Calvin Academy of Life Long Learning The Real C. S. Lewis: His Life and Writings



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  • Spring 2003, AD
  • SB 101
  • Session I
  • Scripture
  • The joy of the Lord is our strength.
  • Neh. 8:10
  • Prayer
  • Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person. Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its wine. In it God shows himself to us. That He answers prayers is a corollary—not necessarily the most important one. What He does is learned from what He is.”
  • The Apologist's Evening Prayer From all my lame defeats and oh! much more From all the victories that I seemed to score; From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh; From all my proofs of Thy divinity, Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me. Thoughts are but coins.  Let me not trust, instead of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head. From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee, O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free. Lord of the narrow gate and needle's eye, Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.
  • Introductory Words:
  • Why Lewis:
  • The most important Christian writer of the 20th century.
  • I encountered Lewis 27 years ago.
  • Thanks for the opportunity
  • Style – Participation – facilitator …. Share your insights etc.
  • At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.
  • "Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exist. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If that is so I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country."
  • The Purpose and Content of the Study
  • This study is designed to introduce you to the life, thought and writings of C. S. Lewis.
  • C. S. Lewis never claimed to be a theologian. He approached Christianity from a very intellectual, academic, but honest way – not theological.
  • Search for Joy
  • Mere Christianity is the core set of beliefs held by the majority of Christians throughout the ages. He believed that Jesus was literally born of a virgin, crucified, buried, and that He physically rose again never to die again. Mere Christianity teaches the doctrine of the Trinity: that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are all three God, and that God is one. C. S. Lewis tried to demonstrate that the supernatural does exist and that miracles did occur. Mere Christianity teaches that Christ died for our sins, that He was resurrected to prove that He conquered death and that to receive forgiveness of sin one must respond in faith to Him.
  • The Theme
  • This study covers the major issues that C. S. Lewis struggled with in his own life and subsequently addressed in his writings: the problem of suffering and pain, the existence of the supernatural or the miraculous, and how Christianity is the only world-view that consistently explains the nature of man and the universe.
  • The Real C.S. Lewis: His Life and Writings
  • Provisional Schedule
    • 3/13/ - Surprised by Joy: The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
    • 3/20 - Mere Christianity: Orthodoxy and Basic Christian Doctrines (Other books: Reflections on the Psalms and Miracles)
    • 3/27 - Screwtape Letters: Hell and Heaven
    • 4/3 - God in the Dock: Common Sense Christian Practice and Pain and Love: The Problem of Pain and the Four Loves:
    • 4/10 - From Narnia to Literary Criticism: A Fully Integrated Christian Mind
    • 4/17- The Last Ten Years: Shawdowlands (BBC Movie)
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • Introductory Observations
    • Tough and Holistic Christian Mind
    • (Combination of Open, "Liberal" and Orthodox)
    • Interesting facts about Lewis:
      • Number of books sold …
      • Breath of subjects ….
      • 1947 Time Magazine article
      • Declined honors from Winston Churchill
    • What do you know about Lewis (Sharing)???
  • Three sides:
  • Lewis, the distinguished Oxbridge literary scholar and critic;
  • Lewis, the highly acclaimed author of science fiction and children's literature; and
  • Lewis, the popular writer and broadcaster of Christian apologetics.
  • Lewis’s Appeal
    • invitation to meditation
    • natural point of contact with the longing that this generation naturally feels.
    • avoids the technical jargon of the theologians..
  • Allow me to illustrate the power of the apologetics of longing with a testimony.
  • A few years ago I introduced CS Lewis to an engineer in Virginia. I presented him a copy of Mere Christianity.
  • …. After several months after reacting against some of the statements he came to me and said, I in the hall, Paulo ….
  • Two months ago I presented a copy of the same book to a Brazilian Professor (nominal catholic) ….
  • This past week, he could not control his excitement … he told me that he had introduced Lewis to another friend who was seriously looking for some spiritual answers.
  • Almost Reformed
  • I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.
  • "From this buoyant humility, this farewell to the self with all its good resolutions, anxiety, scruples, and motive scratchings, all the Protestant doctrines originally sprang. For it must be clearly understood that they were at first doctrines not of terror but of joy and hope: indeed, more than hope, fruition, for as Tyndale says, the converted man is already tasting eternal life. The doctrine of predestination, says the Seventeenth Article, is `full of sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort to godly persons.' . . . Relief and buoyancy are the characteristic notes.“
  • Almost Reformed
  • Lewis on Calvinists and Puritans
  • "Whatever they were, they were not sour, gloomy, or severe; nor did their enemies bring any such charge against them. On the contrary ....
