Flannery O’Connor

I just finished reading her book of short stories titled “Everything That Rises Must Converge” from the title of the first of the nine stories. My interest in this author was piqued by a person named Missy who discussed a story “A Temple of The Holy Ghost” written by Flannery. A child in the story goes into a trance-like state realizing she’s in the presence of God. This story is not in the book I read, a well-worn copy of which I borrowed from zgirl2, but is in a later volume of O’Connor’s short stories which I’ve ordered from Amazon.

Well, here I am, a lifelong UU, an agnostic at the far end of the religious spectrum from a deep Catholic such as Flannery O’Connor and yet I’m fascinated by her stories. They’re both humorous and tragic and a lesson which may be cruel is usually learned or experienced by a central character. Often a lifelong state of consciousness is suddenly transformed into something wholly new, a moment of truth is realized, if even for a few seconds before death. This is what the Catholic believes is God’s action through grace, I think, and it is apparently O’Connor’s intention to show in her stories how this works. Certainly I don’t fully understand this but I’m fascinated by the change of consciousness that can occur. What is this really? There is mystery involved here and what does it all mean?

  1. Missy’s avatar

    I think it’s just a different (Catholic) way of talking about an intuitive truth–which is that we all–even if it’s only in small moments–feel God within us. I mean, you could all it grace, or the Holy Spirit, or the Great Spirit of the Universe. I think it’s that moment of awareness that she is fascinated by, and the way it can lead to a change of consciousness. And maybe we don’t all feel this or have any experiential knowledge of something greater than ourselves, but I tend to think that would be the result of living a life unexamined and spiritually immature.
    Does that sound harsh? I don’t mean it to.

  2. Mardé’s avatar

    No, I don’t think it sounds harsh. It’s hard to examine one’s life in the deepest sense of What does it all mean? This is not just an intellectual question but one that should involve our whole person hood or being. Oh, it’s so hard to put all this in words!

    I bet most people have had moments of feeling something greater than themselves. But it may not be enough to change their whole personality or consciousness. And it may lead them up false paths like belief in magic, channeling, crystals, or astrology. Of course many would say these aren’t false paths.

    Then of course there are religious experiences that can be induced by drugs like LSD or by epileptic seizures. How real are these? I’m not willing to say they’re not real but then again there is such a thing as illusion.

    Oh, it’s so difficult! But I think the whole personality has to be involved and it has to be grounded in reality. The people in O’Connor’s stories change because of finally accepting or seeing reality.

    My feeling of something greater than myself is with me all the time: How absurd and interesting it is that there is a world here at all!

    But then I’m nuts. :roll:

  3. chris davis’s avatar

    Well, I have labeled these experiences ‘things that fill my pocket of faith': things not of mortality (not a ‘normal’ experience of earth bound normality, anyway)that, when feeling low or that i can’t find a rhyme or rhythm to what is going on, i can open and feed from. there i find miraculous things that have occured, that i have, thankfully, been going slow enough to observe and to drink in at the time of their occurance; these memories, in many ways, keep me going. there are so many coincidences (jung wrote a lot on these / synchronicity) – so many things (all things, i say) happen together, a layering, which can be seen as a single event – one not happening independent of the other but affected by each [any way to get spell check in here, Mardi?? ]. Seen through eyes of ABUNDANCE once can see the magic that is stitched into every single moment here on earth.
    “when one tugs at a single string in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world” John Muir
    Goeth’s Faust, holds a nice example:
    Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of event issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. whatever you can do or dream you can, BEGIN IT. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
    My life as of late is living proof of the power of this thing called boldness…
    I’m glad you are here writing, Mardi, and the comments from everyone are so nice to read; quite a connection you have put into motion.
    Here comes spring – right around the corner! Peace – Chris

  4. Mardé’s avatar

    Hey, great, Chris. What a tremendous response and comment! Thanks for that reminder of Jung’s synchronicity and for that great quote from Goethe’s Faust.

    Science does provide one eerie measurement which clearly demonstrates, although doesn’t prove — nothing can be finally proved using science — that the universe is “nonlocal”, i.e. certain quantum effects are independent of space and time. This measurement is the verification of the so-called Bell’s theorem. This could be looked upon as scientific verification of the John Muir quote you give above.

    [There is a sort of spell check here. When you see a red line under a word, put your cursor over it and then right-click. You should then see a list of alternative spellings.]


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