A God By Any Other Name


On Mysticism, by Jorge Luis Borges

For many, mysticism conjures laughable things. Others allow it to be the freeway to their concept of God. In Borge’s thinking, at least as far as this thin volume of essays goes, mysticism in hidden somewhere in the plumbing of science, philosophy, novels, poetry, or perhaps the urge to idealism. He can’t seem to divorce himself from something to analyze here, whether it be bardic poems, the multifold pronouncements of poets, even in a young man who has met with a tragic, crippling accident.
But what he doesn’t seem to understand, even in his reply to an interviewer’s request, is his concept of God. Borge says, “I don’t know if God is in the beginning of the cosmic process, but possibly he’s at the end.” This is altogether in keeping with futurist architect Paolo Soleri’s thought that God is still in the process of inventing him/her/itself. Both men seem to imply that mysticism, and its end result, a nestling into Godhead, is to be found in the individual human’s experience, whether that experience is pointedly directed toward a concept of God or not.
This is the way of the most adventurous thinkers, certainly; i.e., to explore manifest reality in an attempt to understand reality at its root. Eventually that exploration leads along its many paths to a sense of something transcendent, to a sense of the eternal. Borge did come across this sensibility in his essays, but he seems to have ignored it, looking instead for something to quantify.


Such books, whether you agree with their philosophic approach or not, are worth reading. Their authors are attempting to bring something unquantifiable into the realm of the human mind, as if this unquantifiable substance were an object to be weighed, tested, and assayed like a strange new mineral or gem. As you read, watching the authors go through their mental gyrations is like watching an arrow leave an archer’s bow to arch in flight and finally strike near, but not into the target’s center. I’m reminded of a poetic lyric from a long-ago piece of operatic-type music in which a story is being told of a seeker who finds a mystic he’s been searching for and asks him the meaning of life. The mystic tells him he much first spend years in study and contemplation, which the seeker does, then returns, asking once more the meaning of life. The mystic answers , “Well, my son, life is like a beanstalk…isn’t it?” Meaning such searches are futile without some sort of pure experience of the thing one is seeking.


My rating: 16 of 20 stars

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