By writing I can do better, or perhaps more easily, than what I can do in my mind: I can think. By thinking in this context I mean raising questions and pursuing reasonable answers to them. Although it is possible to do some serious thinking within the conﬁnes of one’s silent thoughts, the process of writing forces one to keep a question or set of questions in mind, to pursue them in a relatively rational order, to consider more fully the choice of words used, and perhaps most importantly, to review one’s thoughts by reading over what has been written, and making necessary or desired changes. Inevitably some sentences will need further clariﬁcation, some connections must be more carefully drawn, and some words must yield to others. Furthermore, in reviewing paragraphs written, one can decide what to do with the thoughts brought forth. If one does not bother writing, the thoughts begun in silence, remain in silence, pass away into silence. That may often be the better case, but not always so. “There is a time for everything, and a place for every matter under heaven.”
Why am I writing on this occasion? I sense that I ought to write, that there are thoughts in my mind which need to be realized, to be expressed, to be worked out. Something seems to be urging me towards writing now. I am not writing for publication or for money, so my goal is not likely to be fame or fortune! I write because I need to write, because some as yet unknown force, feeling, thought, presence is urging me towards writing. Admittedly, I enjoy the process of writing, and usually ﬁnd some thoughts emerging as I write that had either lain dormant, or had not even yet come to light. Writing is, or can be, an adventure of the mind, of the spirit. Writing is a way of life.
(2) Why am I writing now?
Recently as I ﬁnished my little piece on “the imprisoning world of academia versus mental and spiritual liberation” (an overly complex title), I recalled an experience during my ﬁrst quarter at university as an undergraduate about which I have not thought for a number of years: the experience of thinking about the campus commonplace, “Everything is relative,” and how on one I occasion I suddenly asked myself, “Relative to what?” And with that question that emerged into consciousness, I glimpsed in a moment that everything that exists in any way, and all that exists, is relative to God. In writing, I recalled an experience, a question, and an insight that ought to be remembered, that ought not to be let pass away into oblivion. So unexpectedly, I remembered the experience, but have I truly understood it?
In the past forty-six years or so, that clear insight—that everything is relative to God—has served in my thinking as a means to measure various claims to truth, to certainty, to completion, to perfection. Had I consistently applied this insight, I would not have in any way dabbled with biblical fundamentalism or religious orthodoxies in my twenties. Fortunately, I left such things behind, and with giving up a belief in the Bible as “the word of God,” “Inerrant,” and so on, I had to remove myself from my Lutheran church. Then I entered the Catholic Church, whose best thinkers have been more modest in making absolute claims to certainty or knowledge; of course, many of the devout members often think and speak as though the hierarchy is infallible, and not to be questioned. This mental condition is unhealthy, and has often been at least passively encouraged by clergy, as they claim or imply that “church teaching” is unquestionable truth. Such explicit or implicit claims are not only false and misleading, but they are damaging. They violate the truth that no truth is absolute or certain, and that no human being or institution has a monopoly on truth. Again, the insight into the unseen measure that measures all things remains operative in me, and sets my mind free from undue attachments to books, clergy, churches, teachings, dogmas, countries, creeds, and the like. Each has its proper place, but each is eclipsed by the Sun that never sets: the divine Mind, the Measure compared to which all things are indeed relative and passing.
My present task must go beyond measuring things—even those deemed sacred—and ﬁnding them wanting, or pointing out what makes false claims to be absolute truth. I, too, am relative, and have no ultimate being in myself, but derive my being from that which simply is. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways, says Yahweh.” And that formulation is true and meaningful, and a good reminder that no human being truly knows the mind of God. Man must be the seeker of truth, not the pretended possessor. Incumbent upon each human being is to live in response to what we call God, conceived in many and various ways, but ever beyond our limited understanding, and surely beyond our control. Each of us forever stands measured by what Solon of Athens termed “the unseen Measure.”
