To make hidden things visible

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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Like the P in psychology,
The H in psychiatry,
Invisible Ink
and the Truth in Theology…
The spell is complete,
Now all is visible.

In C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the author does not say what exactly Lucy Pevensie had to recite in order to perform the spell to make hidden things visible. But in Michael Apted’s motion picture version of the story, we do get to hear her recite the spell — and what she says is pretty much what I’ve quoted above.

The spell seems to suggest that the key to making hidden things visible has something to do with learning to see what is hidden in plain sight. The P in psychiatry and the H in psychology may not be audible when we pronounce those words correctly, but all we have to do is read the words, and there those “hidden” letters are. Invisible ink might require a “spell” of its own in order to be rendered visible, such as applying heat or a particular chemical to the paper to make the ink appear. As for the truth in theology… well, this is an interesting question. The key element seems to be faith. Believing is seeing, as they say. Or, perhaps, the key is experience: experiencing is seeing.

Mysticism is like the truth in theology. It’s hidden in plain sight. It is “made visible” by either faith or experience (or, ideally, a combination of the two). When we dare to believe that there is something in or beyond the mysteries of life that imbue those mysteries with meaning, we become disposed to discern that very meaning for ourselves. But along with believing in the meaning of the mystery, actually embracing the mystery, and seeking to experience it from the inside out, seems to be just as valid and useful a technique for making the hidden things (of God) visible in our lives.

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About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.