In December 2019, BBC Reel released a film – Diving into a Medieval Mystery – which steeped the viewer in the mysteries of the deep; in this case, the enigma of a spring-fed well as much wholly mysterious as it is undeniably present.
Effusing over 82 gallons a second, the spring is located in north-central France, in the town of Tonnerre, and once a month it mirrors the pale reflection of a full moon within the frame its near-perfect circle of ensconced rock, located in the town’s oldest district.
It was only a putrid swamp in the Merovingian era. Eventually, muddy pathways opened into roads and a town, which survived the Romans, the Medieval period, numerous dynasties, the French Revolution, and two bombings in World War II, first the Germans in 1940 and then the Anglo-Americans on May 25th, 1944. The spring remained … 82 gallons a second.
Underneath is the opaque surface. In cavernous narrows that yawn into the earth, large vertical slices plunge into the deep. Jagged rock descends into shoulders of round stones, dropped by lovers and wonderers, seeking a witness from the deep.
Transforming its colors each day in shades of blue, brown, and green, such changes are a small matter to a massive spring like this. At 260 feet down, deeper than any human eyes have seen, prehistory meets the limits of current exploration.
“Divers who visited the bottom of the spring never came back.” Notes Tonnerre’s mayor, Dominique Aguilar, in reference to two fatal dives in 1971 and 1996. That changed in 2014. The divers’ manufactured light glances at rocks dating into pre-history and unmoved since before the first appearance of Neanderthals 150,000 years ago, and long before that.
The mystery remains intact. It calls to us and is never fully known. What is beyond? We do not know. “We don’t know how to explain the spring,” Aguilar explains again.
We cannot explain the mystery, but we need it. There is something precious about it. Our imaginations provide access to its depths because we see the spring within ourselves, and we do not doubt the mirror of that depth in the world around us.
Do you believe as a species we require mystery like this? What does mystery require of us? Today, what is awaiting for you, and even welcoming you, in the deep?
Consider the below prompts and discuss this blog post in our new forum space!
1. Do you believe as a species we require mystery in the way Trice describes? What does mystery require of us?
2. What mysteries are you most drawn to? What mysteries stir deep wonderings and awe within you? We invite you to discuss one of these with a friend or family member.
Michael Reid Trice is the Founder of Religica, the Spehar-Halligan Associate Professor for Constructive Theology, and serves as the Director of the Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs at the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University. Michael spends his time at home today … because we’re in a pandemic! He serves on national and international boards, publishes in his guilds and hikes with his wife, daughter, and their 100 pound Hovawart when he isn’t on a zoom call.