Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Lord: Chapter 77, “Throne and Throning One”

Dear friend,

After the first three introductory chapters, the Book of Revelation really gets trippy. I use the late-60s term not only to get your attention, my dear old friend, but also because I am remembering a day when some in our generation—I’m not naming names—thought that the “doors of perception” could be opened with the aid of chemical substances. 

The term comes from the title of a 1954 book by Aldous Huxley that certain unnamed characters in our age bracket took as a sort of Bible of spiritual discovery. Writing about his experiences with mescaline, Huxley took the term from William Blake’s epic poem “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” I doubt Blake used mescaline, but he probably took his inspiration from Revelation.

All of which says to me, So why did we think we had to reinvent not just the wheel but God and heaven too, when all along our religious tradition had given us a clear vision of these and more?

In this strangely named chapter, Romano Guardini contemplates the first visions granted St. John after he steps through an open door (of perception?) into heaven. RG paraphrases Revelation: “In the unapproachable light of heaven stands a throne. He who sits on it is like a blazing jewel. No further details are given—neither as to form nor face; everything seems to be lost in the radiance. All that is said is that Someone thrones there in costly glory.”

More details are given—a rainbow “like to an emerald,” twenty-four Elders seated around the central throne, lightning and thunder issuing from the throne, the Cherubim in the form of four animals, and so on. But what RG seems most interested in, and spends the rest of the chapter on, is the idea of throning itself. “The modern,” he writes, “no longer knows what a throne is, nor how one sits on a throne, how one thrones.

We always have to be in motion, always doing. We sit in meditation, those of us who are so inclined, to stop movement and action, external and internal, to come to perfect rest and relaxation. But the Someone who thrones at the center of heaven in Revelation is not a tranquil Buddha-like figure. This enthroned God is not nothingness, but everythingness, a figure of infinite power and creativity. “God does not speak; he silently contains the meaning of all things. God does not act, but all power to act comes from him.” While seated on a throne.

And so we have another chapter in The Lord that makes me seriously wonder why you and I spent so many years of our lives chasing visions and adopting new, novel spiritual and meditative practices, when all along we had the answer seated in front of us. It took me forty years in the wilderness, from roughly 1968 to 2008, to find my way back to the threshold of this doorway—not Huxley’s, but John’s—and the foot of this throne.

Yours,
WB

This series of posts on Romano Guardini’s The Lord continues here with chapter 78.

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