A couple revelatory Ellul quotes

pg 32[Introduction]: “In reality we ought not to read the Apocalypse as the book of Judgement and Calamities; its sole purpose, finally, is to manifest by means of a synthetic recapitulation all that has been successively revealed in Old and New Testament history about the Lord God.”

pg 37 [A Study of the Structure]: “There are no difficulties concerning the number seven: four in this language is the number of creation; three is the number of God… It is the number symbolizing the union and even the unity of God with his creation, the indissoluble relation of the creation to God… This is particularly important in a book such as the Apocalypse because it is precisely the book of the reintegration. The creation and humanity are separated from God; they are distant from one another; there has been a rupture resulting in the autonomy of humankind and now we are at the reunion, the reconciliation, the ‘recapitulation.’ The Apocalypse reveals to us the conditions of these rediscoveries, the obstacles and their disappearance, the transcendence of the old situation, the rupture of the autonomies and of the ancient crystalizations.”

Much of what he writes is cumbersome, and probably not entirely from the translation–but every so often he really tickles the mind.

The “rupture” I see all too clearly–along with our continuing, intimate connection. The “autonomy” seems obviously to be illusory, and yet it’s a fruitful illusion, as deliberate a feature of the Creation as the story of two monkeys told “Eat anything you like, but not that fruit.”

In programming, there are two basic kinds of problem-solving methods. There is the algorithym, which takes you directly to a solution–but which might, for some problems, take longer than the projected lifetime of the universe. And there is the heuristic, the kind of method which may be utterly invalid in some cases, but which leads relatively quickly to a tentative solution.

The problem of our lives is muy beyond anything we can expect to work out by some algorithymic method. My take on scripture, this book in particular, is that it offers heuristics, paths we can follow to understand better, metaphors which do not define but rather sketch for us. Not an allegory to be painstakenly taped to its referents. But quite precisely describing significant aspects of our paradoxical reality.

All of creation is in rebellion; all of it entirely as it should be. “The Harmonious Hand is now holding Lord Krishna’s ring, the eagle’s wing, the voice of Mother, everything.” [Incredible String Band ~1968 in The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter.] I’d like to make more sense, but all I have right now is this dilemma, so I must be making dilemmonade instead.

This isn’t really a comment on my last post, but a further development of that groping. Last night I was at a talk by Bernie Glassman; he was explaining how one of his hands might be bleeding, while the other dithered about whether it should study medicine before trying to deal with the other hand’s problem–but once the one hand realized that both hands were part of Bernie, it would quite naturally make the best response it was capable of. So here we all are, all of us wounded hands making up this great big inconceivable body, wondering how we can possibly staunch the bleeding–and we can’t. So we need to get instructions from the Mind we all belong to–and it continues to maintain our separateness. We seek leadings, and we’re led to go on being the people we actually are. But I continue to see the tracks of the Spirit at work in our very bumblings.

For what it’s worth…


2 responses

  1. dilemmonade? I think we may have some fun.I agree. I’m not into trying to map Revelation to historical reality (not even future historical reality) on a 1:1 correlation.I see Revelation as potential — as we get ourselves mired in the false spirituality which is “the world” — we get closer and closer to this mess.I see Revelation as depicting the spiritual combat going on within me — the serpent seed and the lamb seed contends.To use a fancy word (Larry will like it — I got it from Northrup Frye) polysemy — I see multiple meanings in everything here.

  2. Yes, yes, David. It is poetry, and to try to make something else out of it is insidious, especially trying to link it to historical (or coming) material events.

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