I confess I hoard information. This fragment of notes comes from my undergraduate days. It occasioned me to perform Old Testament research twice. Once was related to a 16th century socio-economic pamphlet referencing the Plagues of Egypt. The other came when I was interested in researching the Tower of Babel
So here, transcribed from the original paper, is my note. I’ve transcribed it as it appears on the back of a letter, kept for years in my files, and now discarded.
I’ve added links next to the obscure references, transforming my hand-written note into a hypertext marvel of the modern age. Enjoy!
Tower of Babel
Gen xi, 1-9
Parrot, La Tour de Babel 1953 [a facsimile of this book, in English, exists online as a .pdf at the University of Chicago]
ET The Tower of Babel (1955)
Nought is so unintelligent as fear
For, while it speaks with obscure stammering lips,
It comprehends not what is plainly said.
You cannot Parley with it. Thus it will fare
Ever with their temerity who think
To storm and raze the Unknown. Preposterous Towers
Absolute wreck, and tounge’s confusion.-
Such, through all change of circumstance and time,
Will be their brief and doleful history!
Have you no sure conception how the Tower
Was overthrown? Whether a frolic troop
Of Seraphim invisible rode by,
And with the point of their light-poised spears
Tilted, and down it went? Or lightning real,
With thunder in reserve succesive launched
By Heaven’s almighty Captain, smote its front,
And routed its pretenders?
Who shall say? I saw no armoured Seraphim, nor heard Thunders unparalleled or lightnings strange,
But only complete sickness of the air,
Clouds vomiting fire, and with deep rumblings vexed,
To which the Earth responded; and the Tower
Collapsed in their commotion. It may be
that one of Nature’s mindless accidents
The ruin wrought, or that the Unseen Power
Made that loud music with man’s folly chime,
And with a fixed [coinncidence/countenance?] rebuked
[his/this] weak extravagance. We cannot know.
Even in that star whose denizen I was
Ere Earth’s more blest inhabitant I turned,
God’s face was all as dim as seems it here
Do you believe in God?
I have never really understood this question, though it gets asked fairly frequently. There seem to be at least two questions wrapped up inside it, two interpretations. Do you have faith in God? And, do you affirm the existence of God?
I don’t propose to spend much time on the first interpretation. The second question, however, I find impossible to answer.
Here’s why. Limitations of any kind are not supposed to pertain to the God. A story I once heard told in the House of Lords a few years ago has stuck with me. The story goes that during the English colonial intervention in India, the chiefs of the Anglican Church met with representatives of the Hindu religion at an equivalent level and said, basically, we don’t want any trouble right? But we just can’t get our heads round one point about your religion, so need you to answer one simple question before we can guarantee that. Do you believe in one god or many?
The Hindus could not answer, because they said, we cannot limit god to singularity or multiplicity. The separation between them is part of illusion. To say god is one limits god, who can never be many. Similarly, to say god is many means he can never be one. Who are we to limit god to one side or the other of the one/many divide?
Similarly, it seems to me equally ridiculous to limit any god to just one side of the dichotomy between existence and oblivion, presence and lack, matter and void. Like Schrodinger’s cat, gods exist beyond such rationalist dichotomies.
I cannot affirm the existence of god, for to do so would limit god to a kind of prison.