Returning to the question of how the Divine can protect us without damaging our free will. Suppose it is the “Finger of God” that reaches in to flip the switch, collapse the quantum equation, to end or preserve the cat’s life. Such an intervention is absolutely undetectable. We could never know whether it had happened or not. The event must always appear to us to be absolutely random.
Suppose there is a golf ball flying directly at one’s head. Suppose some quantum event is invisibly altered, setting off a butterfly effect that results in changing the ball’s flight path just enough that it misses one’s head. We can never know whether that near miss was just luck, just a coincidence. We are left completely free to choose whether to believe that it was coincidence or that it was an intervention. Further, we do not need to think that it was the “Finger of God” (a term purposely borrowed from Luke) that intervened. We obviously do not know consciously how to control which way a quantum equation collapses. But if the Divine must dwell within us, not elsewhere, and if, as I will argue later, the Great Mind (the “collective unconscious”) within us all is our interface with the Divine, then perhaps the Great Mind does know how to do that. Perhaps we collectively have far more control over our individual and collective circumstances than we can ever be consciously aware of.
However, consider the question of whether the infinite Person who apparently loves us could purposely choose which way to collapse each of the infinite number of quantum events in an infinite universe. A technical question is whether the infinity of the Person is of the same order as the infinity of the events. But a more fundamental question is whether that Person would want to.
Alan Watts considered the problem that, if that Person is a self-conscious, compassionate person like us (when we are not ill), existing as an infinite universe in which everything is not only predictable but already known, would that Person not get bored? He suggested that, since work is what we must do, but play is what we want to do, and since the Gods obviously are under no compulsion to work, then all that they do is play. Watts suggested that what the Gods are playing may be an infinitely complex game of “Hide and Go Seek,” that each of us may be a real person playing in that game, that “Through each newborn baby’s eyes, God first sees the world, surprised.” That is, perhaps we are the Gods endlessly entertaining themselves; as the Mesopotamians wrote, the Gods created us amidst gales of laughter. If so, no matter how scary the game gets, we are each of us in no real danger, never have been, and never will be. That is the knowledge that we are already safe, already forgiven, unconditionally loved, which is the gift at the heart of the Awakening experience.
On the other hand, would that Person let every quantum event occur absolutely randomly? That seems unlikely also, since, as Scott Peck emphasizes, life is negative entropy. We swim against the tide of ever-increasing disorder. There is no reason to assume that our progress will ever end, that time as we experience it will ever end, even in an ultimately timeless universe, since like virtual particles, time can simultaneously exist and not exist. That is, perhaps the Divine chooses to collapse events in a way that promotes our continual progress. What might that involve?
A fundamental insight of all viable faiths is that healthy humans help one another. We seem to have a built-in Prime Directive that says, “The human species must survive.” It clearly does not say, “I as an individual must survive.” If it did, if parents did not risk their lives to protect their children, if heroes never battled to protect the innocent, there would be no altruism, and I think it very unlikely that the human species could have survived. As W.H. Auden quipped, “I know we are here to serve others. What the others are here for, I have no idea,” because obviously many humans are not healthy at all. The Goddess needs adequately healthy persons to serve as her instruments in promoting the spiritual progress and survival of Her children; so it stands to reason that She would take a hand in ensuring that enough adequate persons exist. Natural selection, if completely random, might not ensure that.
For that reason, sometimes the Gods may intervene in a way that bends their apparent rule about not risking damage to free will. An intervention accomplished by an Awakening is, I think, almost never risky, since Awakening strengthens free will instead of damaging it. Still, sometimes protecting a life seems to be more important than such subtlety. Perhaps sometimes the Goddess decides that a specific life, perhaps of a person with a statistically improbable constellation of talents, must be protected even though that intervention, that act of protection, tips her hand.
In December 1947, about six weeks after my seventh birthday, my family was in the disembarkation station in Pusan, Korea, waiting for the S.S. Barrett to transport us back to Seattle. I was free to wander around the dependents’ area. Late one afternoon, I came upon an open door in an old warehouse. There was no “Keep Out” sign posted on it; so I went inside to look around. Walking down an aisle lined with wooden bins filled with rusty nuts, bolts, machine parts, I entered a small room. There was a wooden wall in front of me, more bins to the right, an opening for a window to my left.
