Mysterium tremendum et fascinans  

rm_connor696 62M
944 posts
12/4/2005 8:49 pm

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

Mysterium tremendum et fascinans

The title comes from a classic work in religious studies: Rudolf Otto's book The Idea of the Holy, where Otto characterizes God and related notions as simultaneously attractive and altogether alien--a tremendous and fascinating mystery.

I don't believe in God; like the physicist Laplace, "I have no need of that hypothesis." I recognize matter, energy, and order but nothing else. What gave rise to that trinity? I have no idea, but postulating a divinity behind it doesn't solve the mystery; it only moves it back a step.

And yet, as I suppose virtually everyone does, I hunger for that touch of strange married to a notion of a "higher" order of meaning. Echoing the poster on Fox Mulder's office wall, I want to believe. (Damn, I hope people still remember The X Files.) Perhaps, if I could will myself to believe, I would.

Years ago I wrote a short story where a fellow stikes up a conversation in a bar. His comments run along the lines sketched above, and after a time he blurts out, "Hell, I'd sell my soul for just one truly magical experience."

"Done," exclaims his drinking partner, who turns out to be--you guessed it--Satan himself. The catch? Selling his soul IS the magical experience. The funny thing is that I kinda think it might be worth it. The meaning would be inarguable.

It's so hard to fight the suspicion that the strange and inexplicable, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, might be lurking just around the next corner. No matter that I never meet anything other than more of the same. It's as if I can't quite learn the lesson. After all, we know so little, and there are so many corners yet to turn.

Of course, as we all know, when Pandora opened the box of ills, the last to emerge was the worst of all: hope.

DirtyLilSecret61 56F

12/5/2005 3:10 am

Just out of curiousity - when in school did you partake in the singing of Christmas songs? I mean back when we were kids, it was more religious than today. My own daughter #2 practices the wicca religion and spent one Christmas (junior high in fact) boycotting the traditional Christmas time in school.


rm_connor696 62M
834 posts
12/5/2005 9:39 am

Wow--Christmas carols. I guess I might have done in elementary school (this would have been in the 1960s). My family moved a lot, and I sometimes went to private schools. When we lived in Puerto Rico, I attended a Salvation Army school (it was the only one in the area that taught in English), and I'm sure we sang Christamas carols there--but then, they had me reading the Bible, too! (My sister went to a Catholic school and kept pestering my parents to let her get confirmed.)

I guess I see all these holidays simply as ways of marking the seasons--which is for me a bit strange, too. Because we moved so often, and to such divergent climates, I really didn't viscerally understand the sequence of the seasons until I was about thirteen or fourteen. But now I get it, both as a thing in itself and as a metaphor for the progress of life, so holidays have acquired meaning for me, just not the same as the ones religious sorts see in them.

Happy Holidays to all (and make mine Saturnalia).

Become a member to create a blog