Is God Present More or Less When Absent?

Posted: June 25, 2011 in Uncategorized
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The presence of something absent. Well, they call it the via negativa, the way of knowing something is there, deep down on the inside of what seems to be empty, or absent, or silent. Wait long enough and the big void will start speaking.

Maybe that was what philosopher George Bataille meant when he said, “The absence of God is greater, and more divine, than God.”

That can be taken a hundred ways, of course. Does it mean that you’ll miss me when I’m gone? Or that only the absence holds the real mystery? Or that we so often fill up the vast silence with our own noise that it effectively drowns out the sound of God? Is it only when the room is empty enough to echo that we can finally hear?

It can be a slippery slope, this absence business. At least Lawrence Raab thought so when he wrote the following words:

The absence of God … an idea God might have come up with if he’d been French and worried about how to make it through the twentieth century. Do you want this? If I take it away, will you want it more?

Or will you forget? That’s the problem with absence, it leaves itself open to so much.

Supernatural forces, for example. Glowing lights, out of which the aliens appear like anorexic children. Let us help you, they say, although of course they never speak.

Once they just wanted to take over the planet. Now they feel sorry for us, the way God must have felt when he chose to retire into his silence. No more threats. No more angels, either. Only these lost children, come back to startle us, and vanish.

(The Gettysburg Review: Supernatural Forces, Vol. 20, Num 4/Winter 2007, p. 11)

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