Sunday, 7 February 2010

Chesterton on Mysticism

Mysticism permits the twilight

"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 the 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 as thing as free will also. Thus he believed 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 becsuse 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."

— GK Chesterton

One foot in fairyland


"The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid." - this is reminiscent of Gödel's incompleteness theorem, which states that any consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by a computer program is incapable of proving certain truths about arithmetic.

In other words, any consistent computable formal theory which can prove some arithmetic truths cannot prove all arithmetic truths. Or, if an axiomatic system can be proven to be consistent and complete from within itself, then it is inconsistent.

As mathematics is the very foundation of our understanding of the physical universe, Gödel's theorem suggests that there may be an unsolvable mystery or irreconcilable paradox at the very heart of reality.

For a discussion of why the mind is a non-physical, fundamental aspect of the universe which is not derived from anything else, see Confronting Materialism and the Delusion of the Mechanical Mind.

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3 comments:

Mushinronsha said...

I love this line: "The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious."

This reminds me of a feeling I get when I read a Richard Dawkins book on Evolutionary Biology, a David Attenborough documentary on nature, or an article on Astronomy or Physics. I get some sort of crazy buzz when I see (understand) the amazing complexity inherent in the nature of reality. It's almost spiritual (actually it probably is - in the way Nietzsche uses 'spiritual').
Even when explained, the physical, natural world is indeed most mysterious.

Tery said...

LOVE this post!!!

Clemens Lee said...

Is there a way to contact you, Sean Robsville, by email? Regards, Clemens (clemens@kclee.de)