Denying the divine


Solar eclipseNumen's sign

In my world I am one of the Unabled.

Through a scientific imbalance, which I don't quite understand, I, and about ten percent of my world's populace, am unable to experience anything beyond normal human intellectual capacity. What does this mean? Well, I cannot see a ghost, for instance, or experience a transcendental moment, or have any kind of spiritual or religious experience. Unless we can be intellectually persuaded through scientific methods that something exists, the Unabled will not, and cannot, believe in it.

For centuries my kind were scorned and looked down upon due to our lack of faith in anything or anyone beyond human parameters. We were thought of as heartless, cold-blooded, and unromantic.

Then some trials were done on all the unbelievers, and it was discovered that when the lobes that normally elicit a supernatural experience were triggered in our brains, no such experience occurred. Our brains simply don't have the chemical makeup of a believer. We were not to blame, then, for our scepticism and unwillingness to believe. We were simply incapable.

Soon the harassment of our kind stopped, pity took hold, and we were given the mantle of 'unable'. We were used in positions which could utilise our qualities. We became mediators for international conflicts, lecturers in comparative religion and philosophy at universities, scientists and newspaper editors — any position which required a complete lack of religious baggage or spiritual moral parameters.

Of course before long a school of thought developed within our kind — and I admit to being in the vanguard — that asserted that we were not in fact un-able but rather super-able. We determined that if we, the small elite of the populace, contained no ability within our temporal lobes to feel supernatural and religious experiences, then that is how nature must surely have intended it.

The rest of the population, led astray by this aberration in their brains, had fallen into a delusion that such meta-physical phenomena could occur. The fact that 90 per cent of the population had this aberration as opposed to our meagre numbers just reassured us of our intellectual cultivation.


On the 14th day of our summer, we have what is called 'Divine Day'. This is when the god worshipped in our world, called Numen, displays himself/herself/itself to the general populace. Numen does this by performing a miracle, often manipulating an aspect of nature that, according to all the laws of science, cannot be manipulated.

Needless to say, Numen is much loved among the Abled. Gatherings and concerts proclaiming a relationship with Numen are commonplace. Divine Day is a way of confirming this relationship and providing proof to those who believe in Numen and who are, of course, able to experience the miracle. There are many who say that one can communicate with and even see Numen every day if one is open enough.

I joined a gathering in a large meadow set aside for Divine Day and sat, bored and melancholy, with some other of the Unabled who I lectured with. While we sat staring at an unchanged panorama, the ooohs and aaahs emanating from the assembled masses signalled that the miracle was taking place.

I asked one of the Abled ones what was happening and he told me that Numen had made the moon and the sun come together as one, and emit a glorious light that was both silver and gold. 'Sounds great,' I mumbled before returning to my brooding brood and watching a normal sun pulse inconsequently.

Then I saw her. She was turned away from the miracle, and was walking slowly towards me. She had gleaming brown hair, and a smile as wide as pi to the last digit. She was wearing a white summer frock that billowed with the warm breeze.

'What a beautiful girl', I said to the Unabled man beside me.

'What girl?' he asked, bewildered.

I turned to him in surprise before returning to the vision before my eyes. As she came towards me she lifted her delicate hands and placed them on my cheeks. She looked deeply into my hazel eyes with her piercing green ones and seemed to bore into my soul.

Then she kissed me. There was no tongue, no chewing of lips like one sees in a movie. Just a long, moist, lip to lip, loving kiss.

When I opened my eyes she was gone. But she had left me with such a gift: I could see the miracle! The translucent glow of the moon seemed to be dancing with the sun's rays and the two were entwined in a beautiful and glorious haze.

Along with the visual feast, I could feel love penetrating me. My body seemed to vibrate with the amazing and awesome love I was witnessing in the skies. I had no words to describe it — indeed my intellect was so incompetent to deal with what I was experiencing I didn't even try to analyse it. Instead in silence, I let the feeling swim through me, over me, into me. I realised this was what I had been missing all of my years.

As abruptly as the miracle began, it stopped. Moans of disappointment were quickly followed by clapping and singing and shouts of praise for Numen. I looked at my fellow Unabled, chins in their hands and looking at their watches to ascertain how much time they had just wasted.

'Thank goodness — another Divine Day over!' said one. 'I don't know why we have to attend these things. They are lost on the Unabled. We should be concentrating on more intellectual pursuits. I mean, I saw nothing!'

'Me neither', 'Same here', 'Never do!' came the collective responses.

'What about you?' one colleague asked, slapping me on the back. 'Did you see the 'miracle'?' He guffawed along with the others.

I looked away from the blue-white horizon and stared at the man's derisive, sarcastic expression. I wanted to hit him.