  • Calvinism was not too grim, but too glad, to be true.
  • It sprang from the refusal to allow the Roman distinction between the life of religion and the life of the world. Calvin's picture of the Christian was less hostile to pleasure, but then Calvin demanded that every man should be made to live the fully Christian life.
  • This will at least serve to eliminate the absurd idea that Elizabethan
  • Calvinists were somehow grotesque, elderly people, standing outside the main forward current of life. In their own day they were, of course, the very latest thing. Unless we can imagine the freshness, the audacity and the fashionableness of Calvinism, we shall get out whole picture wrong. It was a creed of progressives, even revolutionaries."
  • Champion of Basic / Mere Christianity
  • Born into a bookish family of Protestants in Belfast, Ireland.
  • "There were books in the study, books in the dining room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds,"
  • A Life of Problems and Moments of Delight (Joy)
    • Lewis mother's death from cancer came just three months before Jack's tenth birthday, and the young man was hurt deeply by her passing. On top of that, his father never fully recovered from her death, and both boys felt increasingly estranged from him; home life was never warm and satisfying again.
  • Transition From Christianity to Atheism
    • His mother's death convinced young Jack that the God he encountered in the Bible his mother gave him didn't always answer prayers. This early doubt, coupled with an unduly harsh, self-directed spiritual regimen and the influence of a mildly occultist boarding school matron a few years later, caused Lewis to reject Christianity and become an avowed atheist.
  • University Life
    • Lewis entered Oxford in 1917 as a student and never really left. "The place has surpassed my wildest dreams," he wrote to his father after spending his first day there. "I never saw anything so beautiful." Despite an interruption to fight in World War I (in which he was wounded by a bursting shell), he always maintained his home and friends in Oxford.
  • Marvelous and Seductive Writer
  • (Chronicles of Narnia set, for example, is among Amazon.com's top 200 titles)
  • Time Magazine 1947:
  • “Having lured his reader onto the the straight highway of logic, Lewis then inveigles him down the garden paths of orthodox theology.” The implication: Could such a clever man be sincere about the Christianity he was proclaiming?
  • That was the first beauty I ever knew. What a real garden had failed to do, the toy garden did. It made me aware of nature--not indeed, as a storehouse of forms and colors but as something cool, dewy, fresh, exuberant.
  • Intense Experiences From His Childhood: Longing For Joy
  • (Inconsolable secrete … the secrete we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both.)
  • The Search For Joy Becomes The Unifying Theme of C.S. Lewis’ Life
  • The Search for the inexpressible
  • "In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, . . . I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you - the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both . . . "
  • Sehnsucht – Longing, Joy , Beauty
  • It was not until his Christian Conversion that Lewis understood what he was seeking
  • Lewis found joy in Greek and Nordic Mythology, Music, Literature, Nature, Friends...
  • Lewis calls "the shape of my early life."
  • Summary
    • Less an autobiography more an account of his religious ups and downs from childhood
    • From an almost lack of religion in his early experience ...
    • Of his hectic efforts in boarding school to create a satisfying spiritual realization
    • Of his retreat into atheism ..
    • The long and painful return through nature, spiritualism and philosophy to Theism and finally to Christianity.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • 1898 (November 29) Born Clive Staples in Belfast, Ireland, to Albert James Lewis and Flora Augusta Hamilton Lewis. 1905 Lewis family moves to "Little Lea". 1908 (August 23) Mother died of cancer; Clive Staples (Jack), and older brother Warren sent to Wynyard School in England. 1910 Attends Campbell College, Belfast for one term due to sickness and father's dissatisfaction with the school. 1911-13 Studied at Cherbourg School, Malvern England, following his brother Warren. 1914-16 Extensive literary and philosophical studies under the private teaching of W.T. Kirkpatrick. 1916 Won scholarship to University College, Oxford. 1917 (April 28) Began studies at Oxford; interrupted by serving in WWI; Commissioned as second lieutenant in Somerset light infantry. 1918 Hospitalized for "trench fever"; rejoined his battalion, wounded in Battle of Arras, France, and hospitalized again. 1919 Resumed studies at Oxford. Moves in with Mrs. Moore and begins their relationship.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • 1925 (May) Elected Fellow of English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he remained until 1954.
