THE TALE OF THE MAN WHO CAPTURED AIR
In the middle of the day, in the middle of the marketplace- or the mall or the High Street- a man was seen barging through the crowds. He held out his hands outstretched in a circle.
"I have seized the knowledge of God," he shouted.
Some took fright; others were alarmed, or surprised, or outraged.
"Who is this madman who makes these ridiculous claims?" said one.
"Why are you disturbing our reveries, you charlatan! We are here to buy and not to speculate on metaphysics," exclaimed another.
"What a fool you are to think that you have the knowledge of God. Who are you to say such things!" said a third.
At last, a burly fellow stepped up, seized the man by his coat collar- for the poor soul was puny and could put up no resistance- and violently shook him.
"Listen here, we have no time for this type of rubbish. I am handing you over to the magistrate for disturbing the peace."
The raving man, presumed a lunatic, was hauled in front of the magistrate, and the charge of causing a disturbance and being a public nuisance was read out to him.
"What do you have to say for yourself?" said the magistrate.
"I stand by what I said," the raving man shouted. "I have encompassed the knowledge of God!" and with that he made a wide circle with his two outstretched hands.
"Bring in the experts," ordered the magistrate, for he wanted to put an end to the hallucinations of this raving fool. Experts would question him, and he would be found wanting. He would then come to his senses, recant and acknowledge his ravings, for that was what they were. If he did not admit the error of his ways, he would be committed to the asylum.
The first witness to come forward was a pompous philosopher, notorious for his rants against God, religion, and all that was held to be sacred.
"Well, well," tut-tutted the philosopher, "so you have encompassed God? But I say to you, there is no God, so what have you actually encompassed?"
"I agree with you, Sir" said the man, "There is no God, as you describe it. But permit me to ask you a question. What do you see me holding inside my outstretched arms?"
"Nothing," said the philosopher, in a most snide and unpleasant tone.
"Exactly what I have been shouting all along. For the knowledge of God is no-thing, which you care to call nothing."
The second witness was an acclaimed scientist.
"My dear man, what you mistakenly call the knowledge of God can be easily explained by science. What you are actually holding inside your arms is air and its components; nitrogen, oxygen, the elements, molecules and atoms. It is really quite straightforward."
"Indeed sir," said the man. "But I have been told that atoms are composed of smaller particles, which in turn are composed of bundles of energy and light, which in turn are composed of fields and states that we are not quite sure of what they are and where they are."
"That is correct," said the scientist.
"So when I hold out my arms, I am actually encompassing a universe of knowledge, known and unknown. And the unknown can be known but it will hold out even more unknowns, in an endless chain of being and becoming" replied the man.
"You are correct."
"In which case, what I am holding out is a universe of knowledge, known and unknown, being and coming into being."
"Yes," said the scientist rather sheepishly.
"But you must admit sir that it is a mouthful saying '... a universe of knowledge, known and unknown, being and coming into being'. I just prefer to use a shorthand, which I call the knowledge of God. Perhaps if you have a better word or turn of phrase, you can let me know."
The eminent scientist scratched his head and said, "How about saying 'Science' instead?"
"Excellent," said the man. "I agree with you!"
The third witness to be called out was a religious dignitary, wearing long flowing robes and elaborate head gear.
"You poor and misguided man," exclaimed the cleric "God is too sublime, too great, too mysterious to be understood by human beings. You cannot know him, let alone contain his knowledge, as you so loudly claim."
"Well I do agree with you, O learned man. But can you tell me why you are making assertions about God as if you knew him...sublime, remote, mysterious I believe you said? How can you say anything meaningful about Him then?"
The stately divine fell into deep thought and then said, "Yes, yes, but God in His Mercy revealed parts of His Nature through prophets and messengers, and individuals also can experience His Presence directly." Sighing deeply, he then declared, with a finality that brooked no dispute, "He is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere..."
"But I agree with you here, too!" said the man, "He is in the brightest star... and the smallest atom. Isn't that so? That was all I was saying. My arms were surrounding atoms and molecules and quarks and photons, a veritable microcosmic universe which you yourself had said reveal the knowledge of God."
And so it went on, for the entire day. The court trotted out all manner of experts; professors, lawyers, even a rather scoundrelly looking beggar and an astrologer. The accused held his own, agreeing with all of them on their representation of God. It was most perplexing for the magistrate. How could this man be considered a lunatic if he agreed with every one of the experts, and they seemed to agree with him?
Finally, the magistrate had grown tired and irritable of the whole proceedings. It was also nearing her dinnertime.
"Accused, stand up!", she said loudly. "I am dismissing the charge of lunacy. No one seems to know what the knowledge of God means; or they all seem to know. It cannot be either/or; nor this and that. However, I am fining you ten pounds for shouting needlessly in a public place, and disturbing people who were busy buying things."
February 2, 2017