After seeing the photograph of a sacred statue on a bonfire (which it’s important to stress has since been removed, was not burnt, and is absolutely not the norm) I was reminded of this story written by Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello. I thought about writing a post with my thoughts on the subject but the thing about stories like this is they have a way of reaching into the deepest parts of us and speaking to us without any help at all. For that reason, here is just the story.
The mystic was back from the desert.
“Tell us,” they said, “what God is like.”
But how could he ever tell them
what he had experienced in his heart?
Can God be put into words?
He finally gave them a formula –
inaccurate, inadequate – in the hope
that some might be tempted
to experience it for themselves.
They seized upon the formula. They made it
a sacred text. They imposed it on others
as a holy belief. Some went to great pains
to spread it in foreign lands. Other even
gave their lives for it.
The mystic was sad. It might have
been better if he had said nothing.