By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Third Man Factor: Sounds Very Familiar

Take time to read this August 24th Wall Street Journal book review at this link about a book that explores the reports of mountain climbers and others in extreme situations where survival is at stake about the experience of sensing the presence of another person accompanying you even when you are alone or in addition to your flesh and blood companions. Many Catholics reading the descriptions of the experience of this "third man factor" will recognize the way Catholics have described the experience of having and even conversing with a guardian angel or with God Himself.

The author of the book being reviewed opts, not surprisingly, for the expected evolutionary explanation: this psychological phenomenon is a product of the human mind that enables us to survive when we are in extreme situations such as that of the primitive hunter who gets cut off from the rest of his hunting band (the constant harping on evolution seems a bit trite and banal to me--we can view just about everything as a favorable evolutionary adaptation enabling us to survive; does the evolutionary label really add something new to our analysis or discourse about our human experiences?). Of course, the Catholic view is that such experiences need not just be the projection of our own minds but may involve contact with actual spiritual realities that exist independently of our own minds. Read and judge for yourself.

I cannot help but quote the excerpt at the end of the article which I read with a smile as the book's author describes the consolation that believers have experienced for centuries from their relationship with Adonai:

"Imagine the impact on our lives if we could learn to access this feeling at will," he says. "There could be no loneliness with so constant a companion. There could be no stress in life that we would ever again have to ­confront alone."

Source link.

The quote sounds like the author is discovering for the first time the content of religious experience that has been around and documented for millenia. Maybe, it's time to dig out the old Baltimore Catechism and review those pages on guardian angels. Maybe, it's time to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior so that you can have that reliable companion at all times, especially in the most stressful times of crisis where physical or emotional survival is at stake.