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The four dimensions of knowing (5)

And when the sixth hour [noon] had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ……… And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed out his last breath. ……… And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed out his last breath, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God! [Mark’s biography of Jesus Christ 15: 33-39 c. AD 33]


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was a teenager of 13 when the Second World War broke out in September 1939. Her father was King George VI, a nervous man and a reluctant king. That year her mother (known to most Jersey folk as the late Queen Mother) showed a poem to the King. It was a poem which meant a lot to her.


That poem filled the King’s heart with hope – so much so that he read it in his 1939 Christmas broadcast. It was heard in Britain and throughout the British Empire. It became an inspiration to all.


When King George VI died in 1952 the Queen Mother had the words of the poem inscribed onto brass plates and forged into the gates of his memorial chapel at Windsor Castle. Our present Queen was only 26. The poem (set out in the quote alongside) no doubt lived for her as well as she ascended the throne 60 years ago.


How does this relate to the four dimensions of knowing put forward by a Princeton Professor some years ago?


To recap. The first dimension: a baby knows the world around him by seeing it, handling it and putting it in its mouth. He knows the “Lived World.”  (“He” includes “she” from now on.) The second dimension: the child realises that there’s not only the lived world out there. He now knows that he exists, that he is the centre of his Lived World. He knows the “Self.


The third dimension: as an adult he knows the serious problems that cannot be resolved: sickness; competition from friends; enemies; his own inabilities and weakness; wrong and evil within; his own unavoidable death. He knows the “Void”. The real Void.  King George VI, his wife and his 13 year old daughter Elizabeth knew the Void of the Second World War at Christmas 1939.


We all – Jersey folk included – now know the outcome of the Void of the Second World War. What we are experiencing is the outcome of wrong and evil in our world. Oh yes, we know the ultimate personal outcome in this world: our own personal death; our own ultimate Void. But the outcomes of Voids in between are unknown. Also, Voids are OK as long as they happen to others. Not when they’re mine.


The tremendous appeal of the poem is that it points to the fourth dimension of knowing. This fourth dimension only comes to those in the Void. When it comes to a person, truly he knows the “Holy”.


Please look now at the words in bold above. Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee was in a worse Void than the Second World War. In the Void he cried out My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? He was wrongly convicted of crimes worthy of capital punishment. Dying, he was watched by the centurion who was in charge of the execution party.


He “stood facing” Jesus and “saw that in this way he breathed out his last breath”. He was facing – and not avoiding – the Void of another man.


Is it possible to know the Holy when one sees, sees clearly, the Void of another? The centurion herard the words of forsaken-ness, forsaken by God. The centurion saw the death of another - saw it clearly. He reached a conclusion: Truly this man was the Son of God!


He knew the “Holy” – by observing this Void.


But do you think he knew that he had personally killed the Son of God?  That he knew that Void as his own? A devastating Void – to do away with the Holy. Richard Syvret was guilty of that too. And you?


‘And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.’ (Minnie L Haskins, Teacher and Poet, 1875-1957).
Richard Syvret

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