“There must be some news.”
There really was no news whatsoever, nothing to report from the meeting. No piece of information that was not already in the public realm, no knowledge that was not open to everyone. The reality of most meetings is that they are dull and mundane. If there are meetings that allow one to possess esoteric and powerful knowledge, they are certainly not connected with the church.
There seems a compulsion to believe that there are principles and, sometimes, people at work who are controlling things and if you could gain access to their knowledge or be admitted to their circle, then you too could be powerful/rich/influential/attractive (delete as applicable).
It is not easy to persuade people that there is no such knowledge. The central character in Umbert Eco’s novel Foucault’s Pendulum faces death because he knows there to be no secret; the problem is that those pursuing him cannot believe this to be true; perhaps it is that they cannot allow this to be true, their whole world has no meaning without the secret. They believe that he must know, but that he will not tell.
In Christian history, from the First Century onwards, there were groups who believed they possessed special knowledge – the Gnostics (from ‘gnosis’ the Greek for knowledge) were judged to be heretics by the early church, but that has never stopped groups down through the centuries from believing that special knowledge was there to be found. From the writings of Joanna Southcott to the secrets of Fatima, there are supposed secrets of world-changing importance.
Not only are there secrets, but there are perceived to be possessors of secrets.
Once, I was asked if a group were some sort of “illuminati”, I was so stunned by the comment that I cannot now remember to which group the question referred (I wish I could, perhaps they know something that I don’t!). The Freemasons’ rebranded themselves not as a secret society, but as a society with secrets suggesting they have some esoteric knowledge. As a fraternal secret society they had some attraction to even the sceptic; as merely a society with secrets, they are in danger of appealing to only those susceptible to belief in the esoteric.
Yet, if we look at scripture, belief in the esoteric, including some Pentecostalist and Catholic thinking, runs directly contrary to the preaching of Jesus. He talks about light and truth and openness; Jesus makes point quite clearly that the esoteric has no place in his teaching, “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret”, he declares in john’s Gospel.
There are no secrets.
There is no news.
How do you persuade people of this?