“Do you feel that you are insane, my son?” he asked. He felt like a psychiatrist when he asked it, but at least the man was talking to him instead of to an actual psychiatrist.
Instead of answering, the voice said:
“Let me ask you a question, father: Are we farmers?”
The priest opened his mouth to speak and then realized he had no idea what the voice was talking about.
“Imagine two men,” the voice continued, as though the question had never been asked. “One believes completely in logic, reason, and the ability of the human mind to understand the world, yet, when he looks out at the world, he sees a storm of randomness and uncertainty of which he can only sometimes make sense. The other man sees the world to be fundamentally rational, with an order to Nature and a sensible explanation for everything, but he finds chaos and uncertainty in his own mind and doubts his ability to perceive the world clearly. Both men are tormented: the first because his logical mind cannot grasp the chaos of the world, the second because his chaotic mind cannot grasp the logic of the world. Both men suffer. Both are in pain. The question is: which of them is insane?”
The priest thought for a moment, then ventured:
“Yes,” said the voice, “I think that’s true. As Harold’s mother used to say, All things are two things. The world takes on the characteristics we want to see in it. That’s the mystery of perception. If we expect to see chaos, we see chaos. If we expect to see order, we see order. Insanity is the mind at odds with its environment, but it’s also the selective blindness which allows the mind to see only the aspects of its environment which are at odds with itself. The mind pulls away from the world and refuses to accept that it is the world. In that sense, we are to blame for our insanity because we are the cause of it.”
“Your argument assumes that we have perfect control over the mind and body,” said the priest. “In my experience, we do not. We do not choose each breath, nor each thought.”
The voice chuckled, which was a raspy flickering like dry leaves.
“I never thought I’d hear a Catholic priest argue against guilt!” it said, but without genuine mirth. “What you are saying, if I hear you correctly, father, is that the mind has a mind of its own. We are not in complete control of our thoughts and actions, which means there is another being living inside us—an alien intelligence in each of our heads, which is as separate from ourselves as we are from one another. I don’t know about you, father, but I find that thought profoundly unsettling. Another mind inside my mind, telling me to do things? Where is it from? How long has it been there? When Christ heard a spirit of the wilderness speak to him and tempt him in the desert, was he insane? Hearing voices is a bad sign no matter who you are. Have we been worshipping a schizophrenic for two thousand years? Are we that blind and that stupid?”
“Maybe,” said the priest, “the voice in your head, the mind inside your mind, is God.”