On Immortal Selves, Psychedelics, and Christianity
By Jack Call
That isn’t to say that art needs to be expressly dedicated to Christian worship or to any kind of worship in order to do the sacred job of extending and intensifying the experience of Beauty. Whether the artist is a Christian, an atheist, a Hindu, a Jew, a secular humanist, or whatever, doesn’t matter. All that matters is whether the artist has succeeded in reminding us yet again of the deep beauty that is always there.
Even considered purely as art, the Gospels achieve a perfection that hasn’t been surpassed.
One night, a few days after writing that next-to-last paragraph about the beauty that is always there, I dreamed I was in the presence of an amazingly beautiful, intelligent, graceful woman, and that I was becoming aware that she deeply and tenderly loved me in a way that she loved no one else. And I loved her and was so grateful for her love. She was gentle, good, and wise, and ravishingly beautiful, like a fairy tale princess or queen, and it was hard for me to believe at first that she had chosen me, although she also made it unmistakably clear that she did. There were also some other women present part of the time who were her friends and confidantes, and who reassured me that it was so. What followed very shortly, so quickly that it was almost simultaneous, was that I also knew that she was dying, and then, very soon, that she had in fact died. This all seemed as real to me as what I am experiencing right now.
An indefinite amount of time passed before I woke up and realized that it was a dream. As I lay there awake, barely emerged from the dream, I was thinking how the woman could be Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or God, and, at the same time, my wife. In the dream, I was amazed that out of all the people she could have chosen, she chose me. She adored me every bit as much as I adored her, and in being loved by her, I had everything I could ever possibly want. In the dream she died, as Jesus died, and it was as inescapable as every death, and I was so sad, and I was thinking, as I was waking up, that the love of the woman in the dream is also my wife’s love for me, and my love and happiness in the dream is my love for my wife and the way she makes me happy. That the woman in the dream died reminds me what a heavy loss it will be if my wife dies before me. We are each fully mortal as well as fully immortal. Grief over loss is just as authentic and true to life as is the joy of falling in love. The true joy of being alive and in love contains the true sorrow over death, and vice-versa. Jesus died a real death, but he was resurrected, and his love for each of us is not abstract or vague love for humanity or all living creatures in general. He is the shepherd who has lost one sheep out of a hundred and who drops everything, risking losing some more of the ninety-nine safe sheep, in order to find that one. He is the woman in my dream, who loved me in particular. He is present in the way my wife loves me and in the way I love her. No one can ever replace her.
In order for Christianity to work for me, I find I must think of God’s love for each and every one of us as not only parental love, to which we respond with filial love, not only love of friend for friend, but also romantic and erotic love, the love of two people intoxicated with the living presence of each other. God’s love is not a separate thing in addition to, or somehow greater than, our love for each other. It is our love for each other, and it is thereby as transcendent as you please, for that is exactly how we transcend ourselves at the same moment that we are most authentically ourselves. We often fall short of or betray that ideal, but we forever renew our quest for it.