Sometimes we can come up with some terrible ideas but for all of the right reasons. We can, for example, decide to stop eating because we fast and do penance all too little (a terrible idea for just about anyone short of the mystic). We can read in dim to no light, because we want to strengthen our eyes by challenging them (again, a decent idea for none but the supplier of spectacles). And when it comes to the rest of reality, we can do pretty much the same thing, we can begin with the most noble of reasons but follow through with the most terrible of ideas.
We might for example, want to examine the first experience of God of our kind, that is, to understand what it may have been like for Adam and Eve to come to a knowledge that God exists. Call this our goal if you like, a reason to explore what we might otherwise leave alone. With that in mind we might proceed with the terrible idea that to do so – to encounter God like they did – then we need to work our way up and in. And here lies the terrible idea that has ruined many a belief in a world very unlike our own.
For ‘up and in’ means simply that we begin by assuming that our first parents must have been quite one directional. Instead of beginning with an encounter of the divine – a still point – we assume that like us they must have started with an examination of the world and a serious reflection on self. Like Freud, we assume that our first parents could have only come to a knowledge of God by facing the chaos around and within us; but herein lies the problem.
An irrational fear of the weather, the darkness, the sounds of the creatures we live among, and the mysterious machinations of existence; if we begin with an examination of that then God is simply the antedote to our fears; a powerfully convincing talisman that we can pull out to assuage our nightmares. And yet, an obsessive self-reflection, a ‘cogito ergo sum’ that begins all lines of inquiry leads us not so much to deny God but to deny our genesis. It is to say that since I am inclined daily towards evil then so must every human being that has ever existed. And since I needed a mother and father to extrapolate patterns of the divine from, the same must be true of every other human that has ever lived.
Now look what our method has done to us? It has given us reason to either deny God’s existence or the first of our kind. It has kept us as creatures – fallen ones – when God’s plan has always been to keep us as divine family. But for that to happen, we must allow for the fact that it is possible to ‘be still and know that [He] is God’ (Psalm 46) To encounter Him before we even truly know ourselves or the world we have been placed in.
So be silent would you? And find the still point that God has always made available. That’s how Adam and Eve knew God, and that is precisley how you will know Him too; because the alternative is quite a terrible idea.