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[personal profile] labingi
I have just finished reading, with great enjoyment, Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. I had never read one of his books before and was charmed by his personable yet scholarly voice. I agreed with a lot of his arguments and, he would be pleased to hear, even felt myself swing a little further to the atheist side of the pendulum. But I did not agree with everything, so here I mount my defense of religion/"God" against Dawkins' assertions of its (at best) uselessness.

Let me situate myself. I am what Dawkins calls a "PAP (Permanent Agnosticism in Principle) agnostic." If one imagines, as Dawkins does, a scale from 1-7 from total faith in God (1) to total "faith" in atheism (7), with Dawkins being a 6, I am off the scale. I cannot define "God." Therefore, I cannot guesstimate the evidence of such a being's existence. I can be pretty sure that "the old man with a beard" doesn't exist and pretty sure (I'm glad to say) that the fire-and-brimstone God of Christian fundamentalism isn't there either. But when we get into the really big views of God: Vishnu, pantheism, Tao, emergent consciousness, what came before the Big Bang, I cannot conceptualize these things, so I cannot assess their probability.

Dawkins defines God as a very powerful, supernatural being, "supernatural" being the word he has no truck with. I, too, have little sense of any meaningful "supernatural." It is not coincidental that the Kiri people in my Continuation universe have as a fundamental dictum: "Nature is everything, and everything is a part of nature." Reading Dawkins' arguments for the science behind atheism, I did feel myself returning to a phase of my life when my agnosticism tended more toward the atheistic. If God be defined as Dawkins defines him, I am probably with Dawkins at number 6.

But Dawkins' definition is reductionist; it is literal. In Myers-Briggs terms, it privileges "sensing." But there is another mode of thought, one that is holistic and poetic, one that privileges the "intuitive" function. Dawkins seems to suggest that is intuition is pretty unimportant at best and viciously dangerous at worst. I agree with his assessment of the worst, but not the best.

Being a PAP agnostic, I will not argue for the existence of God. But I will argue for the importance of the language of God. Shelley (whose absence from Dawkins' index is a little conspicuous) argued that the divine is important as a metaphor. (He also got expelled from Oxford for promulgating the same rejection of theism that did not stop Oxford from naming Dawkins Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science nigh 200 years later. I find this amusing.) The poetry of divinity expresses a transcendent awareness that escapes analytical language. Dawkins seeks grandeur in the natural universe, and there is no shortage of it, but science cannot express it in the dimensions that divinity can. Carl Sagan can talk to us about "billions and billions of stars," and I will always love him for it. But it is not to Carl Sagan I turn when my soul leaps outside itself. Sometimes it is gazing at the stars, but that is only one dimension of a multidimensional array of perceptions of the numinous.

The language of the divine (with all its religious polyphony) expresses many of those other dimensions. In the words of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah":

There's a blaze of light in every word.
It doesn't matter which you heard:
The holy or the broken Hallelujah.

What matters is not the literal truth but the awareness, the knowledge, the lived experiential reality of significations that use transcendent signifiers for referrents to which we have no access.

Here's an in-depth example. I have adopted as one of my Mirage of Blaze songs Alanis Morissette's "Still," the theme song from Dogma (in which she plays God). With no copyright infringement intended, I am going to lift the lyrics and claim fair use for what I hope is a serious essay:

I am the harm which you inflict
I am your brilliance and frustration
I'm the nuclear bombs if they're to hit
I'm your immaturaty and your indignance

I am your misfits and your praised
I am your doubt and your conviction
I am your charity and your rape
I am your grasping and expectation

I see you averting your glances
I see you cheering on the war
I see you ignoring your children
And I love you still
And I love you still

I am your joy and your regret
I am your fury and your elation
I am your yearning and your sweat
I am your faithless and your religion

I see you altering history
I see you abusing the land
I see you and your selective amnesia
And I love you still
And I love you still

I am your tragedy and your fortune
I am your crisis and delight
I am your profits and your prophets
I am your art, I am your bytes

I am your death and your decisions
I am your passion and your plights
I am your sickness and convalescence
I am your weapons and your light

I see you holding your grudges
I see you gunning them down
I see you silencing your sisters
And I love you still
And I love you (still)

I see you lie to your country
I see you forcing them out
I see you blaming each other
And I love you still
And I love you still

Taken as the theme song of Dogma, the meaning of these lyrics is superficially pretty clear: the "I" is God. (Interestingly for a "Catholic" movie, it sounds a heckuva lot like the Bhagavad Gita.)

But what has this to do with Mirage of Blaze? Who is the "I" in MoB? "God" is not a significant presence. More delimited gods are, but this song does not describe their action in MoB. I have tried, after making the initial MoB connection, to retroactively ascribe the song to Ioe. That's an interesting thought experiment but has the feel of a square peg. It's certainly not Kagetora or Naoe. It isn't anyone. There is no "God."

Yet this song, more truly than any other I've ever heard, explains what Mirage of Blaze is about. I can't tell you how. I can't tell you why. But I can say with absolute certainty, it is true. This, to misappropriate Naoe, is how history is created. This is what Kagetora dies for. This is what Naoe survives for. This.

I cannot say more than that. It is irreducible. It can only be expressed in poetry, and its natural idiom is the divine.


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