Yes, I can break into a preaching mode, but that will not sufﬁce on this occasion. I must examine myself before the divine Partner: Am I truly seeking God? Have I given up the search? Do I presume to know what in truth I do not know? Am I leading others towards a deeper union, or away from God? Am I doing harm, or good? Or both? What can I do to beneﬁt myself and others spiritually? Do I contribute to building up justice in human beings and in society? Let me consider a concrete example. This week-end the Church celebrates Trinity Sunday, and I will in some way “preach on the Trinity.” What can I say to help these men, women, young people, and not harm them? What can I possibly say that is meaningful, true, and also upbuilding?
Finally, once more I ask: Why am I writing now? What I experience that urges me to write I vaguely sense, and so am unable to put into intelligible words. At times it is as though I hear a ﬂuttering of wings behind me, and then I imaginatively hear the command, “Write!” This experience and its interpretation may be engendered from some words remembered from Marvell’s famous poem, “To his coy mistress.” It is possible that the thought took root in me, and at times gets activated by I-know-not-what-but-wonder. And what are Marvell’s familiar words? “Behind my back I always hear / Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” The end in time is ever near, or at least the End is near. As for the mysterious I-know-not-what-but-wonder, I do indeed wonder, What is this strange force? And so I ask, “Is it you, LORD?” The cause remains
unseen, but guessed. I sense, I think, and so I write.
(3) On having various vocations or callings
Sometimes one hears among Christians that someone “has a vocation,” or “a calling.” Often enough, among Catholics, the phrase shows up when considering if someone may “have a vocation” to the priesthood or religious life. I have long thought that there is something mistaken or misleading here. One does not “have” a vocation; one is his or her vocation. One's life is one’s vocation, having a human soul or psyche is one’s vocation. A human being has but one life, and one ultimate vocation: to live that life as well as possible. But in living out one’s
life, he or she has a number of less complete vocations or callings simultaneously. I shall use myself here as a concrete case to illustrate the point: one’s life is one’s vocation, and one has or is a number of complementary vocations within that one.
Among my “vocations” or “callings” I should include the following: to become a good human being (a Mensch); to be a man; to be a father; to be a good member of my family or families; to study philosophy; to be a Christian; to be a preacher of the Word; to be a Catholic Christian; to serve as a priest within the Catholic community of faith; to pursue certain arts, and especially writing and photography; to love and to care for the little creatures in my care (presently, my dog, Moses); to appreciate beauty in nature, art, music; to be a friend to friends; perhaps most essentially, to seek the truth about “what is called `God,’ about the ultimate cause and ground of all that was, and is, and will be; to participate in God now and forever.
I have, I am, a number of God-willed vocations simultaneously within my one life. There are creative tensions among them. For example, time and effort devoted to active priestly ministry conﬂicts at times with the study of philosophy and writing. What I must do is to try to keep these callings in balance. The day may come when for the sake of some of these callings, I must give up the pursuit of others. In particular, in time it may happen that I will need to retire from active ministry in order to concentrate during whatever remaining time I am granted to seek God through prayer, study, and writing.
A good part of the adventure and joy of life comes from seeing what emerges, what possibilities present themselves in a person’s life. And a good part of the skill in living well is making good on the possibilities that emerge: choosing wisely, having the courage to change course when necessary, and following through on one’s higher or more pressing callings.
(4) On experienced tensions between philosophy and priesthood
For much of my life, I have felt and been aware of tensions between being a Christian and being a lover of divine wisdom in the form of philosophy. For most of my adult life, I have experienced in my soul tensions between the call to philosophy, and the call to share in the ministry of the word in service as a Catholic priest. At the same time, these two callings are complimentary, for the study of philosophy nourishes my openness to God and his word, and priestly work increases my desire to love to and help brings others to God. For philosophy as intended here aims at truth about reality, and one pursuing philosophy must sacriﬁce all else to the love and pursuit of truth, that is, of reality. (In Greek, `truth’ and `reality’ can both be symbolized and expressed in the one word, aletheia). Faithful discipleship of Christ also requires one to pursue truth at all costs, and to pursue the love of God and of neighbor. Out of discipleship, I have sought to serve as a priest in order to help bring God to fellow human beings, and to help ground them in the truth of God. My interest in philosophy has surely served priestly ministry.
