The Mercies of Perfection

Today, in my class, Adele’s lilting voice sings a soft ‘Hello’ into the room. On the floor, a dozen teenagers laugh and scream as they roll dice and play the ‘chocolate game’: a reward for their achievement of golden points. Another prized thing is here too—infinite love—largely (and appropriately) unrecognised, but surely felt, as if heaven has bent down for a few moments and given us a taste of one of her perfections.

Charles Williams tells us that according to ‘Romantic Theology’ such perfection is implicit in every human being and to sell it and yourself short is a great insult, not just to God but also to the human race. Speaking of those lovely and yet dangerous moments when we glimpse this in another human being—as we do every day—along with all their faults. He says, ‘We cannot look fixedly upon such love and glory because the soul is so intoxicated by it… it at once goes astray…’ The attempt to extort (to obtain by force, threats, or other unfair means) leads to a perversion of the image. Hence what chaos and despair would follow if all men and women were so beheld. Therefore the Divine mercy intervenes, clouding its creation by drawing the veil.

He points out that this is why, in the Garden of Eden, once they had insisted on seeing good as evil, they were mercifully ejected from paradise. He adds, ‘How could they have borne with sanity that place of restrained good, all of which could be known (experienced) as unrestrained evil?’1

I wonder; if it’s true that it could be a ‘mercy to be ejected from a paradise’; might there have been times in our own lives where—because we were unable to bear with sanity some place of restrained good—that we experienced the mercy of being ejected from a paradise, but failed to realise that it was actually a mercy?

1 Charles Williams, The Figure of Beatrice, Apocryphile Press, Berkeley CA, 2005 (originally Faber & Faber 1943) pp: 47-48

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