Thursday, March 29, 2007

Miraculous magic

... They began, as you did, with the aim of bringing back practical magic to the world. They were practical men and wished to apply the principles of reason and science to magic as they had done to the manufacturing arts. They called it 'Rational Thaumaturgy'. When it did not work they became discouraged. Well, they cannot be blamed for that. But they let their disillusionment lead them into all sorts of difficulties. They began to think that there was not now nor ever had been magic in the world. They said that the Aureate magicians were all deceivers or were themselves deceived. And that the Raven King was an invention of the northern English to keep themselves from the tyranny of the south (being north-country men themselves they had some sympathy with that). Oh, their arguments were very ingenious--I forget how they explained fairies.
-Susanna Clarke
in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

This reminds me of the clever efforts to explain miracles in scripture as natural phenomena. Locusts, frogs, water becoming dry land... all come to El NiƱo or something of that nature. Rivers turning to blood was accomplished with iron rich volcanic soil dying it all red... and the like. Seeing light and long deceased loved ones during near death experiences is chalked up to anoxic brain injury, spiritual manifestations and feelings of peaceful assurance can be mapped to certain parts of the brain. This interesting effort only bothers me when people try to use it to claim that miracles don't exist or that God doesn't exist. The jump to that conclusion is unwarranted.

There's the slightly confusing issue that the most sacred experiences people have aren't shared. This gives the illusion that miracles don't happen much these days. I can tell you I've had my share of personal miracles and that family members of mine have had miracles of a particularly dramatic nature... but since I'm reluctant to share the details on a blog, it's all for naught. It just pads my own confidence, nothing more.

And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, o fwhich I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.
Mormon 9:15


playasinmar said...

How many miracles are explained away with the word "anoxic?"

Too many.

Anonymous said...

sorry i missed this month, but i have a great suggestion for next month:

catfish and mandalay

a ~30 year old vietnamese american (emigrated age 9), who can't seem to find his place in american, returns to VN and bicycles from saigon to hanoi, exploring his roots. but no luck; he doesn't feel at home there either.

the book weaves his experiences in VN with his families pre and post-war history. extraordinarily readable, engrossing, funny and sad.

How can any of us not identify with someone who lives in two worlds, not comfortable in either, but never giving up trying?