IS ANYTHING OUT THERE? A DIALOGUE
When you are philosophizing you have to descend into primeval chaos and feel at home there.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, CV74
- THE AWE-FILLED PRESENCE
For nearly 70 years I have mulled over an experience I had when I was 7. Similar experiences of a Presence outside myself followed at intervals in my life. Were these occurrences evidence of something “out there”, a presence that transcended me, or were they just part of my own inner being? Before I die, I would like to understand what part they played in the trajectory of my life. Were they entirely within me, the result of some quirk in my brain, perhaps inherited and benefitting the survival of my ancestors? Or were they indeed responding to something out there, something or someone with a separate sacred existence?
I began to use paragraphs I had underlined in books that have meant much to me over the years to see if my personal, real experiences corresponded to the wise theories that these philosophers, theologians, artists proposed, if in carrying on a dialogue with them, I could better understand what, if anything, the occurrences meant.
Could the Presence I experienced correspond in any way to God? Could it be one aspect of the complexity that I name God? Over the years it seems to me to have been possible that these experiences were the way that God made himself known to me, the method God used to communicate with me. Could it be that God announced its reality in these ways, said in effect, I AM HERE?
Did the Presence suggest, after the fact, that I was on the right track; didn’t give me advice but afterwards murmured its approval? I begin with a paragraph by the philosopher William Ernest Hocking, author of a book that has profoundly affected me.
An idea, it seems, is a piece of one’s mind: a piece so delimited, outlined, (découpée ), that it can be individually used, handled, referred to. One cannot handle the ocean: but water-buckets-full, casks-full, tanks-full, taken out of the ocean can be handled well enough. Such water-bucket or other vessel, has known contents: it is a bit of the ocean, bound, measured, put under control, lifted into relief from out of the general wash of waters, and set to work. William Ernest Hocking, The Meaning of God in Human Experience