggage is taken from us and we are left, bereft of all that consoled, encouraged and comforted, alone with darkness all around.

It is this great absence
that is like a presence, that compels
me to address it without hope
of a reply.It is a room I enter

from which someone has just
gone, the vestibule for the arrival
of one who has not yet come.
I modernise the anachronism

of my language, but he is no more here
than before. Genes and molecules
have no more power to call
him up than the incense of the Hebrews

at their altars. My equations fail
as my words do. What resources have I
other than the emptiness without him of my whole
being, a vacuum he may not abhor?

R. S. Thomas

Blind loving

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Both Simone Weil and Michael Polanyi use the concept of a blind person’s stick as a metaphor for a kind of knowing.

Anyone using a probe for the first time will feel its impact against his fingers and palm. But as we learn to use a probe, or to use a stick for feeling our way, our awareness of its impact on our hand is transformed into a sense of its point touching the objects we are exploring. This is how an interpretative effort transposes meaningless feelings into meaningful ones. (Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension, Routledge Keganan Paul, London 1966, 11-12

If my eyes are blindfolded and my hands are chained to a stick, this stick separates me from things but I can explore them by means of it. It is only the stick which I feel, it is only the wall which I perceive. It is the same with creatures and the faculty of love. Supernatural love touches only creatures and goes only to God.  (Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, Routledge, London 2002, p. 62)

We can only know the object the stick touches indirectly by means of the sensations it makes in our hands. So too with loving God. We probe the darkness with our love and most of the time feel only the emptiness of the void. “Tap, tap,” goes the blind man’s stick, but the wand of love only produces silence. No contact, no reverberations, no palpable touch. One reaches out into the silent darkness, into the void. A dark, empty space, but enclosed, like being in a cathedral. Enclosed by breathtaking beauty, if only one could see.

Sometimes a contact is made. Sometimes there is a touch, just a touch, in the darkness and the heart responds.

For me now
there is only the God-space
into which I send out
my probes. I had looked forward
to old age as a time
of quietness, a time to draw
my horizons about me,
to watch memories ripening
in the sunlight of a walled garden.
But there is the void
over my head and the distance
within that the tireless signals
come from. And astronaut
on impossible journeys
to the far side of the self
I return with messages
I cannot decipher . . . R S Thomas