GOD 101: A Doll Of Salt, by Anthony Bloom

From Living Prayer

A doll of salt, after a long pilgrimage on dry land, came to the sea and discovered something she had never seen and could not possibly understand.  She stood on the firm ground, a solid little doll of salt, and saw there was another ground that was mobile, insecure, noisy, strange and unknown.  She asked the sea, “But what are you?” and it said, “I am the sea.”  And the doll said, “What is the sea?” to which the answer was, “It is me.”  Then the doll said, “I cannot understand, but I want to; how can I?”  The sea answered, “Touch me.”  So the doll shyly put forward a foot and touched the water and she got a strange impression that it was something that began to be knowable.  She withdrew her leg, looked and saw that her toes had gone, and she was afraid and said, “Oh, but where is my toe, what have you done to me?”  And the sea said, “You have given something in order to understand.”  Gradually the water took away small bits of the doll’s salt and the doll went farther and farther into the sea and at every moment she had a sense of understanding more and more, and yet of not being able to say what the sea was.  As she went deeper, she melted more and more, repeating: “But what is the sea?”  At last a wave dissolved the rest of her and the doll said: “It is I!”  She had discovered what the sea was, but not yet what the water was.

Without drawing an absolute parallel between the Buddhist doll and Christian knowledge of God, one can see much truth in this little story.  Saint Maxim uses the example of a sword that becomes red hot: the sword does not know where the fire ends and the fire does not know where the sword begins, so that one can, as he says, cut with fire and burn with iron.  The doll knew what the sea was when she had become, minute as she was, the vastness of the sea.  So also when we enter into the knowledge of God, we do not contain God, but are contained in him, and we become ourselves in this encounter with God, secure in his vastness.

We grow into the knowledge of God gradually from year to year until the end of our life and we will continue to do so through all eternity, without coming to a point when we shall be able to say that now we know all that is knowable of God.  This process of the gradual discovery of God leads us at every moment to stand with our past experience behind us and the mystery of God knowable and still unknown before us.  The little we know of God makes it difficult for us to learn more, because the more cannot simply be added to the little, since every meeting brings such a change of perspective that what was known before becomes almost untrue in the light of what is known later.


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