  • 1929 (Trinity Term) Becomes a practicing Theist. (September) Lewis' father dies. 1930 (October) Lewis and Mrs. Moore settle at The Kilns. 1931 (28 September) Becomes a practicing Christian. 1939 Began meeting with the Inklings. 1941 (6 August) Began first of twenty-five talks about religion over the BBC. Formed the Socratic Club at Oxford. 1946 Passed over for Merton professorship of English Literature at Oxford. Awarded the Doctorate of Divinity by St. Andrews University. 1951 Offered the honor of Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Prime Minister but cordially refused. Mrs. Jane King Moore died. 1955 (1 January) Elected Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature Magdalen College, Cambridge. 1956 (23 April) Married Joy Davidman Gresham in secret civil ceremony. 1957 (21 March) Married Joy in church ceremony at her hospital bed. 1960 (13 July) Joy Davidman Lewis died. 1963 (July) Lewis goes into a coma and is expected to die. (22 November) Lewis dies at the Kilns. American President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas and on the same day author Aldous Huxley died in California.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The story is, I fear, suffocatingly subjective; the kind of thing I have never before and shall probably never write again. I have tried so to write the first chapter that those who can't bear such a story will see at once what they are in for and close the book with the least waste of time.
  • Surprised by Joy is essentially an account of those factors that brought Lewis to a mature, adult Christian faith. As such the reader learns as much about what Lewis read as a child, an adolescent, and an undergraduate as he or she does about Lewis's friendships, military experiences, or love life--the staples of much mid-century biography. Lewis begins his work with an overview of the Lewis household and his early schooling.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology
  • The First Years - Born to Nine
    • Born on November 29, 1898 at Belfast
    • Father, Albert James Lewis, was a lawyer and mother, Flora Augusta Hamilton Lewis, a descendent of clergymen, lawyers, and sailors.
    • Father - sentiment and passion
    • Mother irony, coolness and the capacity for happiness.
    • Lewis description of his father not very positive.
    • Lewis's mother died before he was ten, but she had already started him in French and Latin.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology
  • The First Years - Born to Nine
    • Lewis and his brother (three years his senior) were left alone in a large house and spent endless hours in their respective imaginative worlds of Animal-Land and India
    • Lewis learned Sehnsucht (sen-zart), - longing from looking out of the nursery windows at the Castlereagh Hills, but there were not genuine religious experience.
    • The house was rich in books and the brothers read widely.
    • They lived almost in their imagination.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology
  • The First Years - Born to Nine
    • One day the young Lewis stood beside a currant bush in flower there suddenly and mysteriously arose in him "as if from a depth not of years but centuries" the memory of an earlier happy morning. Though it happened in an instant of time, he felt that "in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened tome was insignificant in comparison."
    • It was the beginning of his search for joy.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology (Concentration Camp – Mountbraken and Campbell)
    • At ten, Lewis was sent to school in hated England. Under the tutelage of Oldie, who flogged his boys with and without excuse but taught them to think logically.
    • At twelve, he went to Campbell College, not far from the Lewis home in Ireland, but his stay was cut short by illness which gave him happy weeks on his own.
    • From 13 to 15 he was back in England at a small prep school he calls Charters. Here at last he began to love the English countryside, but here he also lost his faith, and his simplicity.
    • At Oldie's he had began to read the bible and pray, but strangely, prayer was one of the things that led him to atheism, and he says, might have driven him mad if pursued as he was attempting it.
  • The Chronology (Broaden My Mind)
    • In his efforts to avoid the hypocrisy of simply "saying" his prayers he acquired the opposite extreme of long, weary stretches when by sheer will-power he struggled to acquire a "realization," a stirring of affections.
    • Other things which led him to atheism were the occultism imparted to him by a matron at the school, the spell of dancing mistress on whom he had cast lustful eyes, a natural pessimism, and particularly the reading of H.G. Wells, and Sir Robert Ball.
    • At fifteen he won the classic scholarship to "Wyvern" College, located in the same English town as Charters.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology (Broaden My Mind)
  • Though Lewis's brother had attended Wyvern and liked it, he himself concluded that this school, like most other such college in England, produced not the understanding and fraternal man described in its catalogue but rather a "bitter, truculent, skeptical, debunking, and cynical intelligentsia" dominated by social struggle and priggishness.
  • Only a few students succeeded in remaining outside the rigid hierarchy which was prevalent.
