Before the Beginning, a Treasury

Before getting into my new series on Bishop Willimon’s Why I am a United Methodist, I wanted to share some of the best bits I gathered from George MacDonald upon this most current re-read of his book Phantastes. GK Chesterton once wrote: “George MacDonald did indeed realize the apparent paradox of a St. Francis of Aberdeen, seeing the same sort of halo round every flower and bird… It is a certain special sense of significance, which the tradition that most values it calls sacramental.” I think the following selection of quotes reveals Chesterton’s point about MacDonald.

“I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood.” [Keep in mind George MacDonald wrote in the 19th century. While he says “manhood,” perhaps a more proper modern term would be “humanity.”]

“Self will come to life even in the slaying of self; but there is ever something deeper and stronger than it, which will emerge at last from the unknown abysses of the soul: will it be as a solemn gloom, burning with eyes? or a clear morning after the rain?”

“The very fact that anything can die, implies the existence of something that cannot die; which must either take to itself another form, as when the seed that is sown dies, and arises again; or, in conscious existence, may, perhaps, continue to lead a purely spiritual life. If my passions were dead, the souls of the passions, those essential mysteries of the spirit which had imbodied themselves in passions, and had given to them all their glory and wonderment, yet lived, yet glowed, with a pure, undying fire. They rose above their vanishing earthly garments, and disclosed themselves angels of light.”

“I knew now, that it is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, and not the being beloved by each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul beloved, even if that soul know him not, bringing him inwardly close to that spirit; a power that cannot be but for good; for in proportion as selfishness intrudes, the love ceases, and the power which springs therefrom dies. Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return. All true love will, one day, behold its own image in the eyes of the beloved, and be humbly glad.”

I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that when it comes to theology, Boethius has my mind and George MacDonald has my heart. And what a strange pair they make! An early medieval Catholic and a non-conforming Scottish priest. I think another quote from George MacDonald will serve as a handy benediction of sorts for this post:

“…Good is always coming; though few have at all times the simplicity and the courage to believe it.”


~ by crossingthebosporus on August 27, 2012.

2 Responses to “Before the Beginning, a Treasury”

  1. Thank you for sharing those thought-provoking quotations 🙂

  2. Nothing to argue with there. Interesting piece.

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