God, Absurdity & Darkness (Part 2): Rebuking the Lie
Below is the second instalment of Dr Brendan Triffett’s response to my post on absurdity. This continues his reflections which he shared last week.
When the hour of darkness comes — when the Lie surrounds the person, blocks the light, enters the lungs and poisons the whole system — how does the light intervene?
One approach is to say: Be rational. Look at the facts. Get yourself together. But that is to ignore the historical situation of the person. In the hour of darkness it is not at all clear that the Good will triumph. In those moments of confusion (or delusion) it is difficult if not impossible to “be objective”. One cannot simply “take a look” at the truth. The human soul is immersed in history, and history has its spiritual dimension. We are not angels. Nor are we Kantian subjects.
Does that mean that the only way of avoiding insanity and despair in the hour of darkness is to take a totally blind leap of faith? To simply decide in favour of the Good? Not quite.
The Word says that the darkness has boundaries and that no worldly order of things shall prevail—the Word, the Light, cannot be contained. The Liar says that the darkness is boundless and that some worldly order of things shall prevail—the word, the light, can be contained. This Lie has to be rebuked and overcome. For the Truth does not typically show itself so clearly and powerfully that it cannot be obscured by one’s historical or spiritual situation. The Parousia occurs at the end of history. By the same token, rebuking the Lie is not a “sheer decision”. Overcoming falsehood is not a groundless act of the human will. It is prophecy, a God-inspired anticipation of the Parousia.
At the end of time, that which has ousia or substance (true being) will be glorified—it will be revealed to all as good and true—while that which lacks in substance will be confounded and humiliated—it will be revealed to all as worthless and empty. The Parousia is the ultimate showing of things for what they are, and what they are not. To enter the Parousia is to enter into judgement. Now to be a prophet is to participate in the Parousia whilst existing in time. A prophet, through inspiration, is able to anticipate the divine judgement of things. The prophet knows, against all appearances, that the Light cannot be contained. That the darkness has boundaries, and that no worldly order of things shall prevail. The prophet’s vision transcends the historical situation and contradicts its appearance of stability.
Prophetic critique and “contradiction” are not easy. The facts are still there, stubbornly present before the mind and body. In the hour of darkness, the Lie overwhelms with its menacing power. The darkness still pulls the mind into its gravitational field. Illusion has its force—for God has allowed it—and this force must be overcome in faith and hope, in courage and vigilance.
Human effort per se is no match for the force of the Illusion. “Overcoming” the Lie is a not a human overcoming but a supernatural one. The natural light of reason may be helpful in some ways, but it is not enough to dispel the darkness. The Light of God is required. One has to be elevated spiritually to a position above the Darkness, and begin to dispel it from there.
To be sure, this spiritual “elevation” is not a disembodied ecstasy. Still less is it a “rapture”. The prophet is not removed from the historical struggle. The prophet still exists in time, and so the force of the Illusion, the weight of the Darkness, still presses down on her.
Mental illness is often the occasion of a spiritual battle. But it is foolish to ignore the material basis for mental illness. Wherever there is disorder on the natural plane—neurochemical imbalance, an unhealthy lifestyle, or lack of social connection, for example—this must be addressed on the natural plane. In this reflection, however, my focus is on the supernatural plane.
When by all appearances the darkness is “boundless”, we are called to be prophets, attuned to the Parousia. We are to testify to the Truth—that the darkness is finite and cannot overcome the Light. We must resist doing what is naturally easier. We must critique what is apparently true.
Put oil in your lamps while you can. The more you neglect prayer (including the sacraments and meditation on Scripture), the more difficult it will be to walk in the right direction when darkness falls. Nobody knows what trials and temptations they might have to face. Do what is in your power now to let the Light grow in you and illuminate you more and more. Then, when it is the hour of darkness, you will be able to fulfil your calling as a prophet who anticipates the Parousia, who testifies to the Light that the darkness has not, and will not, overcome.
Support Awkward Asian Theologian on Patreon, and help make a change to the theological web.