As I entered, I glanced down and saw a Miraculous Medal on the floor. Such a medal is a silver oval, slightly larger than a dime, with a bas relief of the Blessed Virgin. I knew immediately what it was; my mother had many of them. Such a holy object should not be on the floor; so I bent down to pick it up. As I did so, there was a Bang to my left, then a Thud to my right. I stood up, looked at the wall, saw nothing different from its many knotholes. I looked through the window opening on my left, saw nothing, and wondered what the noise had been. I was not at all frightened. Bending down again to pick up the medal, I found only a bit of tin foil, as from a cigarette pack. Disappointed, I walked back out of the building. I did not tell my parents about this incident, feeling afraid that I might get in trouble for having gone someplace where I did not have specific permission to go.
Some years later, remembering that incident, my first thought was, “Gee, it was lucky that I thought I saw that medal”—but then I realized that luck had nothing to do with it. I could deduce what had happened. A young soldier, perhaps on high alert to watch for Communist infiltrators, had seen someone moving in a building where no one should have been and had fired. Then, realizing he had almost shot a child, and probably an officer’s child, he ran like hell.
Yes, my life was saved by the Miraculous Medal. But had it popped into and out of physical existence just then? Of course not. Did its appearance prove the truth of Catholic beliefs? Of course not. What happened was that the Great Mind, the Guardian Angel who dwells within me, had heard the soldier’s movements and altered my perception, causing me to project an eidetic image of something that I would react to without hesitation, that is, the medal, onto the floor. Perhaps a Jewish child would have seen a Star of David, a Hindu child an icon of Ganesh or Krishna or Sarasvati. Perhaps a child who had never been taught to regard anything as holy might have seen a quarter, but not reacted instantly, and so would have died.
I saw the medal. It was not a vague picture in my mind. I did not think that maybe I was seeing a medal. An eidetic image is indistinguishable from a physical object. I saw the Virgin’s hands and face clearly. A once-born psychologist, of the sort who think that the everyday mental state of most human beings is the only “normal” one, might try to explain my experience away as being an hallucination. However, am hallucination is by definition merely noise generated by my physical brain, with no relationship to objective reality. My vision obviously was related to reality; it cannot be dismissed as a Nothing But.
Here I must ask, why was my life spared? Why was I allowed to know, beyond any possible doubt, that the Divine intervened to spare it? Is my life so important that it merited such an exception to the apparent Divine agenda? Is there some service that only I, in this time and place, can carry out for the Gods? Out of all the various things, some admirable, some almost hopelessly foolish, that I have done in my life, perhaps what I am writing at this instant is the service I have been chosen to provide. At least, I can hope so. That is a cheerful thought, late on a Sunday afternoon, struggling with myself over whether I should continue writing when I know how badly our house needs cleaning.
Also, why are these words not coming out as poetry? Perhaps because I know how easy it is for a reader to not take a poem seriously, to think it is all just a metaphor or not comprehensible at all. No, because this is prose, you, dear reader, must be aware that my intent is to tell you the truth, whether you understand or like that truth or not.
I know a devout skeptic will refuse to believe I am right about any of this, will find a hundred reasons to dispute every detail. But suppose you are out driving, and a passing mechanic hears your car and tells you that the noises mean your car is going to break down. If you respond, “You are imagining that. Give me scientific evidence that my car will break down!” the mechanic will shrug and walk away; he has more important things to do than argue with the unteachable. And when your car does break down, will you think, “It’s just a coincidence”?
You can find my books on Amazon:
A Tapestry of Witches: A History of the Craft in America, Vol. I, to the Mid-1970s.Tacoma, WA: Hierophant Wordsmith Press, 2015.
Aradia and the Books of the Sacred Marriage: A Tale of Love, Witches, and Gnostics. Tacoma, WA: Hierophant Wordsmith Press, 2016.
Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches: A Social History of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn. Tacoma, WA: Hierophant Wordsmith Press, 2011.
Theodyssies and Paradoxologies: Collected Poetry. Tacoma, WA: Hierophant Wordsmith Press, 2012.