We are attracted to dreams and visions. We doubt our perceptions; we are bored; at a minimum, like the gnostics and “conjurers from darker times,” we figure there must be something strange and powerful behind the curtain.
Dreams and visions appear in bad fiction and film: if there is no springboard to the next plot point, look for a dissolving dream-sequence or revelatory flashback.
God’s plot points are different. They are about his power, not ours.
Zechariah reflects those differences in his visions. Our self-generated “visions” are delusional. Zechariah’s God-generated visions, on the other hand, transform us because the bizarreness they reveal – the lampstand, the flying scroll, the woman in a basket, the four chariots and the crown-and-temple – is God’s omnipotence, not merely in the fancy theological sense but in the daily workings of our lives.
We cannot “thrust [wickedness] back into the basket (Zechariah 5:8),” – the toothpaste is well and truly out of the post-lapsarian tube – but God has destroyed wickedness by sending his Son to die on the Cross.
Not content with the Cross, we drug ourselves. Thomas De Quincy was addicted to laudanum (a mixture of opium in alcohol). Consider the hallucination-entry for what he thought was Easter Sunday morning in June of 1819:
I said aloud (as I thought) to myself, “It yet wants much of sunrise; and it is Easter Sunday; and that is the day on which they celebrate the first–fruits of resurrection. I will walk abroad; old griefs shall be forgotten today; for the air is cool and still, and the hills are high, and stretch away to heaven; and the forest-glades are as quiet as the churchyard; and, with the dew, I can wash the fever from my forehead, and then I shall be unhappy no longer.” (Confessions of An English Opium Eater, 1821).
Dreams and visions were the bread-and-butter of psychedelic rock. For a refresher, try Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” from Surrealistic Pillow (1967) (broadcast on, of all things, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour):
The question is not, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” The question is, “Where did you go, Timothy Leary?” The premise of LSD was that, with a little pharmaceutical help, we can manufacture our own visions and thereby gain the liberty we do not now enjoy.
In the popular mind, that premise crumbled with Charlie Manson’s gruesome “Helter Skelter” murders of actress Sharon Tate and others on August 9, 1969, or perhaps on December 6, 1969 when the Hells Angels, as bodyguards for the Stones at the Altamont concert, killed a fan.
Not so. The LSD premise fell apart because it ignored Zechariah’s point: there is no vision within us (at least, no vision that we would actually wish to see) just waiting to be released. The only thing released from man is evil; the only thing discovered is slavery. On the other hand, the vision bestowed by God, the vision of his comforting omnipotence in the face of our weakness and failure, is what truly liberates us.