Just as for the neurasthenic there are moments when the optic nerves become so microscopically acute he can see the air and therefore for him it is no longer a medium, spiritually there are ecstatic moments when all existence seems so poetic, so expanded and transparent to contemplation, that even the slightest trifle among an infinity’s churned-out ten-a-penny products seems, at least allegorically, to intimate the deepest truths, indeed only to have reality in so far as it is such an allegory–yes, to have its existence only in and by virtue of that.
[Marginal note] It is typical of all recent development to be conscious of the medium and it must end in madness, just as though every time a person saw the sun and stars he became conscious of the earth’s rotation.
I think he is saying, in the first paragraph, that the burden of being aware of the significance of even the slightest things would be too much, a divine invasion that would whelm away the medium by which reality keeps its distance, and through which we become aware of reality without being utterly destroyed.
It is a confusing illustration which one might take to indicate an attention to the particulars but which he means in the opposite way. A spiritual awareness of the crowded wealth of significance would put one squarely in the real, the realm where allegory is all. Perhaps this is why the Middle Ages ended with such a flowering of mysticism.
That is the ending of a story. How does one achieve such a consciousness? What choices and circumstances lead up to it? For what he describes sounds like final participation: a deadly double consciousness that is both creative and critical, comprehending everything by means of a rapidly alternating oscillation of awareness (I think this oscillation is what saves one from the marginal note–the second paragraph–although perhaps madness is not something to be avoided, but what he describes is a sort of death).
Do not try to short-circuit God’s plans for your discipleship and spiritual maturity here. If you and I were already prepared for heaven in the moment of our conversion, God would have taken us home instantly! We must remember that God exists in Himself. His holy nature is such that we cannot comprehend Him with our minds. He is of a substance not shared by any other being. Hence, God can be known only as He reveals Himself! I have found this to be a fact: every redeemed human being needs the humility of spirit that can only be brought about by the manifest Presence of God. This mysterious yet gracious Presence is the air of life eternal. It is the music of existence, the poetry of the Christian life. It is the beauty and wonder of being one of Christ’s own-a sinner born again, regenerated, created anew to bring glory to God! To live surrounded by this sense of God is not only beautiful and desirable, but it is imperative!
Here is something similar. Here the choice is a choice of resignation, of trusting in a benevolent sovereignty that has laid the tracks on which alone one can progress through an otherwise impassable land of learning. This is the beginning of a story, one in which the consciousness of inexpressible beauty and greatness directs one’s attention away from oneself so that the crowded wealth of significance bestows the needed humility to the insignificant. Do you see how sweetly he says it? Music, poetry, the air of life eternal. He makes God’s mysterious presence in those who have been called out of the grave the medium in which life becomes abundant life.