Mysticism and Paradox :: Weekends with Chesterton {2}

Or I suppose Weekdays considering a I'm a little late to the game at Sarah's.  But I've been reading Orthodoxy with some other ladies and wanted to share one of the passages that resonated with me...even if a day late!

I love how Chesterton can take elements of our Christian experience that we can sometimes feel hesitant or even embarrassed about and highlight how not only are they reasonable but they are the most reasonable answers to man's questions.  Like mysticism, the recognition of mystery and the reality of the unseen.

From Orthodoxy:
"Mysticism keeps men sane.  As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.  The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic.  He has permitted the twilight.  He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland.  He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of today) free also to believe in them.  He has always cared more for truth than for consistency.  If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them.
The whole secret of mysticism is this:  that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand.  The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious.  The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.
As we have take the circle as the symbol of reason and madness, we may very well take the cross as the symbol at once of mystery and of health.  Buddhism is centripetal, but Christianity is centrifugal:  it breaks out.  For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed forever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller.  But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape.  Because it has a paradox in its centre it can grow without changing.  The circle returns upon itself and is bound.  The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.

Symbols alone are of even a cloudy value in speaking of this deep matter; and another symbol from physical nature will express sufficiently well the real place of mysticism before mankind.  The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one things in the light of which we look at everything.  Like the sun at noonday, mysticism explains everything else by the blaze of its own victorious invisibility."
-G. K. Chesterton-

Truly, it is the one who seeks to answer everything by the experience of the senses who will be driven insane.  It is that man who puts himself and his limited thoughts above thousands of years of human experience who well embodies arrogance.  When one admits that they do not and cannot know everything and finally admits the reality of the sun, the world around suddenly begins to make sense.

Pop on over to Sarah's to see what others are gleaning from Chesterton!


  1. The first time I read that cross metaphor in The Everlasting Man I wanted to tell it to everyone, it was so glorious to me, but the only way to do that adequately would be to read Chesterton himself to them, and most people don't have the patience or interest. It's wonderful to be in this group of people who have the same mind and heart to receive Chestertonian joys. Thank you, Mary!

  2. I really need to start reading Chesterton. I've heard so much about him since joining the blogging world. I've also heard great things about all of his writing, I don't even know where to start!

    1. Sarah just posted a great list of free audio books if that's something you're into. I don't think I would start with Orthodoxy, although it can be a great one if you have the focusing skills I don't currently have. I remember loving it in college but now it seems to be a lot heavier than I remember! I guess I had a lot more time and focus for intellectual reading back then! Perhaps Everlasting Man? Or Brave New Family? Or even some of his essays.

  3. What you said there- that Chesterton takes something we may otherwise be abashed about and not only explain it as logical but as the ONLY logical answer... That's what I find so compelling about his writing. How does he do that?!

  4. "I love how Chesterton can take elements of our Christian experience that we can sometimes feel hesitant or even embarrassed about and highlight how not only are they reasonable but they are the most reasonable answers to man's questions."



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