Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
December 23rd, 2015 by Joel Watts

Chesterton: Mysticism keeps us sane

Protestants seem to lack mysticism. We go to Sunday church to hear a sermon and then leave. Catholics find mystery in the Eucharist while for the Orthodox, the Divine Liturgy is a ladder between heaven and earth… for partakers of the Eucharist, all are mystics. For those in the architectural majesty of the Orthodox liturgy, all are mystics.

Liturgy of Saint James. Russian Orthodox Churc...

Liturgy of Saint James. Russian Orthodox Church in Duesseldorf. The Gifts (Bread and Wine) prepared during the Liturgy of Preparation before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that. Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also. Thus he believed that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but nevertheless ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth. He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not. It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.1

  1. Gilbert K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy. (New York: John Lane Company, 1909), 48–49.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

2 Responses to “Chesterton: Mysticism keeps us sane”
  1. This article was on the mark in my opinion. Thank you!

  2. It probably comes as no surprise to you that this is one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite writers of all time. Thanks for posting. I do find it fascinating that GK’s idea dovetails a bit with Jung’s idea of God – The Total Self in Action – . See The God Image from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Jungian_psychology.aspx “The God image. The last and most powerful archetypal image to be encountered in the process of individuation is that of the Divine. For Jung, “the idea of God is an absolutely necessary psychological function of an irrational nature, which has nothing whatever to do with the question of God’s existence” ([1913b] 1953, p. 70). God must be acknowledged as a psychic reality, whether we are theists or not. The God image represents the archetype that is most powerful. If it is not an image of God, it will be that of some substitute, just as powerful but possibly malignant. Hence “the gods cannot and must not die” ([1913b] 1953, p. 70). As long as the human being either worships these archetypal symbols or denies them, he has not yet recognized them as being what they are—symbols of unconscious forces. As soon as the God image is experienced in dreams or fantasies, says Jung, the awakening of the larger self is at hand, the individuation process has reached its final stage. For this reason, he considers the God image the symbol of the total self in action, the self that includes the conscious and the personal unconscious and reaches into the collective psyche.

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