The True Alchemy

We live with such things daily, what we call “counterintuitive”. If you start sliding in a car on the ice, you should turn into the slide, not away from it. If you’re flying a plane and start to lose altitude, you shouldn’t pull up (because you’ll stall), and instead you should point your nose down to gain speed. There are ways of doing things. In these days, now, technology has been good in many a way to make things easier than they had been in the past. One of the hallmarks of the gadgets and appliances we use is that at their best, they make us think that this was the way things should work. Now, I’m not saying that what would be the Age of Gold will be ushered in by the technologies that we discover, create, and utilize, but let it be known that the technology, it is an indication that the Age of Gold us nigh upon us. In patches, at least. “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” [William Gibson]

Now to get all religious on you: in the Age of Iron (and of course back through the Neolithic age), the way things worked was sort of counterintuitive. Or perhaps a better way to put it was that it simply was not fair. For one, look at all those sacrificed animals. The original meaning of the word “scapegoat” was an actual goat which would be slaughtered to expiate all the people of their sin. The goat did nothing wrong. That poor goat. In Genesis, Jacob steals his father Isaac’s blessing by dressing up as brother. We’re supposed to understand that this was the way things worked. So what happened that we don’t sacrifice animals anymore to curry God’s favor? Yes, we got “civilized”, but one great, overarching reason? It was that Jesus Christ gave himself as the last and perfect sacrifice: to turn how things worked in the Iron to the way things were supposed to work in the Gold.

So what did Christ actually do? This was indeed the true alchemy—not lead, but iron into gold. If you looked at it, it was not fair, it was not right: this was an innocent man who was being killed for no reason at all, he literally had done nothing wrong. But this was his way of being the ultimate scapegoat, the one who by the rule of Iron died for all of the world’s sin—past, present, and future—everywhere that any of us ever did anything wrong, for everyone else who ever existed. By Iron’s law he was put to death, but this he accepted, and with that, he turned it all around. So is God’s work like this victory over violence: through holy submission. Dying in all the sin not his, in complete acceptance—and then coming back from that death, and given dominion over every last thing… And as Jesus Christ was two days in the earth, so the world was 2,000 years in darkness and even now struggles to emerge from it. For it is written: a thousand years is as a day to God.

Basically, it is an awakening of that world which has known the Resurrection. And from a dark sleep to get our bearings in the waking world. Thomas Jefferson had it right: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” Indeed, you will know that the Age of Gold has truly arrived by that one criterion: are we, all of us, equal? As you see, looking out into the world, it is a promise half fulfilled, if that much. When we reach the point of civilization all around the world, where every single person has access to food, shelter, and education, then indeed would that mark the Age of Gold truly come. But I say to you thus: it is coming. We may have hiccups along the way (or worse), but its coming is inexorable. Try not to be on the wrong side of history. Hearken: the Beginning is near.

There still exist the trappings of the former age. For instance, stupid and untalented people get rich and famous for what seems like no reason. Teachers, responsible for the minds of our future, are severely underpaid for what their function truly is. But we generally don’t worry about a beautiful but poor girl abjectly stolen away by a rich nobleman. And we generally agree that all types of slavery is wrong, though (as some people do not realize) it still does go on, even to this day. We expect this movement toward a better world to continue. There is a certain threshold that we would say that if a land breaches it, it has reached the Gold, to try and shrug off the main fetters of the Iron. Perhaps not in everything, but the important things, how they work: you should be able to say of them, “That makes sense.” Like if you’re good, you go to Heaven—not because you believe (in) something.

Do not be discouraged by all that you see and hear in the news. Some people may say they wish for a simpler time, that the world seems to have gone crazy, and fast, and loud. What you should know is that all these injustices you now see have always been going on. And to think it would have been better to live in the 50s, before the hippies started wrecking things, you must be white and male, right? Without any sort of controversial attitude? Such was a time best exemplified by the time’s TV shows: all in black and white. We need a new normal, one that includes all the different type of people that we must now live with, especially since we’ve gone global in so many ways. “Who is my neighbor?” they asked Jesus. In the Age that comes, let the answer be, “The whole wide world.”

Shades of Mordor

It is a well known fact, at least in some circles, that the author J. R. R. Tolkien was a devout Christian. It was he who turned the popular theologian (and author himself), C. S. Lewis to the faith. Was Tolkien actually thinking theologically when he wrote some of the source material for the Lord of the Rings trilogy? When he wrote the piece entitled, “Ainulindalë,” the creation myth of Arda (where Middle Earth is located), was he in fact making an allegory that one could, if they wanted, apply to this world, the real world? One doubts that Tolkien meant it to be so, quite like that. But I read the part where Melkor, the greatest of the Valar, abandoned the purpose of Ilúvatar, who was God, and made discordant notes in the music of the creation. I first read this and thought how clever a device it was, that it would solve so many things in the nature of Middle Earth, and in fact, looking at the world around me—which was the inspiration for Arda, in any case—it would make sense of a lot of things here, too. And then I dismissed that idea off hand.

