Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sundays with William Blake: There Is No Natural Religion, Meditations on Fantasy in Christian Life and Talking Honestly with God

I think that the hardest aspect of my Christian identity is bringing my feelings honestly to God.

Chaotic oscillators can be very much like haikus or koans.  In written form they are often very short.  They can be just a small system of three ordinary differential equations.  Chaotic oscillators are both predictable and not predictable.  A small difference in initial conditions can lead to profoundly different results.  And yet, as long as those initial conditions are within what is often a very wide range, the widely variable results all stay within certain bounds, as if tied by an unknown string...

Not long ago I asked in a post if there were some types of fantasies that were inappropriate for a Christian.  Specifically, I was interested in villainous fantasies, but Roger Owen pointed out in one of his posts that the Bible discusses the role of fantasy in the Christian life:

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

                  - Matthew 5:28

He also mentioned a children's song that I'll discuss a little later.

First, the Blake.  Today I'm only going to cover Part B of There Is No Natural Religion.  Both Part A and Part B of There Is No Natural Religion are a series of aphorisms that form a type of argument.  While it's not logically sound in the Descartes, link-chain-logic, Rules for the Direction of the Mind sense, it holds a poetic logic to me:

There Is No Natural Religion [b]
By William Blake
I. Man’s perceptions are not bounded by organs of perception; he percieves more than sense (tho’ ever so acute) can discover.
II. Reason, or the ratio of all we have already known, is not the same that it shall be when we know more.
[III lacking]
IV. The bounded is loathed by its possessor. The same dull round even of a universe would soon become a mill with complicated wheels.
V. If the many become the same as the few when possess’d, More! More! is the cry of a mistaken soul. Less than All cannot satisfy Man.
VI. If any could desire what he is incapable of possessing, despair must be his eternal lot.
VII. The desire of Man being Infinite, the possession is Infinite & himself Infinite.
Application. He who sees the Infinite in all things sees God. He who sees the Ratio only sees himself only.
Conclusion. If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, & stand still unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again.
Therefore God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is.

Something that comes out in this that comes out in many of Blake's works is the concept that when Christ told us God is our father and that He is Alpha and Omega that we hold a special tied relationship to God.  "God becomes as we are, that we may become as he is."

Part of that is creation.  Man, distinct from all other animals, is a creator of story.

I do believe what we think, feel and desire plays a role in our judgement just like what we do plays a role in our judgement, as is implied by the Matthew passage.

I want to make excuses: "But I'm a poetic creature on the inside.  I love story.  And I honestly believe that even exploring the evil characters in story makes us more vibrant and empathetic people."

While that is true, I do think that it is important to always stop and repent (metanoia) of what we're doing.

What does "repent" really mean?  Both the English word "repent" and and the word Jesus uses in the Bible (metanoia) doesn't mean you're sorry, it means "think again."

We're not God and we can't see the world as God see it or see ourselves as God sees us.  It's important, imho, to always stop what you're doing and say "How is this making me a better Christian, more full, less hypocritical?"

God knows we're wonderful little chaotic oscillators.  That's how He designed us, either by natural force or by something more mystical.  We shouldn't ever get so addicted to a fantasy that it causes our minds or our actions to stray away from Him, but He knows we will fantasize because, like Him, we're Creators.

Maybe that's the wrong way to think of it, but that's what makes the little children's song so beautiful.  After listing all the ways you can't get to heaven, including roller skates, it says:

Oh you can get to Heaven
By the grace of God
'Cause the grace of God
Is mighty odd!

Oh you can get to heaven by the grace of God 'cause the grace of God is mighty odd!
Ain't gonna grieve my Lord no more!

I'm very grateful for that grace.  It really is the only real way into heaven.

The last few weeks I had been talking to God a lot less.  I pray every night and many mornings, but it had just become routine prayers.  I had stopped speaking to God about my daily life, partially because I'm often embarrassed by the thoughts that I have.

I'm glad I started talking to Him again.  Sometimes I think that He's the only one that really understands me.  Maybe that's true of everyone.

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