Reading last week’s Church Times, five days late, a reflection by Rabbi Lionel Blue intrigues; he speaks of his conversations with an inner voice, a voice so real, he even gave it a name:
I also discovered this conversation was happening in my mind, and wondered if I was schizoid as well as all my other difficulties. I found myself in a Fuller’s cake shop waiting for my slice of walnut-icing cake, when I heard on the Tannoy someone singing: “Falling in love with love isn’t just make-believe” (though I misheard it because it is make-believe in the song, really).
I kept wandering into chapels and churches and carrying on the same conversation, wondering if I was a ventriloquist talking to a dummy. But then I began to realise that this other dimension really existed.
I realised I’d fallen in love with this inner voice. I didn’t know what to call it; so I called it Fred. Fred sounded a bit like “Friend”, and friendship was the best relationship I had ever had, and he didn’t seem to be putting on the style.
Do people experience the ‘other’ in such direct terms that the voice assumes its own identity? Is Lionel Blue’s experience a progression of thoughts expressed in Sebastian Faulks’ ‘Human Traces’, as his character contemplates carvings of the disciples in an altarpiece?
Suppose that what had disappeared was the capacity to hear voice or voices of the god. Once, all those fishermen would have heard a god; now only Christ could. For early humans separated from their group – the young man, for instance, dispatched to fish upstream — the ability to hear instructions, to produce under the influence of stress or fear the voice of the absent leader or god had once been a necessary tool of survival; but as the capacity to remember and communicate through words had slowly developed, humans had lost the need for heard instruction and comment. The ability to do so had long since ceased to be important and was in fact now like the sightless eyes of bats — a vestigial ability. In this way the Bible all made sense, not as a ragbag of metaphor and myth, but as the literal story of a people crying in the wilderness; for what once had been theirs. ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. ‘What was that if not the forlorn land agonised call of the solitary human -whose once ever-present, helping voice had left him? He could picture the terrified, lone man, bent over his little bit of agriculture, looking up, craving a voice from the silent hillside.
Thomas felt quite calm as he gazed into the carving. At the beginning of the Bible, everyone – Noah, Abraham, Moses – seemed to hear God’s voice externally; then it was heard only by a minority, who became priests; then the gift became rarer, so the infant Samuel could hear but the old priest Eli could not; and then by the time of the New Testament, Christ alone — and perhaps Paul — could hear voices”.
Does the capacity to hear the voice create a somehow greater capacity to speak to the voice?