On the other hand, a primary part of the clash between philosophy and priesthood comes in the handling of traditions. As members of the hierarchy, priests are guardians of Church traditions, as well as agents to help bring particular human beings to God. A problem is that at times, traditions do in truth get in the way of the larger duty of helping to ground ourselves in God. Catholic traditions—teachings, Scripture, creeds, Sacraments, hierarchy, liturgy, and so on—are often sufﬁciently open to the truth of God and the pursuit of union with God that a tense conﬂict with the philosophical or genuinely human life does not arise. There are times and ways, however, in which Catholic traditions can be a stumbling block to genuine human life and development, and to seeking God “with all one’s heart, mind, and soul.” The problem is not primarily the traditions themselves, but the ways in which some members of the hierarchy and some of the faithful expect one to adhere to the traditions in a rigid, hide-bound, sometimes strangling way. The Spirit is free, and “blows where it wills,” and there are times when Catholics (and other Christians) allow traditions to become deadening to the life of the spirit in openness to God.
As a priest, I must struggle to keep alive to the Spirit during liturgies, and not allow myself to fall into routine, into mindlessly mouthing words, as in readings, creed, prayers, preaching, or speaking with the faithful. The heavy hand of the Catholic Church can push one towards playing roles, in bad habits such as reciting prayers at the altar without thinking about what one is doing, and why, and concentrating on the meaning of the words. Not only lay persons, but priests as well, have admitted to me that they in effect have given up even trying to be attentive at Mass to what they experience as lifeless words being recited by the priest. As a human being, and as a seeker of truth, I resist these tendencies, and want to avoid them, lest I wither in spirit, and become a living fossil. Churches often collect fossils, and have a way of making fossils or even mummies out of human beings. I repeat: every one of the faithful must resist such mindless existence to the extent possible. Other than direct experience of God, the study of philosophy is the best medicine I know for keeping the mind and heart open to the spirit, alive to God, not only as he revealed himself in the past, but more importantly, as God is present and working here and now.
Tensions between my callings to be a priest and to study philosophy may continue to play out in a kind of balance, but I can foresee a gradual “parting of the ways.” The issue that may force a decision could arise from approaching retirement. At 64, I do not have many more years of active duty as a priest; but it is possible that I could continue in later years studying philosophy and writing. At present I see several possible scenarios emerging in years to come: I could retire from active priesthood because I ﬁnd the duties too strenuous for me in declining years; I could be dismissed by the bishop at any time, for any reason, in any way he would choose to do so; or I could ﬁnd that I must retire from active ministry in order to give my due to Athena, to the goddess of wisdom, so to speak. The love of study and of writing is a way of seeking and serving God, and in time it may become obvious that this is the primary way for me to live out my remaining years. In the meantime, I shall seek to be true to God, to Christ, to the faithful to whom I have been sent to bring Christ’s Word, and to the Catholic Church and its traditions—to the extent possible while seeking to be true to God above all else.
(5) When to retire?
Presently I see several possible causes that could induce me to retire from active duty: (1) incapacity through accident or serious illness; (2) gradual wearing down from aging or disease, making full-time work too difﬁcult; (3) dismissal by the local ordinary or by monastic superiors; (4) genuine need to retire, based on an unforeseen event or development in my life, or in the life of a family member; (5) an internal need to retire, because I will long for more time and opportunity to study philosophy and to write. Without these or similar developments, I should think that full-time work until my late sixties would be reasonable.
