Thursday, March 4, 2010

Karen Armstrong on Theology as a Species of Poetry


Karen Armstrong's Spiral Staircase (NY: Random House, 2004):

This, of course, is how we should approach religious discourse.  Theology is--or should be--a species of poetry, which read quickly or encountered in a hubbub of noise makes no sense.  You have to open yourself to a poem with a quiet, receptive mind, in the same way as you might listen to a difficult piece of music.  It is no good trying to listen to a late Beethoven quartet or read a sonnet by Rilke at a party.  You have to give it your full attention, wait patiently upon it, and make an empty space for it in your mind.  And finally the work declares itself to you, steals deeply into the interstices of your being, line by line, note by note, phrase by phrase, until it becomes a part of you forever.  Like the words of a poem, a religious idea, myth, or doctrine points beyond itself to truths that are elusive, that resist words and conceptualization (p. 284).