Pascal Mystery(The conversion story of Pascal)

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November 23, 1654.

On that historical November day, Pascal was riding his carriage when the horses bolted, throwing him into the roadway.

That night, Pascal had a vision. His room was filled with flooding light. He saw Jesus, and scribbled his ecstatic joy on a parchment which he sewed inside his coat pocket as a memorial for the rest of his life.

He was 31 years old at that time. Until his death, which came rather early at still the young age of 39, he pledged his God-given talents to Christianity. He became an apologist for the fast changing times. He was the rational voice of the Truth in the skeptical Age of Reason. He was the bridge transferring the ancient doctrine to the world of the new and radical modernity. He understood the paradox fully: that only reason can persuade reason of its own inadequacy. Which might be why he kept his parchment hidden inside his coat pocket. He wrote so beautifully, his religious emotions so raw in every word he wrote:

“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars…Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy…’This is life eternal that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ…May I not fall from him forever…I will not forget your word. Amen.” (source & full text)

This, he decided to keep hidden. He decided to keep it personal. The light that filled the room, the Jesus he recognized, his ecstatic feelings and emotions. I know what he must have felt, the burning fervour: the electricity running through every vein he possesses, heart-pumping fast, and the sense of awe and wonder magically coursing through his entire being. He was probably afraid if he wouldn’t cause a major hurricane on the opposite side of the world with the butterfly emotion he was feeling inside. His soul trembles, shaken by the Power, and uncontainable Love exuding all over!

He wrote none of that publicly. But why? I can’t help but wonder. Is this a male thing? Or the clear distinction of the two different ages, one being the age of reason, and the other the new age? And if Pascal was a man of this age, what would he do with the mystical experience he had?

If I were him, the whole world would know about my private encounter with the Holy Trinity. I would be going on and on about the light that filled my room, how a divinity had made a visit(three visits in one! Who does that??!!?), awakening my three beings(mind, body and soul) all at once. As a matter of fact, I did. And for the lack of my theological background, I think the words did not come out correctly. The proof of that is that my close families, my doctor and nurse suggested the following three: that I  1) raise my dosage, 2) be put on a mood-stabilizer for a limited period, 3) be hospitalized. I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut, or stop writing words. Eventually the Divinity Himself totally took over my soul in His attempt to rescue me from crossing to the other side of the river, a river of no return. He made the crazy horses bolt and stopped the carriage. But unfortunately, at that point, I was beyond gone, and so, I cannot retrieve the memory of my dramatic conversion clearly. So there. Way to silence me, God.

The carriage Pascal was riding was left hanging over a bridge above Seine River. He almost never crossed that river that day. Instead, he was thrown off from the carriage which was to hang dangerously over the river. He was retrieved from the accident without any physical harm and later that same day, experienced His revelation. God did not have to silence Him or make him blind to lead Pascal where He wants.

Pascal kept that day’s work all inside. He kept it inside his pocket. But the encounter was enough to re-prioritize his work. His brilliant scientific works took second place after the event. To this day, he is remembered as a genius mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, but most of all, he is a Christian philosopher who was given the gift of the discerning spirit. He realized that the God of the philosophers was not the God of the Bible. And that puts him in a completely different category. He wasn’t just a philosopher. He was a prophet.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Francis Philip says:

    “He realized that the God of the philosophers was not the God of the Bible.”

    I don’t understand this. This makes it appear that Pascal fell in love with an angel which fooled him into thinking that he encountered another god when we know that there is only one God – the God of the Bible. Please explain.

    1. lilyboat says:

      I think at the point of conversion, one’s understanding of God is no more limited, and instead of a partial picture of God through human knowledge, one gets a divine knowledge of God through the relationship one has with Jesus, who is a personal God through whom we can enjoy the relationship.. So, I think what he means is that “It is not only impossible but useless to know God without Christ”(Pensées 191)

  2. Bryan says:

    Nice post, I actually just a few days ago also posted on “Pascal’s Night of Fire.” To answer a few of the things you brought up:

    I would say that I don’t think he talked explicitly about the experience mainly because it was such an intimate communion with God. In this regard it is interesting to think that God will give us all a new name in heaven, like it says in Revelation 2:17, and this name is only known by each person and Jesus.

    Another thing may simply be the difficulty to verbalize and accurately convey the experience. Maybe his record is all he could say, and to expand it into a discourse would dilute and cheapen it. Also keep in mind that the apostle Paul couldn’t put in writing his heavenly vision/experience in 2 Corinthians 12:4.

    I also think in a sense he actually didn’t withhold this experience, but the details of it were not necessary to the purpose of his work. You mention that it helped him prioritize his work, which was very important, but it did more than that. This experienced really helped him to have certainty regarding a cohesive understanding of our existence in God’s creation, and even in his unfinished work of “Pensees” this understanding is presented as only Pascal could. In other-words, Pascal wrote what he wrote, because of who he was; and who he was, was largely formed in that one night of FIRE.

    Thanks for writing on Pascal, his thought is needed now more than ever. And yes, he was more a prophet than a philosopher.

    Bryan

    1. lilyboat says:

      Thank you for directing me to read your post. I am so glad I found your blog! I agree with all your points, and thank you for adding your thoughts. This was a study post for me, as a way of spending time with Pascal. You are right in that his thoughts are needed more than ever. I actually do believe that it is time to revive Pascal and his thoughts in these dark and confused times we are living in.

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