But I didn't hit, nor did I correct, nor stand up for the divine feelings I had experienced. I saw the humiliation which would follow if I explained what had happened to me. I saw the look in their eyes at my foolishness and my fall from the intellectual firmament into the Numen delusion. I had written many books proclaiming the intellectual greatness of the Unabled — if I were to open my mouth and tell the truth, my reputation, my job, my status would crumble into dust.

'No,' I said finally. 'I didn't see a thing.'

For 50 years I saw Numen's Sign,
Though my intellect tried to defy it,
And each of those years, I did touch the Divine
Though I stood and did cowardly deny it!


Adi GibbAdrian Gibb completed a Master of Arts — Studies in Religion. He has worked as a freelance editor for independent film scripts and academic textbooks, and has had numerous short stories and poems published. His first novel, Fidelis, was published by Aetherbooks in 2006.


Flickr image by jeepeenyc



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Existing comments

Something more than nothing ... a call to explore.

john beresford | 23 April 2008  

This should really speak to my Y-Gen students. Thank you.

Angela McCarthy | 23 April 2008  

What was Adrian smoking as he sat on the grass?

James Davern | 23 April 2008  

As I try to separate the baby from the bathwater which is much of the secular intellectual world, I often feel limited by my grasp of the language necessary for such differentiation.

Thank you Adrian for such a lyric presentation. Scientific training not only limits language, but raises "Wrong way - Turn back" signs whenever I venture too far from empirical lines of thought.

Lyrical language carries more meaning than dry philosophical argument about the numinous because it speaks to the emotions as well as the intellect. And therein lies the challenge - to convince the empirical mind of the priority of meaning over knowledge.

Ian Fraser | 23 April 2008  

I love it, Adrian! It's wakened in me a new compassion for all those who lack the gift of faith. I intend to practise and express this compassion with all atheists I meet - for one thing, I know it will drive them crazy ...

Joan Seymour | 23 April 2008  

Many thanks Adrian. Beautiful imagery. For me you created a world that was becoming liquid. Transformation is a bit like breathing under water anyway.

Vic O'Callaghan | 24 April 2008  

I really resonate with your premise in this story, Alan - not as an 'Unable' myself, but in knowing people who I think are 'Unable' in the way you put it. And I have wondered how it could be that a percentage of the human race created by God are 'hardwired' (?) so that they will never believe...

Iain Radvan | 24 April 2008  

My work colleague had suffered a heart attack; resuscitation by ambulance men appeared unsuccessful but it was resumed in hospital with success after seven minutes of no vital signs whatever.

It was her “out-of-body-experience” while “dead” which became an obsession for her. She no longer feared death; she treasured every moment of the altruistic “work she had to do”.

She described her “journey”, firstly hovering and looking down over her own body. She remembers all the conversations held around her (later stunning the staff with the accuracy of her recollection); floating/sliding down some kind of tunnel with a bright light at the end of it. Upon reaching the light, she felt enveloped in unconditional love and tenderness. She not only saw her parents, but also her the loves of her life – her husband and child whom she had lost in a car accident two years earlier. A gentle voice then told her that it was “not yet time” for her and that life was merely the most brief moment in time. Her message for all of us was to begin behaving like a world family, with love, patience, gentleness, generosity and most of all forgiveness … as these are the qualities that are most pleasing to God, who wishes for all of us to be again united with Him.

Whatever you may believe, her message for living life is certainly a positive start for genuine peace in the world.

Catherine Miller | 24 April 2008  

To those of us who crave the numinous, who ponder the deep, who seek that reality that must lie beyond this mundane existence: have any of us ever seen a small bird, a noisy miner, say, leap up from the ground and swim up through the viscosity of a warm day, to arrive at a tree branch?

Is not the striving of that small bird, completely existing in this world (grounded in this reality, so to speak), sufficient for us? We are in a world of such richness, a universe of profundity, yet we ignore it.

Blindly, we create some reality beyond the magnificent creation within which we exist.

This imagined beyond-world cannot help but be bounded by our limited intellects and our finite senses. But then, what else could be expected of we grasping ape-descendants?

David Arthur | 24 April 2008  

A worthy attempt to reweave the rainbow. Vide Keats:- Do not all charms fly At the mere touch of cold philosophy? There was an awful rainbow once in heaven: We know her woof, her texture; she is given In the dull catalogue of common things. Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings, Conquer all mysteries by rule and line, Empty the haunted air, and gnomèd mine— Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made The tender-person'd Lamia melt into a shade.

Mark Grieveson | 07 August 2015  

Very insightful Adrian, well done.

Ian | 07 August 2015  

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