I'm employing this pair of words metaphorically to designate clarity and obscurity. And the theme of my post is a petition that has just been launched in favor of the German theologian Joseph Ratzinger, now known to Christendom as Pope Benedict XVI.
Readers of my Antipodes blog are probably aware that one of the only things in common between Joe/Benny and me (please call me Billy) is the fact that we have both recently acquired dual nationalities. Joe was German, while Benny now has a Vatican passport. Similarly, Billy was Australian, while William now has a French passport. I've looked hard for other links and common features between us, but this domain remains murky. The Holy Ghost has refrained from inspiring me and enlightening my quest. [Notice the subtle way in which I've started to insert the light and darkness metaphors into my discourse.]
You've realized, no doubt, that my profound sense of Christian charity has prompted me to publicize the above-mentioned petition by papal defenders. But there was method in my madness. At the bottom of the petition website, there's a fabulous set of web banners: a colorful collection of links to everything that's Byzantine and medieval in the way of today's distinguished Catholic sheep... or should I say goats, in honor of my genetically-engineered friend Jeanie [display]?
Those interested in holy rocket science could spend an entire afternoon browsing through all those lovely links. With a bit of chance, you might even learn how to make fire by rubbing sacred wafers together... but I advise you to keep a flagon or two of the blood of Jesus on hand to quench the flames if ever they attained Aussie bushfire proportions.
Seriously, what some of these folk would appear to crave for is obscurity. The neat thing about Latin, particularly if you're not a Latinist, is that you have no idea whatsoever about the sense of what's being said. This is a truly great solution for those who consider that the ways of God must necessarily remain mysterious. And lots of fuddled old-timers think that way. Ignorance has always been bliss. And there's no better way of installing a shroud of profound ignorance than to chant about existence in a mysterious language.
Meanwhile, there are those who would like to see the light... for example, concerning the exact way in which the Nazis exterminated Jews. Years ago, a Californian literary agent pleaded with me to sit in on the trials of Robert Faurisson in the law courts of Paris. I did so, for professional reasons (you might say), and soon became most confused, because vain attempts to cast light upon Nazi darkness gave rise rapidly to more murkiness than ever. The Nazi barbarians concluded their exterminations by putting out the lights, as it were, so that no meaningul traces would remain of their unspeakable acts. Blinded by ignorance and confusion, we would-be observers have no other choice than to accept the shroud of obscurity. And society condemns those—like Faurisson and his ecclesiastic adept Richard Williamson—who would dare to lift theoretically a corner of this terrible shroud by vain and painful promises of dubious assertions of facts, and false enlightenment. This is neither more nor less than the law of civilized society, designed justly to attenuate the pain of victims.
Fortunately, in ancient history, the light is falling at last upon scenes and situations that were once obscure. We now know, for example, that Jesus was essentially a Jew, and that Christianity was preceded by a lengthy and rich epoch of Judeo-Christianism, of which the Apocalypse of John is the purest expression. The apostle Paul then stepped into the picture to develop early Christianity as we commonly imagine it, incorporating Gentiles. Retrospectively, it goes without saying that the idea that Jews might have perpetrated deicide, through the Crucifixion, is mindless bullshit. So, many naive Catholic traditionalists whose web banners are displayed in the context of the above-mentioned petition concerning our quaint but curious German pope might take a more serious look at their Christian culture.
Seriously, I've always considered that all Christians who can do so should spend at least a few weeks in Israel, which is truly a land of light, capable of dispelling archaic Christian darkness. Many things, in the Holy Land, become clear. Other things, alas, are doomed to remain forever in darkness. But, since time immemorial, this pilgrimage to where it all happened has been obligatory. It teaches you to open your eyes and see. To discard darkness, and place yourself in the light.
Admittedly, it's not yet, exactly, the light of Science. But the Holy Land is an excellent beginning. Judaism is an ancient system, and we all know that Jews didn't drop down in the last shower of rain. Modern Israel, too, is an exceptionally smart nation, accustomed to facing and solving life-and-death problems. I can't think of a better place to start one's quest (as I once did) for enlightenment.