The issue of where to live in retirement will largely depend on, or at least be related to, reasons for retiring. Unforeseen health problems, for example, could heavily inﬂuence my choice of place to live. So could family needs. And practical, ﬁnancial needs will no doubt play a role as well. From research done online, it appears that living in various areas of the country would be considerably less expensive than living in Montana. The problem with moving in retirement is that in time one has become rooted in the lives of a number of others. One can, of course, perform services such as ministerial duties in many parts of the country, or elsewhere in the world.
(6) Why should I study philosophy?
Why should I continue to make the effort to study philosophical works? Why not just do my priestly and domestic duties, perhaps have a hobby or two on the side, and be content with such a life?
It may be that given my age, abilities, education, and ministerial duties, the time for serious study of philosophy has passed. Perhaps I should not study the best minds I have met over the course of my lifetime. Perhaps I should consider philosophers and spiritualists as no longer of relevance for my life. Perhaps I must close the books on my friends in the spirit who have nourished me: Moses and the prophets; the Apostle Paul and the evangelists; Hindu and Buddhist classics;Greek poets and pre-Socratic philosophers; Plato and Aristotle; Stoics, early church Fathers, Plotinus, Gregory of Nyssa, St. Augustine; the greats works of St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure; Shakespeare and many poets who wrote in our language; Descartes; Hegel; American political thinkers; Nietzsche; Whitehead; Voegelin; and others. But then, I have discovered a pattern over the years: when I turn away from closely studying works of philosophy, my mind withers. More fully, when I devote all of my energies to the active life, and especially to teaching and to ministry—with a little time allowed for prayer and spiritual reading; for manual duties (such as domestic chores); for hobbies (photography, study, writing, care of my dog, walking, investing, gardening)—but neglect devoting time and effort to more serious thinking and study, then I am less happy, more restless, less focused. Studying philosophy and writing are not done because they are required by my present employment as a priest, nor to accomplish necessities of life (such as domestic chores or providing ﬁnancial resources for retirement), nor for physical health. Philosophy has its own purposes.
What do I gain from studying philosophy? Enjoyment, inner peace, a sense that I am doing what I ought to be doing, mental and spiritual health. Studying philosophy, as I do, is a form of spiritual exercise, related to wonder, to questioning, to seeking God in prayer, to a living union with God. For my part, I do not see how one has a spiritual life without seeking to develop the life of the mind, and using one’s mental abilities actively in the search for God. What I am calling “philosophy” is closely related to the quest for God, for a more true and deeper communion with God. The kind of philosophy I study, the minds to which I am attracted, are those who explore and articulate well the study of reality, and especially of what are called “experiences of transcendence.” Philosophy is not just curiosity about anything and everything, but a desire and effort to be open to, and to understand more fully, the presence of God in the human soul. In the sense in which I am using the term, philosophy is indeed the love of wisdom, and as Plato wrote, “Philosophy is the love of wisdom; God alone is truly wise; philosophy is the love of God.” The particular form of love that is philosophical employs the intellect, the divine-human light of understanding, in the responsive quest for God. The divine breaks in, and one desires to respond—nay, one feels compelled to respond. The response is not only one of obedience and gratitude, but also of seeking to understand the divine Partner. Such is the life of philosophy as I understand it and seek to live it.
As I have recorded elsewhere, when given a particular strong sense of divine presence during a Lutheran church service in my early years, the sudden illumination ended with the word arising into consciousness: “Your lifework is to have such experiences and to seek to understand them.” And in reﬂective distance over time I understand that having experiences of transcendence and seeking to understand them is the proper work of philosophy, including what can be termed “philosophical theology.” It is not doctrinal or dogmatic theology, or mere religious observance or ritual. Nor is it investigating any matter that chances to come before the mind. Rather, the mind of one called to philosophy seeks to do what St. Augustine described so beautifully in his early work, On true religion: “In the study of creatures, one should not exercise a vain and perishing curiosity, but take steps to ascend towards that which is immortal and ever-lasting.” Such is the philosophical life, couched by St. Augustine in terms perhaps inﬂuenced by the wonderful mystical philosopher, Plotinus. In any case, this “taking steps to ascend” into the divine is the spiritual-mental (geistliche) core of philosophy. And this is indeed a sacred calling.
