Friday, February 03, 2006


You may want to begin this post by taking a look at my file on visions in my Hypertext Bible Commentary.

I was reading Gilead: the old preacher writing a superlong letter to his very young son, about his own experiences as a young son of an older preacher coming back from the Civil War (pp. 94-97).
As a young boy (ca 1867) he had had a vision which he hoped to transfer to his young son after he was dead and gone:

The church had burned. One day just before harvest time the congregation had gathered to tear down the old burned hulk of a church. It began to rain (very welcome in that dry land); they went about their business rescuing whatever remained of hymnbooks and Bibles; those no longer useful they buried ceremoniously. Those worth keeping they stored in a wagon, carefully protected from the rain.

Under the wagon, fairly dry, lay the young children, and the wives were about their usual wifely duties. As they worked, the men struck up The Old Rugged Cross; the women and children joined in.

This is the vision the old preacher remembered from his childhood, and wanted to pass on to his young son after his death. (Special thanks to Marilynne Robinson, the author of this story.)

The story set my mind to thinking about visions.

Nowadays if a person had a vision, they would probably not recognize it, and to deny it if accused. In our culture visions are in disrepute. But the good book says where there's no vision the people perish.

Are we perishing?


William Blake lived a life of vision. At four he ran to his mother to inform her that looking out the window he had seen the face of an ugly, angry God (Ellie reminds me that he also saw a treefull of angels).

Later he wrote about Old Nobodaddy, and later still about Jesus the Forgiveness. And finally he wrote a beautiful letter to his patron, Butts about his own awakening experience.

Blake had a spiritual pilgrimage, just like you and I.

At four Carl Jung dreamed of a gigantic turd falling from the sky upon the local cathedral. Jung was the son of a Lutheran minister and came from two long lines of Lutheran ministers on his father's and mother's sides.

Jung was a truly modern man, but he still recognized the danger of departing from the faith of one's youth. He reported that every person over 35 who came to him for therapy was suffering from that departure.

Jung, it seemed, had departed at four. He spent his life coming back. For the record he left look at Memories, Dreams, Reflections, his posthumous confession.

Lesser men like yours truly departed at ca 13 and came back at 30. (Nels Feree tells us that he was 'converted to God at 9, converted to truth at 18'..) We came back, but with a difference: in the words of the apostle Paul we put away childish things.

What about you? Do you have visions? Are you open to visions? Without vision there's no journey; we stay spiritually where we were at 8. 8 is a wonderful age, and maybe it's where many people need to stay; they must be respected and loved like our own children.

Basically there are people (probably the majority) who need to believe what they were (are) told by their elders, and a few who are led to go beyond the conventional wisdom. Spiritual heirs of the flower children they need to question authority; they have visions!


Jeff Pioquinto,SJ said...

wow. nice blog. thanks

Twyla said...

Lovely post. Brings to mind this quote I read recently by T. E. Lawrence: "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."

Larry said...

Two friends! what a blessing. Always love your comments, Twyla, and think of you often.

Nice to meet you, Father Jeff. I looked over your blog a bit; man, it's good! Nice to me you and your friends. You remind me of what Our Lord said about Nathaniel at John 1:47. I mean to keep up with it as time permits.

Larry said...