Spender, Stephen - What I believe
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
What I believe - Stephen Spender; Vol. 11 No. 20 · 26 October 1989
When asked the question ‘What do you believe?’ I suppose it to mean, first and foremost, ‘Do you believe in God?’
My mind is a blank with regard to this, as to similar questions. ‘Do you believe in life after death?’
‘Do you believe that life has any meaning other than that which we put into it?’
I am incapable of thinking that there is an eternal being whose existence has neither beginning nor end, because I cannot think a beginning which has no previous beginning, an end which has no subsequent end. Equally, if scientists tell me that the universe began with the Big Bang, I find myself asking: ‘How did the forces begin that began the banging?’
Attempts to rationalise metaphysical beliefs seem to me to lead to absurd conclusions by trying to make sense of what is beyond our power of reasoning and, indeed, the reach of language. The idea of the resurrection of the body has a kind of logic, in that it explains how after death we might recover our organs of perception – without which life, as we know it, seems unthinkable. But it makes nonsense if you try to work out the logistics of it.
Before the modern age of scientific proof, religion provided answers to unanswerable questions about God, man, eternity. What mattered more than the answer was that the question should express with finality man’s predicament on Earth, in time, after death. When men lived by visions, the negative questions projected the positive affirmative answer. To ask ‘Is there a God?’ showed that the questioner already had in his consciousness the idea of God, and he did not have to look further for proof.