There is much more I could write, and wish to write, about the life of philosophy, as well as consider why I wish to keep kindling my studies in this art of seeking the God who alone is truly wise. It may well be that I lack sufﬁcient intellectual ability, education, and discipline to engage in philosophical study. On the other hand, there is an old monastic saying to be borne in mind, especially by anyone who could become crippled by perfectionism: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” Better for me to attempt to study and to write in philosophy, even given my intellectual deﬁciencies and weaknesses of character, then to spend an excess of time in religious duties, money-making for retirement, or in some of the mental-spiritual diversions rampant in American culture. Diversions, such as wholesome entertainment, have there place when done in moderation, but one should not permit them to become the main course of one’s life. For many of our contemporaries, diversions constitute a means to escape from our human tasks: doing one’s necessary duties; looking after fellow human beings and other creatures; and giving time and effort to loving God in ways that are suitable for one’s abilities.
In addition to responding to the God seeking me, there is a secondary and essential reason to study philosophy: to free the mind from its chains and clutter. The work of philosophy must ever be both positive and negative; the search for truth necessarily entails wrestling with, and breaking from, all sorts of untruth. As Voegelin has written so well, “The search for truth begins with a man’s awareness of his existence in untruth.” Ultimately, to philosophize, one must admit and come to terms with the truth that one does not know what one ought to know, and seek to know why one does not know the truth about God, self, reality. The mental-spiritual poisons of untruth—mental drugs—are for ever rampant in one’s society, in other peoples with whom one comes in contact in our amazing age of communication, but worst of all, right within the chambers of one’s own pervious mind. All of us have at work in our souls various opinions, beliefs, false conceptions, untruths and partial truths, problems of intentional unconsciousness or willful blindness, of forgetting what ought not be forgotten, and simply hardening of the intellectual arteries. We fail to rise when the alarm sounds. Had it not been for my youthful study of Plato, for example, I would never have known or understood what a cave I live in, and what cave-images ﬁll the human soul. Had it not been for Hebrew prophets, I would not know the various kinds of idolatry to which the human spirit is liable, and how to act justly. Had it not been for the study of spiritual experiences, such as those of the Apostle Paul, I would not understand well at all the truth of Christ, nor would I feel or understand the ill effects of doctrinal rigidities rampant in the churches. Had it not been for St. Anselm, and my study of his magniﬁcent Proslogion, I may not have understood that and why the mind must pursue the presence of God with loving questioning. After all, some forty years ago, as a young man, I took as my motto St. Anselm’s words to describe so well my intellectual and spiritual pursuits: the life of ﬁdes quaerens intellectum, of faith seeking understanding. And to this I willingly accept Professor Eric Voegelin’s necessary addition: philosophy is also a life of intellect seeking faith. By this addition I mean this: that living faith grows dull, stale, ﬂat, and unproﬁtable—in a word, lifeless—unless one uses the mind and heart to help rekindle genuine and loving openness to that which we call God.
