Extras, Walk-Ons, and Bit Players in the Cosmo-Drama
For example, the other evening I watched Bergman's The Seventh Seal. It is about a disillusioned knight who has returned from the Crusades to his plague-devastated homeland, and is in doubt about the existence of God. He then encounters the figure of Death, who informs him that his days are over. However, he strikes a deal with Death, challenging him to a game of chess. So long as he can keep the game going, Death will give him more time -- the time he needs to try to find God.
Thus, the film would mean nothing if the knight's mission weren't our mission. We too live in a plague devastated land, except that the plague is internal, not external. This soul-disease has spread like wildfire into all of our major institutions. Among other things, it renders the host insane before killing him outright, just like the other plague.
Likewise, the land is filled with superstition and sinister prophecies, as people seek scapegoats or some easy means of penance or reconciliation with the gods. Witches are being burned at the stake, confessions extracted, heretics destroyed.
But enough about political correctness.
Balthasar writes that "if every mission, in particular, every *highly nuanced mission,* is a participation in the whole mission of Christ, the drama of each particular Christian life can, in its own way, be a kind of reflection of the mission of Christ."
There is a footnote for "highly nuanced mission," stating that he means this in the sense used by his mystic friend, Adrienne von Speyr. However, he doesn't explain what that sense is. Oh well. We'll just have to guess.
My guess is that a nuanced mission is a spiritual mission. The difference between a spiritual mission and a secular one is that in the case of the former, one is co-missioned by God. It is a vertical mission that bears on the question of eternity and of ultimate meaning. If you win, you cheat Death, which is what makes the mission so deadly serious.
In contrast, a horizontal mission can be anything from winning an election to winning the World Series. It has no intrinsic meaning. Rather, it's just a little game human beings invent in order to pass the time.
In fact, self-important human beings often engage in their trivial games as if they are playing chess with Death, but in reality, they're just trying to buy more time by playing with themselves (or with a projected part of themselves). They are are hardly chess masters, only chess masturbators.
There are the lesser mysteries and the greater mysteries. I would suggest that to be baptized or bobtized is to be initiated into the lesser mysteries, in the sense that one becomes aware of the general contours of the cosmo-drama as it hurtles toward its divine fulfillment.
But initiation into the greater mysteries occurs when one receives one's personal mission, one's role in the drama. Once this occurs, then ultimate meaning is conferred upon every moment of one's life, because every thought and every action bear upon eternity.
There is a reason why only the godless believe that Obama is on a mission from God. True, he is on a mission, but it is another kind of nuanced mission. It is as if he has been sent "from below" to spread the plague. His mission and our mission are mutually exclusive.
Again, every highly nuanced mission is a participation in the whole mission of Christ. What did the whole mission of Christ involve? Let's see: incarnation, baptism (rebirth in spirit), temptation, intrinsic authority, healing, persecution, condemnation, death, resurrection.
In Vedanta, there is the concept of the vibhuti, which is something between a man and an avatar, the latter being an incarnation of God. The vibhuti is here with a divine mission, but it needn't be a strictly religious one. It can be political, aesthetic, scientific, anything that advances the Cause.
Often we may detect a vibhuti by their own strong sense of divine mission, combined with an ability to surpass themselves in mysterious ways; when they align themselves with their mission, they partake of powers that are not their own.
Thus, they may appear powerful, but in reality must humbly submit to their mission. Their courage is in their submission. One thinks of Abraham Lincoln, or Winston Churchill, or Saint Paul, or the founding fathers, by no means "perfect men," but protagonists of "perfect missions," so to speak. The sense of "ultimate mission" allowed each of these men to risk their lives in their diverse actions.
Here is how Aurobindo described the vibhuti in a letter to a disciple: "A Vibhuti is supposed to embody some power of the Divine and is enabled by it to act with great force in the world, but that is all that is necessary to make him a Vibhuti: the power may be very great, but the consciousness is not that of an inborn or indwelling Divinity.... "
He adds that "the Vibhuti need not even know that he is a power of the Divine. Some Vibhutis, like Julius Caesar for instance, have been atheists. Buddha himself did not believe in a personal God, only in some impersonal and indescribable Permanent."
I'm not necessarily suggesting that Aurobindo is correct, I'm just "throwing it out there." Of course, for the Christian, there has been only one avatar, but that needn't imply that there hasn't been an abundance of lesser vibhutis. Indeed, I would suggest that the theo-drama is incomprehensible in the absence of the vibhuti principle, i.e., those vital supporting roles such as Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist, et al. These were hardly bit players in the theo-drama.
You can't have a drama with only one character. Furthermore, "a destiny that is purely private cannot aspire to ultimate interest" (HvB). Can politics be of ultimate interest? No, not unless it involves participation in the greater cosmo-drama. Thus, Plato was wrong. We don't need "philosopher kings," much less a community organizer.
Let's just say we need a vibhuti call right about now, before liberals call checkmate.