Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Urban Legend of Blaise Pascal

The phrase “there is God-shaped vacuum inside each of us” is attributed to 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal. In my Internet research the other day, I discovered that Pascal never said those exact words. It’s what-we-call an “urban legend”—a myth or some misinformation that has been repeated so often and for so long, it is now considered to be true. What he really said is a bit more eloquent (if not also loquacious).

What else does this craving proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object, in other words, by God himself. -Pascal, "Pensees"

God designed us to have a relationship with Him: to belong, to love and be loved, to know we matter to Him. This means that deep within our being is a longing for God which will not go away. On some level, we are always conscious of our longing for God. But during times of stress, these longings increase, as does our need to satisfy them. Our attempts to fill the longings with anything other than God are like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole: the wrong shape—which, in this case, needs to be ‘God-shaped’ (whether Pascal used those words, or not!).


  1. As I read, and re-read Pascal's statement, I interpreted a different interpretation that I found may be more telling. That Pascal refers to an "infinite abyss" led me to hear what he was saying as there being not a God shaped hole, but a God sized hole in each of us. One so vast that only He can fill. And that the things of this world are so finite, and passing that nothing can satisfy but Him.

  2. If anyone tries to insert something other than God in the space He has reserved for Himself--whether referred to as a "God-shaped hole" or a "God-sized hole"--the result will be some kind of "leak!"

    The craving for the very life of God will create a kind of "intake leak" that will scream out to be plugged with the only life that fits! But there is also the "exhaust leak" situation where what comes out from us that is supposed to look and feel like His life is instead merely "exhaust" from our own natural life. (And it is "exhausting"to other people as well as to us at the same time!).

    God and us are a perfect every way! We really need to get the secret out!


  3. Thank you both, gentlemen! the choice is clear: gratify or satisfy!