On the achievement of an erotic relationship
Just finished the manuscript for God: All That Matters, part of a new series from Hodder, coming out next year.
I took the chance to do some new reading, and was particularly glad to engage with Christos Yannaras, the Eastern Orthodox theologian and author of, On the Absence and Unknowability of God. I'd often read that Eastern Orthodoxy is the direct inheritor of ancient Platonism. I believe it now. If you want to know what it felt like to follow Plato, a Greek orthodox liturgy is perhaps the best place to go.
It would radically transform the heady debates about God that do the rounds in the analytic world. Stop asking what you believe. Start asking what you love. Yannaras writes that to understand the divine is 'the achievement and gift of an erotic relationship', eros being the yearning and desire for what we lack, and an achievement because this passion is often a painful affair. It requires stepping outside of yourself, a frightening thought for the children of Descartes, whose sense of identity has become very focused on the desire for self-control and self-determination.
'God… is revealed as a personal energy of erotic longing for each of his creatures', Yannaras continues. My sense is that it's like the felt knowing that exists between a mother and her child, rather than say the factual knowledge that a scientist gains of the world, fascinating though that is. God is understood not when a proposition is proven but when an eye of the soul is opened, as Plato put it, which I think can be roughly translated as, like being in love. William Countryman makes the point accessible in his book, Love Human and Divine:
‘[Love] can bring us into communion not only with God and with one another, but with every element in creation, from rocks to seraphim. Whether your connection with rocks takes the forms of a collector’s enthusiasm, a scientific delight in geology, an experience of mysticism in the natural world, or a sculptor’s intimacy with marble is secondary... they all proceed from the same erotic power of relating.’