I remember between having read the “Ainulindalë” and when I went through the brunt of the War in Heaven, a piece written by a clergyman about when Japan had experienced their disastrous earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Some religious folk took to the pulpit to pronounce that this was the judgment of God, a payback (decades later onto people who had nothing to do with it) for Pearl Harbor. But the article I read had something different to say. It was talking about how God was not in the tremors, nor in the mighty waves, not in the cataclysms themselves, but in fact was present in the aftermath, in the people picking up the pieces of what had just happened, who were giving a hand to other people even when all they themselves had had been destroyed. God was in these pockets of mercy, the small warmth of a hand helping another hand. And in this, I sensed something of a truth had been told.

Now there was this other thing I read, maybe a year or two before the end of the War, and it was sort of funny, how an all-powerful being had so much trouble with a finite entity in a jerkwater part of the cosmos. They were like, Really? And I could see the author’s argument: why didn’t God just zap Lucifer when he got out of line? But then again, at what point would you do that? When he had the first thought of turning evil? When he had first committed an evil deed? Maybe before that rebel was even born? What do you think? One might believe that with an infinite wisdom, the Lord would pick the best possible time, correct? And there we go: this, then, would be called the Last Judgment. It might seem He has a little more patience with that sort of jazz. And for another thing, just because an entity was finite did not mean that they would be no trouble at all, even for an infinite being: Lucifer was the greatest entity in the cosmos, second only to God. What you might think of, the power God would have: that probably was more in scope to the power Lucifer had. Consider that.

If we say, for one, how powerful indeed God’s greatest angel would have been, and then, at the tippy top of Heaven from where he fell, what resources he must have had: one might wonder, what if Tolkien was onto something? What if God were not the one that gave birth to Pain, at all? What if the concept of disaster were not, per se, written in the Plan? At least, not by the Most High? The question suddenly becomes, does it answer too much? Is it too neat a package, that wraps everything up too simply? It might be the final act of the play that is dualism. Satan, from the minor functionary in the Book of Job, becomes by the time of Christ the prince of demons. And now, we would be saying that he alone is the ultimate source of all the wrong and pain and disaster that ever has existed. He threw that mighty a wrench in the works that was the cosmos. It is a staggering thought.

And so would be why there is so much ugliness mixed in with the beauty. They are both intrinsic in the mix. Why bad things happen to good people. Why it is easier to do wrong instead of to do right. How could God let it happen? That’s life, and thank God for it. Because now that things are the way they are, the hardwon things are that much sweeter. No, it is not the Devil that has made it this way, but what God did with the pain and the wrong! God is love. And you cannot defeat that. Love in our reckoning is a soft thing, an “old fashioned notion” according to Tina Turner. But I tell you that when with faith we say to the mountain, “Move!”, it is love that does the moving. And there is more to the story, I think… but all is to be told when the time rings the proper hour. Selah.


The Logical Prophecy

We must grow up in our thinking. And in fact, we are growing up. It used to be commonplace to have slaves; the New Testament mentions them as though slavery were never going to go out of style. But here we are, instead, where one mark of civilized thinking is against the very concept of a slave. Time calls for change. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, but when I grew up, I put away childish things. There are those who are still holding their breath until they turn blue. Being a creationist, for instance, is a stunting of growth, spiritually. Believing in the literal truth of the Bible may be likened to the belief that planets traveled in perfect circles. It is a naïve way of thought, put charitably. Or, you know? you can say that it is plainly wrong, if it comes down to it. There was to be found a logic to the motions of the planets, but it was not so simplistic. This understanding is called science.

Even the fuller answers, what we understand now, are bound to be imprecise, but we can have that in mind when we deal with the calculations that we can use. In other words, your faith, based on tradition, is not as good as my science, based on observation and experimentation. You may say that your faith is where the buck stops, but there is a whole road of commerce that goes on outside those doors. So what room is there for faith, these days? Some to go the opposite way, extreme, that we cannot believe in anything anymore, that which is not solid, liquid, or gas. And that which faith holds as true often cannot be proved, else it might no longer be faith. We can think that with the means of science, everything we can know we will know, so all that faith is can be summed up as that which we do not understand yet. But aye, there’s the rub!

On one side, let us say that all things are comprehensible, everything is in logical harmony at some scale, and the why of that has a why, and the why of that. On the other side, let us say that there will always be something yet to be understood. Neither side are known to be true. We’re just saying, and as far as conjectures go, that these two thoughts are not bad ones. They could both be so, and the world does not have to be changed by them being so. If science is all we can know, everything is within its province. Yet if faith is to act in the absence of knowledge, faith is never priced out of that market. And what one religion in particular claims in its root, which happens to be my religion, “God is love,” it will await the infinite theory and song to capture not even a fraction of what that means.

We must grow up in our thinking, each side oversimplifying in what they say the other side is saying. To say that what science disproves of faith, we must hold to what science can itself prove. It is not “just a theory”—it is a rigorous theory, borne of intelligence. But it is the height of arrogance to think that such a world that has been given us has no more depth of purpose than what we can think to give it. Perhaps if we chose instead, to listen, one side to another, and they are not always opposing forces: what we could learn! And love, what both sides ultimately agree upon, we all know what that word means, don’t we? Do we? Can we? Should we? Where would we begin? How will it end? I wonder…

What is love? Only a fool knows. (Fools like you and me.)