  • One of the few valuable assets of Wyvern was Smewgy, a hard but courteous teacher who could say, "You will have to be whipped if you don't do better at your Greek Grammar next week, but naturally that has nothing to do with your manners or mine." He taught his boys to be scholars without being pedants.
  • In religion Lewis at this time suffered the conflict, as he says, of maintaining that God did not exist and being angry with him for not existing.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • I was at the time living, like so many Atheists and Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology From 16 – 18 ( )
    • Lewis prepared for university entrance under the tutorship of a tall, lean shabbily dressed but ruthlessly dialectical man named W.T. Kirkpatrick in Surrey.
    • Despite a stunning rebuke from Kirk in the first moments of their association, Lewis loved his lanky teacher and, free from the games and other school routines he had unwillingly participated in, found this the happiest period of his life.
    • He read abundantly in literature of all sorts, including much of Homer and other Greek authors in the original.
    • His atheism was strengthened by Kirkpatrick's own, for his teacher was an old-fashioned high atheist who doted on The Golden Bough and Schopenhauer and who at a later time would've made an excellent logical positivist.
  •  
  • The Chronology From 16 – 18 ( )
    • All along since Charters, Lewis had been living two lives. One was filled with the bustle of ordinary pleasures and miseries while the other was secret, imaginative, and full of longing for Joy.
    • During his illness while at Campbell he had first found delight in fairy tales and fallen under the spell of dwarfs.
    • Northerners and Norse mythology became part of his life
    • Under Smewgy he had indirectly discovered not more Northerners but the power and fire of Mediterranean myth.
    • And of course there was plenty of King Arthur and early Britain.
    • All these myths reawakened in him a great love for nature and music, at least the music of Wagner.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology From 16 – 18
  • Joy, "that central music in every experience," pressed its illimitable claims upon him and spread its glory in unbearable waves to the roots of his being.
  • Yet the time came when Joy disappeared and the memory of it teased him.
  • He found that neither sexual indulgence nor any other experience was a substitute for it.
  • Meanwhile his atheism grew bolder and Christianity came to mean ugly architecture, ugly music, and bad poetry, and God a great transcendental Interferer.
  • He wanted to tell God and every body else that his innermost being was marked No Admittance.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology From 16 – 18
  • At this time he says he was made up of two separate elements: one the longing for Joy, the other a fixed and certain belief in scientific materialism.
  • Then he discovered in Yeats and other men who while disbelieving Christianity yet thought there was a world behind, or around the material world, and he was temporarily persuaded to believe in magic and occultism.
  • It was at this point that he, like Browning with his Old Yellow Book, came upon a soiled copy of George Macdonald's Phantastes in a bookstall.
  • Browning's description of his own transport over his discovery applies equally well to Lewis as he sat down to read:
  • A spirit laughs and leaps through every limb,
  • And lights my eyes, and lifts me by the hair.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology From 16 – 18
  • Alongside the romantic elements in the novel, Lewis found something new, a bright shadow that he later discovered to be the voice of holiness.
  • It was as though the voice which had called to me in the room, or in my body, or behind me. If it had once eluded me by its distance, it eluded me by proximity - something too near to see, too plain to be understood, on this side of knowledge.
  • Always in the past Joy had been separate from the ordinary world; in Macdonald he found, to his surprise, that the bright shadow transformed all common things while itself remained unchanged.
  • His imagination was baptized. It was the beginning of the road back.
  • In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. . . . God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology From 18 – 30
  • At 18 he took the scholarship examination for Oxford and was elected. But a war was in progress, and the day he was nineteen he found himself in the front-line trenches in France.
  • A brief illness gave him three weeks in an army hospital where he first began to read G.K. Chesterton and loved him in spite of his religious element.
  • He was wounded in April by a British shell falling short of its German target.
  • In January 1919 he was discharged from military duty.
  • He ridicules his experience of taking sixty German prisoners of war; what happened, he says is that they simply appeared with their hands up and ready to surrender.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology From 18 – 30
  • Back at Oxford, he began to make friends who were to influence his future.
  • Owen Barfield, an anthropologist, who became Lewis's "anti-self" and with whom he argued night after night and on long walks.
  • He found the new friends to be man of high principles.
  • Just when the New Psychology was causing him to doubt his whole experience of Joy, some of his closest friends began to turn Christian.
  • With Barfield in particular he debated violently and learned much. It was he who destroyed forever in Lewis the easy belief in "chronological snobbery,"
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • In the first place he made short work of what I have called my "chronological snobbery," the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also "a period," and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.
