Mystery and How it Gets that Way
But this hardly means the infinite is completely unthinkable. Rather, the interpenetration of finite and infinite "accounts for the existence of what we call Mysteries in religion." Mystery is a term of art, not an evasion, much less an unseemly case of furiously deepaking one's chopra in public.
The Raccoon Glishary defines mystery as an orthoparadox, which, translated literally, means "straight-up freaky."
It is analogous to the complementarity principle in quantum physics. When the human mind attempts to visualize the quantum world, an irreducible paradox results in the form of a wave of vacuous new age books that nevertheless sell much better than mine.
Now, just because the quantum world is paradoxical, it doesn't mean you can't know anything about it. To put it inversely, if there is no Absolute, then man's stupidity is infinite, and I couldn't have sold even one copy.
A Mystery is not like "a high wall that we can neither see over nor get around," but rather, more like "a gallery into which we can progress deeper and deeper, though we can never reach the end -- yet every step of our progress is immeasurably satisfying."
Can we get an I-witness?
A Mystery is not a Keep Out! sign but "an invitation to the mind." There is an intrinsic attraction to them -- a subjective correlate to our being in the presence of the Great Attractor -- signaling our proximity to "an inexhaustible well of Truth from which the mind may drink and drink again in the certainty that the well will never run dry, that there will always be water for the mind's thirst."
(This goes directly to the transfinite and hyperdimensional "religious sense" we will soon be discussing, I'll bet.)
You know the wise crack, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink," and then "out of your heart will flow rivers of living water." Can we get a wetness? You bet! Especially those of you in the first few rows.
Again, as with the complementarity principle -- which is much more generalized than the average person realizes -- "any given Mystery resolves itself (for our minds, of course, not in its own reality) into two truths which which we cannot see how to reconcile."
Oh, I can think of any number of orthoparadoxes that arise just from the human condition, in which we are material animals with immaterial spirits.
Well, which one is it then? Animal or spirit? Christianity has always insisted that it is both. Indeed, this may be traced all the way back to Genesis, in which man is a lump of clay in-spired by the Breath of Life.
Any attempt to resolve this orthoparadox -- say, by insisting that man is fundamentally no different from any other animal -- results in a spiritual catastrophe.
At the other extreme is the attempt to "be as God," but the result is the same because the one reduces to the other. In other words, if there is no God, then man is Him, and vice versa.
Or think of how we have an essence that is nevertheless deployed in time, so that our being paradoxically "becomes," and the point of life is to become who you already are.
More generally, I think a bonedry conundrum can be elevated to a thirst-quenching Mystery if we merely invert the cosmos, and put it back right-side up.
If we truly understand that the cosmos is a tree with its nonlocal roots aloft and convenient local branches down below, we suddenly find ourselves "inside" the mystery, instead of being on the outside looking in, or just another prick in the wall.
Sheed mentions several religious mysteries, such as how it is that One can be Three, and vice versa; how Christ can have two natures in one person, or be all God and all man; or how we can possess free will in the face of divine omniscience. One could cite countless others.
I remember a discussion with a distant family member when I was working on my book. Now that I think about it, this was almost exactly eleven years ago, in early 2001. Seems like another lifetome!
Although he was a good-natured, rank-and-file flatlander with no religious instruction, he surprised me, in that he immediately "got" some of the more esoteric and orthoparadoxical elements of the book, and why they had to be that way -- for example, the continuity/discontinuity of the chapters, the inspiraling circularity, and most especially the inability of normal cutandry & wideawake language to contain the Mystery.
I remember explaining to him that the "ultimate answer" was analogous to pi, which he again fully appreciated (probably because he was unburdened by preconceptions, whether scientistic or religious).
Pi is quite definitely and unambiguously the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. And yet, it is irreducibly ambiguous and "transmeasurable," so to speak. It's not that you can't measure it, rather, that you can measure it forever without ever reaching
(all quoted material from Theology and Sanity)