Posted by: HAT | October 26, 2014

But now my eye sees …

Image of God describing Behemoth and Leviathan to Job and his friends, by William Blake

Once seen never unseen

Hi, Gang!

If we could see God, would we want to?

There’s a Joan Osborne song “One of us” that asks “If God had a face, what would it look like, and would you want to see, if seeing meant that you would have to believe in things like Heaven and in Jesus and the Saints and all the Prophets … ?” So there’s that.

Job sees God at the end of the book. (Job 42:5 “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;” – what happens next is unclear; the NRSV says “therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes,” but there are a number of variations.) He does not describe it as a pleasant experience, but he seems to be more reconciled to his suffering after the theophany. Ironically, he is even able to pray that his holier-than-thou friends will not suffer the way he has, even though they deserve it a whole lot more than he ever did.

But the suffering may be no coincidence. Dorothee Soelle, in The Silent Cry, discusses the way “mystagogues,” teachers of the way of mysticism, both in the east and the west, identify the loss of all things as a preliminary stage of the mystic’s ascent to God. The “loss of all things” seems to sum up Job’s experience pretty well.

It is difficult, it seems to me, to want to experience the loss of all things. Even if a person were thoroughly convinced that it would be rational, that is, that what one stands to gain is so much more valuable than what one stands to lose that it would be irrational not to want to proceed with it. This accords with the testimony of mystics; according to them, people are crazy not to pursue enlightenment. But most people think the mystics are the crazy ones.

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