by Ken Rolheiser
I forgot to remember and the Holy Spirit

An Elvis Presley song says, “I forgot to remember to forget”. “The day she went away” he promised to forget, but he ends up lonely and unfulfilled because he cannot forget her. 

This is somewhat analogous to our birth and our forgetting the One power or God from whose energy we come. As in Plato’s anamnesis, the idea is that our soul once knew everything but got trapped inside the body. Now we struggle to recollect that knowledge. 

We endure restless longing until we find that communion with God once more, as St Augustine put it. In short, all that we know already comes preloaded at birth, and our senses help us bring these truths back to mind. 

Using a computer hard drive analogy – we are created with some programs embedded from the Creator. We learn the language so we can access the truths that are there already. Poet William Wordsworth spoke of this language of the senses that draws us back to experiencing God.

“My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky.” Since childhood we know this experience. But as we grow, the world around us obscures the truth and the things we once could see, we now can see no more.

But there lives deep down inside us,
“a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.” (Wordsworth, “Lines – Tintern Abbey”)

The child, especially in its innocence, is closer to God and its origin than the adult. Thus, “the child is father of the man”, as Wordsworth put it. In time we can recall our origins and come back to that oneness with God.

Our experience of theology, or our thinking of God, can be understood in Plato’s metaphor of the sun. The eye, which needs light to discern clearly, enables us to learn about the forms and objects that surround us. In a similar way the soul needs God, Plato’s “Form of the Good” or intellectual illumination, to understand truths.

To the Christian, the Holy Spirit easily becomes the light in the above analogy. We discover truths and develop our spirituality more readily in God’s presence. Great truths seem easily discerned with the inspired vision of the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, it often seems that theological truths present themselves to us as things we once knew. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). 

Let me conclude with a vision St Julian of Norwich describes in her Revelations of Divine Love. Julian held in her hand something no bigger than a hazelnut. God revealed that it was everything that was created – vast galaxies and cloudy nebulae.

Julian feared that something so small could be harmed or damaged. God assured her that “it lasts and always will”. Indeed, God wraps us in his tender love and protects the entire cosmos in tender hands.

(546 words)