Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Hypothetical Mysticism

Q-Magine this?:

What if the fully human genius of Jesus consisted in his refusal to tell his wisdom to others? Example: What if, when he said (...the words he never actually said), "I am God," he did not mean that you and I were not (also) God? Follow my heresy:

A lie becomes holy when it leads to unadulterated joy for others--Q-Magine?: what if Jesus' first miracle, turning water into wine, involved nothing more than the combination of self-destruction, love for his neighbors, and the will to keep a secret? What if he "simply" went to the back room and poured water into the wineskins, then cut himself deeply at the finger tip so that his friends might continue drinking, then refused to admit his secret: would it be any less of a miracle? Would it be "that simple?" Could it possibly be that this is what is meant by miracle? Certainly it would involve a kind of sadness in the liar. To become the great imaginer, to turn water into wine like this, would be an awful burden.

Jesus gives us the prescription to create the holy lie in his advice about fasting:
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

All of us have fasted--it need not involve the refusal of nourishment. Fasting might reasonably be defined as any kind of conscious refusal of joy. I'm not able to perform this kind of miracle... when I endure deprivation of any sort, I make it to known to my friends and family: "I am suffering!" To me, because it is something I cannot do, suffering in silence is a miracle.

Likewise, knowing in secret would be a miracle. My muse lately has been Emerson. In his Divinity School Address, he wrote,
It is very certain that it is the effect of conversation with the beauty of the soul, to beget a desire and need to impart to others the same knowledge and love. If utterance is denied, the thought lies like a burden on the man. Always the seer is the sayer. Somehow his dream is told; somehow he publishes it with solemn joy.

But what if this is the structure of the Judas-kiss? What if this telling is the betrayal? What if these words, these that attempt to tell, are the most offensive to whatever is divine?

Can you imagine? What if there is a secret, a secret knowledge that is granted to many of us -- a secret knowledge that many of us try to describe, that all of us betray. In this view, Jesus was the secret-keeper: the only (or first, at least) person to gain the knowledge and to refuse the temptation to tell it.

I will not claim that the knowledge has been given to me, but I will say this: if it has been, even if it has been more than once, I have betrayed it as soon as possible by trying to tell it. Emerson's maxim, that "the seer is the sayer," is almost (but not quite) true. Imagine the holiness of the one who refused to tell the secret.


Davo said...

Well, not to diminish this idea, but it certainly works that way in the corporate world, and was one of the reasons I did poorly in it. There, the idea is to keep secret one's discoveries, that way you have the best benefit of them. You are made greater by them. You become vital, inexpendable. People come to you for your mojo, your ability to work your magic on whatever it is that you do well. But it seems to work, going back to Jesus, against what he taught. Overall, he seemed to be a sharing kinda dude; he shared his perspective on things often, and was even known to be forceful about his point on occasion, especially with the Church being complicit with profit.
So, overall, I don't see that keeping secrets is good, either doctrinally, theologically, or psychologically. Why God isn't actually following with that, I'm not particularly sure, but I see a sort of duty in sharing what one knows. I find an undocumented, an unshared life, ultimately a selfish one. Who else other than those you tell can benefit from your experience? Why, other than from some sort of avarice or sadism, would one want to keep others in the dark? It's one of the reasons I've been hassling my family to write more. They don't get it. But I certainly agree with Emerson--the seer SHOULD be the sayer. Why else would people go off into the wilderness and starve and have visions? Simply to keep it to oneself? Moses came down from the mountain with things to say.

Casey said...

Amen, brother--to all of that. But would this make for a possible, single exception?:

"The ineffable"

Or not? I mean, if the word "Ineffable" has any meaning, the implication is that there are certain things/ideas that simply cannot be expressed. The metaphor of the tr-th cave that Brian and I have been using is a platitude if there ever was one, but it helps us both talk about something...

We say things like, "a person has to dig for at least three or four days in the cave, according to legend... sometimes people get lost down there. More often than not, however, the people who have had the guts to stay down there even for 3 or 4 days return to the surface babbling about how they found it, or found some of it... but they almost never stay down long enough and return with profound descriptions/memories of the experience."

All of which is to say: there seems to be a gap between "seeing" and "saying."

At first I thought I was going to suggest that the corporate world doesn't apply here, because we're talking about tr0th; but even there, I suspect, there are certain kinds of "mojo" knowledge that can't really be taught. Did you ever meet a really smart collegue in the business world--maybe even one who recognized your mojo and wanted to emulate it? Ever struggle to help that guy?

Sometimes he even gets worse if you try to tell him: he starts emulating you, when (obviously) what he needs is to discover his own mojo.

I totally agree in general about keeping secrets -- but with regard to this one secret, I'm not sure yet... but then, I've never written a poem that I thought was any good. So--

Sorry about all the italics.