Divine Authority

A moral code does not suppress choice, but educates and forms liberty. But for some, morality is opposed not only to evil choice but to any choice at all, any personal act of the will, any initiative, and obedience is not freedom but submission and inertia.

                                                                                    --Thomas Merton

Divine authority is absolute. It depends on nothing else. It speaks for itself.

Furthermore, what it says always liberates.

 In contrast, those who invoke divine authority to support their own claims, in an attempt to impose them on others, thereby demonstrate--unknowingly, of course--just how lacking in authority they and their claims really are.

When what is said carries divine authority, it has no need to invoke anything. Only what lacks all authority of its own feels any need to invoke it.

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

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Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

                                                                        --Matthew 7:15

If, when making an oath, one places one's hand on the Bible, the Quran, or some other holy scripture, one does not thereby invoke divine authority to back up what one says. On the contrary, one thereby opens oneself and what one says to the absolute judgment of divine authority. My taking an oath that way, one places oneself beyond appeal if one should not tell the truth, as fully and exclusively as one can.

Those who tell lies, including intentional distortions of the truth, while speaking under such oaths thereby utter divine authority's absolute judgment upon themselves and their words. By lying under oath, they absolutely condemn themselves and what they say. They send themselves to hell.  

Those who desire to evade assuming full responsibility for their own words and deeds are fond of invoking divine authority in support of what they claim and do. By such invocations they strive to close all doors to discussion, or to any other response that might in any way call the authority of their claims into question.

By invoking divine authority they are attempting to place themselves and their claims beyond all further analysis, reflection, and in inquiry.

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For the meaning of revelation is that what is revealed is true, and must be borne.

                                                            --James Baldwin, Another Country


Revelation places those to whom it gives itself under obligation--from Latin ob-, "to" or "toward," and ligare, "to bind" or "to tie." Revelation ties or links those to whom it is comes to what has been revealed to them. They become the bearers of the revelation, carriers of it themselves, communicating it to others when opportunity presents itself, just as carriers of diseases do.

As opposed to disease carriers, however, carriers of revelation do not sicken those with whom they come into contact. Rather, they bring in turn those with whom they come into contact the very wholeness of health into which revelation releases allto whom it comes, in whatever way it comes, by whatever carrier.

Revelation liberates, and in liberating it places the liberated under obligation to liberate others.

Revelation yokes to itself those to whom it comes, and makes them bear the burden it places upon their shoulders.

That yoke, however, is easy; and that burden is light.

Light, after all, enlightens

James Baldwin

James Baldwin

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Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.

                                                --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


            The Greeks believed that when a man had too much power for his own good the gods ruined him by helping him increase his power at the expense of wisdom, prudence, temperance, and humanity to win his own destruction.

                                                                                    --Thomas Merton


King Oedipus has one eye too many perhaps.


To divine something is to detect or discover it, as by insight or intuition. It is to tell something by its traces, as someone who still believes in the old practice of divining water might use a divining rod to discover where water lies buried. The water itself supposedly draws the tip of the divining rod toward itself. Divining the presence of water in such a way is a matter of allowing the water to reveal itself.

Water reveals itself through divining rods only to those who know how to open themselves to the revelation by holding and handling the divining rod in the proper way. Indeed, any revelation whatever, whether of water or of the meaning of life or anything else, comes only to those who are prepared to receive it. 

Furthermore, the greater the revelation, the more thorough and deep must be the preparation of the soil where it is to be sown.

That process of preparation requires uprooting all the weeds that have taken root in the soil up to that point. The soil must first be cleared and plowed before it is ready to receive new seed.

Being cleared and plowed in that way is painful, and can even drive one mad. It can drive one to the point of total breakdown.

That point of total break-down, however, is also the point of possible break-through. It is the point at which the new seeds of revelation can be sown.

Divining authority requires opening oneself to receive what authority as such, which by its own nature is always divine, gives one to receive. The gift that divine authority gives to those who have been prepared to receive it, is a gift greater than which there is no other--as well as a gift without which no other gifts can ever really be given. 

That is the gift of freedom itself--including first and above all the gift of being free to receive.

All true authority is divine. It always liberates, which only the divine can do. That is also how true authority can be divined.

Whatever liberates carries authority, the authority of the divine.

What does not liberate carries no authority. That is why it must so incessantly lay claim to it.

That claim is always in vain.

Bénigne Gagneraux, The Blind Oedipus Commending his Children to the Gods

Bénigne Gagneraux, The Blind Oedipus Commending his Children to the Gods