29 December 2009

mysticism & sanity

in my heart, i want spider's webs
in my heart, i want spider's webs
{view on black}

{Went on a freezing cold walk the day after Christmas and amongst many other things, was struck by this delicate branch threaded with a spider's web and accented by wee water droplets. I could have stood and contemplated this scene for hours. And hours and hours. It kind of seemed crazy at the time. Even then, I didn't understand why I was so transfixed ...

... but then I realized it might have been the sanest thing.}

"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 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 believes 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."

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

photo by kirsten.michelle
Canon 40D


  1. Oh, how I appreciate GK Chesterton. He makes everything so clear! (And perhaps that is precisely because he is a mystic!)

    I know that when I lived entirely "from my head" in the world, I could easily have driven myself mad. It was such a case of the maniac Chesterton describes in that first chapter of Orthodoxy.

    I'm thankful I no longer have to have everything figured out. It's sheer relief ... and it leaves greater room for beauty and mystery.

  2. What a deep quote. And true. Thanks for sharing it!

    I've never heard the word mysticism used like this before. I've usually heard it in reference to weird stuff, so hearing it used just to mean mystery was a little different for me. I guess I learned something new about this word. :)

  3. Here here, well said!

    I think I need to add Chesterton to a list of books to read this upcoming year. My reading has slacked in major ways and so many people keep bringing up Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" as of late that it seems like a necessity.

  4. @Christianne
    I thought you would appreciate this quote, knowing what appreciation you have for Chesterton and his life's work.

    I'm so with you on going insane when we live too much in our heads -- Chesterton wrote of Tolstoy that his refusal to allow for mystery led to his insanity.

    It's a beautiful thing not to have it all figured out!!

    I'm glad you liked the quote!! Chesterton has been very influential for me.

    Isn't that interesting about the word "mystic"? I think the word has been abused quite a bit, but the original meaning of it is one who is initiated into the mysteries. So it's perfect for us as believers, who regularly engage with mystery.

    You will love Chesterton!! I know I typically have to read, re-read, and re-read his writing, and then I finally *start* to figure out what he's saying. It's very precise, very tight, and very very good!! Good luck in your reading endeavors. :o)

  5. I so LOVE Chesterton . . . I don't always "get" him, but I'm ok with that. And this . . . this is perfect for where I find myself lately. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  6. Oh, that was simply awesome.
    Thanks for the reminder that some Truth is above logic.

  7. @Sarah
    I am with you on not always "getting" him. I generally have to read, re-read, re-read, re-read and sometimes, I'm still scratching my head. But I love it when I find a nugget that I *get* and that resonates. I'm glad this one found you, friend.

    I love the way you phrase that: some Truth is above logic. Thank God!!