Finally, there remains another reason to study philosophy: Not only to ascend into God, not only to free the mind from false beliefs and images, but to help, in a very modest way, in the healing of the age from its illnesses. Again, Voegelin describes this task better than anyone I know, but it was surely present in Plato’s motivations. He experienced the spiritual decay in Athens—not only the breakdown and loss of religious tradition—of faith in the gods—but the spiritual disease of the clever-minded, money-seeking, power-loving Sophists, who became popular educators and professors, and who poisoned the minds of the young. The disorder of the age, in brief, compels a response. One can pretend that the serious disorders in one’s society do not exist. Or one may see and feel the disorders, and try to hide from them. Or one can respond to disorder and grave injustices by revolutionary action and violence. Or one can contribute to the diseases by engaging in more mindless thinking and unjust actions oneself—a path often taken by the intellectual and media elites in America, who are truly corrupting our young people. Or one can try to sift through the rubble, search for what can be salvaged, and in a small and humble way, help to reground the decadent society on a more solid foundation. In this regard, I recall the words of Dostoyevsky written perhaps in the 1880’s: “The West has lost Christ. That is why it is dying. That is the only reason it is dying.” Well, our civilization has lost Christ and God—and in some cases, we have sought to evict God from public and private life through the educational establishment, the mindless media, through spiritually diseased elites, through corrupt and corrupting politicians. Philosophy is, then, not only a means to return oneself to the truth of reality, but may help serve as a light to shine on social ills, and perhaps in some very small ways, contribute to a gradual recovery of well-being, order, public and private happiness. Such is the task especially of that branch of philosophy known as political philosophy, or political science in the sense practiced by Plato and Aristotle. I did not earn a doctorate in political science to sit quietly by and to “watch things pass away as in a dream.”
(7) On forms of faith: belief, gnosis, genuine faith, and blindness
Religious belief may or may not open a soul to God. There are varieties of religious belief or “faith” that surely do not bring one into contact with God, but in effect serve to seal the soul off from divine communion. Such persons become at least partially blind to the reality of God; ome rays of light may ﬁlter in through their traditionalistic blinders. Mere religious beliefs, often accompanied with sharing in rituals, may be accompanied by underlying love of God, but they may also be forms of self-immersion, of ego-centered self-love, and more especially, of mindlessness. Among Christians in various denominations, I have often observed that people may hold all sorts of dogmatic, credal, scriptural, or other sectarian beliefs, and not evidence souls genuinely seeking God. What shows up? They fail to question. At least in some cases, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools,” as the Apostle writes. In all cases, they prefer their doctrines and rituals to the truth of the unknown God.
There is another set of phenomena that may be called “faith,” but appear to be essentially forms of gnosis, of a kind of “saving knowledge.” In my youth I remember reading in Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion a passage in which this learned man explicitly claims that faith in God is a knowledge of God and a certainty of one’s salvation. Having read some ancient Gnostic texts at the time, I was struck by the similarity in experience and language between Calvin and the Gnostics. Calvin’s “faith” was far removed from genuine Christian faith, to be considered below. Although Calvin employed Christian language, the essential experiences and his core beliefs (such as souls be “elect to damnation”) were a form of Gnosticism. Gnosis or “saving faith” is a claim to special knowledge, often based on an “experience of being saved,” or experiences which give one “certainty” regarding some “truths.” “I know when I was saved” would be a common Gnostic “Christian” exclamation, and utterly removed from the uncertainty of genuine faith. When small children stand up in an LDS service and declare, as I have been told they do, that “I know Joseph Smith is a true prophet,” such words are quite meaningless, given the age of the children. They are just mouthing what others have told them to say. When an adult claims that “I know Joseph Smith is a true prophet,” he or she is probably exhibiting gnostic certainty, which has nothing to do with genuine Christian faith. Again, real faith leaves one wondering and loving, not knowing. Again quoting the Apostle, “Gnosis puffs up, but love builds up.” An evangelical, Mormon, Catholic, Muslim, or other person, who claims that they know that they are “saved,” or “elect,” is self-deceived, inﬂated, and exhibiting a lack of genuine, self-effacing faith.
