THE FORCE THAT DRIVES OUR LIVES FORWARD
There is a little poem that captures our innate duality:
“Within my earthly body there’s a crowd,
One of me that’s humble, one that’s proud
One that’s sick and sorry for its sin,
One that’s unrepentant; sits and grins.
From much corroding care I could be free
If at once I could determine which one’s me.”
Of all the inner voices, which one is me?
According to Victor Frankl the illuminating spirit that is reaching out to God is the “constant unconscious.” It may frequently be swamped by our lower nature, but it has a permanent and dynamic desire to make itself and the exciting real meaning of the world, known. It is the distinctive treasure of our humanity that is constantly drawing us toward truth and transcendence. It is the dynamic and real source of the art and science that draws humanity forward. As a plant is drawn to the sun to nourish its need for growth-promoting light, so too our spirit draws us toward that which beckons us to our completion. We sometimes experience it as the tearing up in a movie we’re being deeply touched by, or a beautiful sunset that inspires a “Wow,” from deep within, or the trusting love of a small child.
We are told By St Paul in 2 Cor. 4:7 (A.V.) “We have this treasure in earthen vessels…..”
The spirit yearns to rise from the subconscious and makes visible the illuminating hope, that reveals what the Psalmist called “The path of life.” Psalm 16:11. The feelings that rise from the spirit will sometimes surprise us with what will rise from deep within, and often, simply, yet dramatically, dawn upon our awareness. Sometimes it will take us in a whole new direction.
This is how it happened for famous British actor Alec Guinness.
He had been an avowed atheist, quite settled in his view of the world when he was overtaken by an event that radically changed his thinking. It was long before we came to know him as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars sagas. Back in the 50’s he was playing the lead character, Father Brown, in the series written by G.K. Chesterton. At the time he was also wrestling with the personal tragedy of his son’s polio, which had paralysed the young man from the waist down.
Filming in France, one evening in the golden glow of sunset, he walked back to his hotel alone, still wearing the cassock for his part as Father Brown. Suddenly his hand was seized by a small boy he’d never seen before. The boy looked up at him cheerfully and calling him “Môn Pere,” chattered away in French as they walked along together.
Something provoked reflection
From then on, as Guinness walked home each night from the film set, he began to visit a small Catholic church to sit alone. Initially he thought it might help him feel at home in the part he was playing, but eventually in spite of his atheism, he thought he would make a negative deal just to check whether God might exist after all. “Well God, if I am not simply talking to the ceiling, and If my son Matthew recovers I promise never to stop him from converting.” Soon the boy was walking, and the very next year Guinness went on the first of many retreats to Mount St Bernard Abbey.
In his book Blessings in Disguise Guinness wrote of another moment of illumination. “ I was walking up King’s Way in the middle of the afternoon when an impulse compelled me to start running. With joy in my heart and in a state of almost sexual excitement until I reached the little Catholic Church there, which I had never entered before. For 10 minutes I was lost to the world.” Later he was at a complete loss to explain his actions but finally decided it was, “A rather nonsensical gesture of love – an outburst of thanksgiving for the faith of the ages”.
On the 24th of March 1956 Alec Guinness ended his pilgrimage from atheism to Christianity. By 1957 father, mother and son had become Christians, something they would have never dreamed of seven years earlier.
Illumination is much more than a moment of inspiration
This sense of enlightenment is much more than a profound existential moment. It has been shown to inform our consciousness with a sense of what is right, and to imbue our feelings and dreams with a sense of which way is forward. This sense of the eternal will, if we remain open to it, sensitize us to the profound nature of beauty, justice and truth, the very things animals seem unaware of.