Creation and the hidden God

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

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