Just when I think that I can not resolve some of my lack of deep conviction in the existence of God, because I’m too rational, too analytical, too scientific, a friend of mine tells me he was reading Miguel de Unamuno’s The Tragic Sense of Life (alternate title: The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Nations). My library doesn’t carry this little known but spiritually dense and timeless book of his spiritual philosophy.
Fortunately for me, it is a free download at the Project Gutenburg. You can find a HTML or plain text copy to download here: The Tragic Sense of Life.
These are some quotes from the chapter IX: Faith, Hope and Charity:
For faith is not the mere adherence of the intellect to an abstract principle; it is not the recognition of a theoretical truth, a process in which the will merely sets in motion our faculty of comprehension; faith is an act of the will—it is a movement of the soul towards a practical truth, towards a person, towards something that makes us not merely comprehend life, but that makes us live.
Faith makes us live by showing us that life, although it is dependent upon reason, has its well-spring and source of power elsewhere, in something supernatural and miraculous. Cournot the mathematician, a man of singularly well-balanced and scientifically equipped mind, has said that it is this tendency towards the supernatural and miraculous that gives life, and that when it is lacking, all the speculations of the reason lead to nothing but affliction of spirit (Traité de l’enchaînement des idées fondamentales dans les sciences et dans l’histoire, § 329). And in truth we wish to live.
Moral truth, the road that leads to intellectual truth, which also is moral, inculcates the study of science, which is over and above all a school of sincerity and humility. Science teaches us, in effect, to submit our reason to the truth and to know and judge of things as they are—that is to say, as they themselves choose to be and not as we would have them be. In a religiously scientific investigation, it is the data of reality themselves, it is the perceptions which we receive from the outside world, that formulate themselves in our mind as laws—it is not we ourselves who thus formulate them. It is the numbers themselves which in our mind create mathematics. Science is the most intimate school of resignation and humility, for it teaches us to bow before the seemingly most insignificant of facts. And it is the gateway of religion; but within the temple itself its function ceases.
Religious faith, it must be repeated yet again, is not only irrational, it is contra-rational. Kierkegaard says: “Poetry is illusion before knowledge; religion illusion after knowledge. Between poetry and religion the worldly wisdom of living plays its comedy. Every individual who does not live either poetically or religiously is a fool” (Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift, chap. iv., sect. 2a, § 2).
What is certain is that for thinking believers to-day, faith is, before all and above all, wishing that God may exist.
Wishing that God may exist, and acting and feeling as if He did exist. And desiring God’s existence and acting conformably with this desire, is the means whereby we create God—that is, whereby God creates Himself in us, manifests Himself to us, opens and reveals Himself to us. For God goes out to meet him who seeks Him with love and by love, and hides Himself from him who searches for Him with the cold and loveless reason. God wills that the heart should have rest, but not the head, reversing the order of the physical life in which the head sleeps and rests at times while the heart wakes and works unceasingly. And thus knowledge without love leads us away from God; and love, even without knowledge, and perhaps better without it, leads us to God, and through God to wisdom. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!
My friend has been telling me that sometimes we reason too much, analyze things excessively, and in doing so, create our own misery. There seems to be a conflict between our thinking and our feeling/sensing sides and a difficulty integrating both. I know he’s right on that…and it’s being echoed many places elsewhere.
About a week ago, I picked up a book on poetry writing at the local Borders. I have to be honest…in some ways I dislike writing poetry, telling myself it’s a waste of time and energy and besides, it’s impossible for me to write anything beautiful (yes, I realize that it’s all self-limiting talk). But, I do enjoy reading poetry…at least some types of poetry…the kind that rhymes, mostly because it has a delightful cadence. It’s also National Poetry Month, so in addition to reading poetry to the girls, I wanted to see if I couldn’t write some of my own.
The poetry book I picked up is called Poetry as Spiritual Practice:Reading, Writing, and Using Poetry in Your Daily Rituals, Aspirations, and Intentions, and I chose it because of the practical aspects of learning how to write poetry (having forgotten all I learned in school about the mechanics of poetry), and because I’d hoped it would help me to turn deeply inward and unlock previously blocked creative and spiritual areas of my self.
I found the quote by Kierkegaard surprising and yet not so, given the fact that my life seems to be full of synchronicity lately. This bears repeating here: “Between poetry and religion the worldly wisdom of living plays its comedy. Every individual who does not live either poetically or religiously is a fool”. And so I, already declaring I might be the foolish one in a previous post of mine, will be working on rectifying this shortly.
Perhaps, through poetry, I will find myself closer to a spiritually fulfilling life, and also unlock the blocked creative areas I find myself in sometimes (I would like to get back to finishing that novel I started in NaNoWriMo some day).