Faith in God is not certainty or knowledge, but a self-surrendering and loving trust in the God beyond what one may experience. One may have various spiritual experiences, but such experiences do not constitute “salvation,” or holiness, or any kind of certainty. Rather, genuine spiritual experiences increase one’s awareness of the presence of God in and to consciousness, but at the same time, always point beyond themselves towards the unseen, unfathomable, unbounded sea of divinity. Such experiences are humbling, and do not inﬂate the ego. By genuine faith, one is, as it were, swimming in an ocean of unknown and unfathomable depth, and yet one trusts. Faith in this sense is a form of opening of the soul, and is related to genuine love, and perhaps especially to awe and wonder. Genuine faith leads to questioning, to a search for the God who has in some way broken into consciousness, and turned one around from mere beliefs towards a loving response to the one now experienced as alive and at work in the human being. Faith does not possess God at all, gives no absolute certainty of salvation, but incites one to long for divine communion, “heart to heart.” In a word, real faith is not knowledge. Once again in the words of the Apostle Paul, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
Another distinction needs to be made. Christian faith begins as distinct from Jewish faith, or Hindu faith. God communicates with the soul in many and varied ways, and if one is part of a living spiritual tradition, such as parts of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, then one’s movement into God is colored by the beliefs, teachings, practices of that tradition. But as one grows up, matures in faith, loves more truly, and in effect draws closer to God, then one must necessarily realize that God is One, and that all beings share in this One, before whom all human beings are equal, and each is loved. As one grows in this quiet wisdom, one’s rigid attachment to his or her original Christian, Jewish, Hindu associations and colorings weakens, so that one feels more at home with mystics of any tradition, than with devotees or devout persons living within the conﬁnes of his or her original religious tradition. In other words, genuine faith keeps leading consciousness out of particular attachments, including an identiﬁcation with various beliefs and rituals. By “out of attachments,” I do not mean that the person may not practice and observe his or her religion devoutly; but they are not rigid, traditionalistic, moralistic, or certain in their attitudes. Genuine faith moves one increasingly into the unbounded sea of divinity, in which “all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Real faith lives by love, and the man or woman with genuine spiritual faith feels at home with any human beings who love God, goodness, truth, beauty, regardless of the culture or religious tradition.
Finally, a word must be said about those who are consciously unconscious of God in any form. They may deem themselves to be agnostics or atheists, or just plain “nothing.” What they exhibit is a willful blindness to the reality which by tradition is called God. As St. Bonaventure writes in his Journey of the Mind into God, “Strange, then, is the blindness of the intellect, which does not consider that which it sees ﬁrst and without which it can know nothing” (chapter 5, section 4). God is ever present in many ways, is the Ground of all that exists, and only by strange blindness can one convince himself or herself that “there is no God.” Some self-described agnostics are mentally and spiritually lazy, and do not make the effort to see what is evident before their minds. Some sense or know well the reality of God, of that which simply is, but deliberately, willfully refuse to participate in God, or hate God, and seek to lead others into their night of spiritual emptiness. An example of this self-deceived game of deception can be clearly read in the works of the brilliant and destructive German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. The same attitude shows up in the writings of the young Karl Marx. These thinkers knew well the reality against which they were choosing to rebel, and yet they persisted in their assaults on God. Their mental tricks remain stock-in-trade in millions of self-blinded “unbelievers” in our day.
(8) Epilogue: giving back to God
Writing is for me a form of seeking the One moving the mind to search. As such, it is a form of prayer, of love, of gratitude. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s.” All comes from God and returns to God. Writing of the divine-human encounter is a way to acknowledge the One, and to give back to him his due.
Through writing, more questions arise in consciousness. Part of a healthy mental and spiritual life is discerning which questions to explore, and which ones to let go, at least for the time being. In this little essay, I wanted to become clearer about that unknown stirring moving me to write. That I have not sufﬁciently clariﬁed the process of God’s working on the mind, I do not doubt. And yet I am grateful for the courage to set forth a few thoughts, and to be open to further exploration. A mindless, thoughtless, routine religiosity is simply not “my cup of tea.” And I am quite convinced that mindless religiosity is one of the illnesses of the age needing divine healing. And so is the mindless irreligiosity so common among the elites in our culture. Mindless traditionalists and mindless unbelievers are not giving back to God what is God’s: one group gives God lip service, and the other just turns and walks away. If I did not have hope for both traditionalists and consciously self-blinded agnostics, I probably would not bother writing. On the other hand, I do not underestimate powers of resistance to the life of the spirit of which we are all capable.