One Foot in Fairyland

“One of the deepest and strangest of all human moods is the mood which will suddenly strike us perhaps in a garden at night, or deep in sloping meadows, the feeling that every flower and leaf has just uttered something stupendously direct and important, and that we have by a prodigy of imbecility not heard or understood it. There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance.” G.K. Chesterton in “Robert Browning,” (1903)

The following post is a re-post from May 11, 2018 with some minor tweaks. It is a post on G.K. Chesterton’s notion that a certain embracing of the mysteries of life is conducive to good health; indeed, is necessary for good health:

It is common today to view everything through the lens of rationalist thought, everything; and that which cannot be fit into this logical mode of thinking is none-the-less jammed into it, because it simply must go there, and no one seems alarmed when the pieces do not fit, and contradictions cry out to be noticed. I am not denigrating rational thought. It is quite important, but it has been historically linked to an understanding that we might not understand certain things; we understood that there were mysteries, and respected them as such. What I think is that we have, or are, losing our sense of the mysterious. G.K. Chesterton, who died in 1936, nearly approaching a century ago, saw about him this growing loss among the populace of their sense of mystery, and he wrote:

“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 to-day) 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. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.

Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such as thing as free will also. Thus he believed that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven but nevertheless ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth. He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not.

It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. 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.” 

It is, as Gilbert said, that by keeping one foot in fairyland the sane man, the mystic, keeps everything lucid.

When you see the priest approach the altar today, look around: there are things you are not seeing. What you are seeing is not all that it appears to be: he is actually a knight in battle, ascending the altar to sacrifice in persona Christi, as the person of Christ, the son of God, to God. You are at Calvary again, you have entered an eternal moment in time where you are present with Christ, and there you receive Him, hidden in a mysterious manner in a round white host.

The Catholic people are all mystics. We believe in the mysteries of life, and by that we are kept sane. We know there are things we are not meant to know in this lifetime, and we are fine with that.

It is liberating to be a mystic. It is confining to be a morbid logician (GKC), and must be quite exhausting.

So, welcome to Fairyland, where sanity resides!