Seneca= “Gold is tried by fire, brave men by adversity.”
Exodus, 20, 20= “God has come to prove you.”
Truth is fire. It never just illumines, invariably it burns. It burns up the false, which is hard, but far harder, it burns up much we reckoned true. The fire is also death, it ends things we hoped would last forever. It is glib, and facile, to refer to this annihilation as simply ‘lying fallow like the winter until the return of spring.’ New beginnings are not guaranteed, nor are they even the point. The fire brings change, radical and fundamental; it is not the ‘transition’ from the worn out to the renewed. It is a real ending, and if a ‘different’ way follows it, that is hard won, and ‘depends’.. It is not assured. If you think you can see light at the end of the long dark tunnel, then you are simply not in it. What changes us can also destroy us, if we do not let it burn the truth into our heart. We are thrown in at the deep end, and the struggle this initiates is grievous.
The ‘dark night of the soul’ followed by a guaranteed bright dawn, the desert of the heart followed by a guaranteed garden– this is disrespectful of what the Daemonic does to us, what is at stake, the stabbing wound and the testing it inaugurates.
The fire ends all ‘hope in life’, and makes the heart carry a burden it cannot comprehend; all we know now is, its weight is too heavy. We protest against what the heart must carry.
No one seeks the truth. It is the dagger whose utter precision knows how to pierce and penetrate, and set ablaze.
We are glad for the dagger’s acute and troubling accuracy only if we are willing to seek the new land of heart beyond the point where all hope died.
Old and New are, like yin and yang, part of the same universe, the same paradigm; there is a shift within the paradigm, like the shifting of summer fruition into winter deadening, but winter degeneration will reliably shift into spring regeneration. Thus dark still balances with light, loss still balances with fulfilment, death still balances with life. Luther Standing Bear= “We learned to do what only the student of nature ever learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human frailty, so whatever came, we adjusted ourselves.. without complaint. This appreciation enriched.. existence. Life was vivid and pulsating, nothing was casual or commonplace” [quoted in Kent Nerburn and Louise Mengelkoch, ed.s, ‘Native American Wisdom’, 1991, pp 19-20]. But, ‘the storms and blessings of existence’, alternate and flow into each other. The Daemonic is held in check in nature.
The indigenous peoples, like all of us, could ‘adapt’ to storms coming and going in concert with blessings. The Daemonic electricity enlivens even as it threatens. Yet the loss of their way of life as a whole, the loss of their land and their culture, the fatal blow to their tradition, is a firestorm to which they have not been able to adapt. The same is true of the Jews sent to the Nazi concentration camps. What kind of God allows this extremity of dying?
What adversity is this? What proving is this?
The Daemonic, when it really comes in full, shorn of natural symbols and pure in the Spirit, raises the question which pains the heart beyond bearing.
The point is, the Daemonic is outside the cosmic harmony entirely. It destroys that harmony, to reveal a more naked, brutal, ‘place’ in existence, where something stupendous is risked, that something unbelievable might be attained. In this disruptive dispensation of the Daemonic, humanity is both more vulnerable – ‘frail’ in Luther Standing Bear’s terms – yet also more standing alone, more bold and active, having only one thing to rely on= the truth of fire, like a dagger thrust with exquisite accuracy into the heart.
Fire is not the transition from Old to New within the checks and balances of Eros as the Web of Life, an exemplar of yet another ‘necessary contrary.’ Fire destroys to create something radically and fundamentally ‘different’, which no people, tribal or civilized, has yet realised, nor manifested in anything like fullness. In the new land of heart, the freedom that allows hideous evils to arise is also the prod for the heart to awake and take on its inexplicable calling, sounded direct from the heart of God.
“Fire is the point of departure for unceasing change.”
“Fire in its advance will catch all things by surprise and judge them.”
The Wisdom of Solomon, 3, 5-6=
“God has put them to the test and found them worthy of himself;
in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.”