  • The Chronology From 18 – 30
  • He also convinced Lewis that abstract thought can give indisputable truth and is therefore a different sort of from experience of the senses.
  • Finally Lewis was forced to conclude that logic itself participated in a cosmic Logos. He also became convinced of a cosmic Absolute but did not assume it would ever get personal.
  • Lewis was twenty-three when he finishes Greats and, because he could find no position, decided to remain for a fourth year at Oxford.
  • Almost immediately he was drawn to a brilliant young man named Nevil Coghill and was shocked to discover him a Christian and thoroughgoing supernaturalist.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology From 18 – 30
  • At the same time it dawned on him that all the authors on whom he could really feed (Macdonald, Chesterton, Dr. Johnson, Spencer, Milton) saw things through Christian eyes.
  • Even the most religious of the Pagans (Plato, Virgil...)had some of the same quality.
  • They had roughness and density of life.
  • He still thought Christianity only a myth, a good philosophical framework on which to hang Absolute Idealism.
  • He became a temporary lecturer for a year and was then elected a Fellow of Magdalene College in1925, when he was 26 years old.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology From 18 – 30
  • Christians now began to appear all around him - men like Dyson, Tolkien ..
  • He re-read Euripides' Hippolytus and Joy returned to his heart.
  • On the intellectual side he read Alexander's Space, Time and Diet and learned that all important principle that we do not think a thought in the same sense in which we think Herodotus is unreliable.
  • A thought is not simply a thing inside one's head and isolated from its object.
  • Introspection can only find what is left behind and cannot operate while the original thought exists.
  • It is a terrible error to mistake the track left behind for the thing itself.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology From 18 – 30
  • Immediately Lewis knew he was looking in the wrong place to find Joy he had sought, that his hope to find some mental content on which he could lay his finger was wholly futile, for this was and would always be simply the "mental track left by the passage of Joy."
  • Not only must joy look to its object, but a desire owes all its character to its object, for the object is the very thing which makes it desirable.
  • He had always been wrong in thinking that he desired Joy itself.
  • "All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring," an object clearly outside both his mind and body.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology From 18 – 30
  • Now teaching philosophy at Oxford, Lewis began to have real troubles with the Absolute.
  • He lectured on a philosophical "God" but distinguished it from "the God of popular religion" and insisted that there could be no personal relation with Him.
  • But now two hard blows struck him.
  • He read G.K. Chesterton's Everlasting Man and was shaken by its theistic rationale.
  • Shortly afterwards the toughest of all the atheists he had known sat beside the fire in Lewis's room and said, "Rum thing. All that stuff of Frazer's about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once."
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • The Chronology From 18 – 30
  • Lewis thought that nobody could be safe from God if this man were not.
  •  
  • There followed a time in which all the strands steadily platted themselves into an invincible whole in which Lewis's inner being. It seemed to him that God was surely after him as a cat searching for a mouse.
  •  
  • You must picture me, he says, alone in that room in Magdalene, night after night, feeling whenever mind lifted even for a second from work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I earnestly desire not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me.
  •  
  • It was in the Trinity Term of 1929 that he capitulated. As he knelt down in prayer and admitted that God was God, he felt himself the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?
  • The Chronology From 18 – 30
  • It was conversion to Theism only, not Christianity and not belief in a future life. They came later.
  •  
  • I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and when I reached the zoo I did.
  •  
  • It was thus that the Hound of Heaven overtook and conquered his prey.
  • Shortly after Lewis died, Clyde Kilby wrote that Lewis was "a man who had won, inside and deep, a battle against pose, evasion, expedience, and the ever-so-little lie and who wished with all his heart to honor truth in every idea passing through his mind."
  •  
  • Almost forty years after Kilby's words have been very verified through the detailed scrutiny of Lewis's life and writings.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology and Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • This ludicrous burden of false duties in prayer provided, of course, an unconscious motive for wishing to shuffle off the Christian faith; but at about the same time, or a little later, conscious causes of doubt rose. One came from reading the classics. Here, especially in Virgil, one was presented with a mass of religious ideas; and all teachers and editors took it for granted from the outset that these religious ideas were sheer illusion. No one ever attempted to show in what sense Christianity fulfilled Paganism or Paganism prefigured Christianity. The accepted position seemed to be that religions were normally a mere farrago of nonsense, though our own, by a fortunate exception, was exactly true. The other religions were not even explained, in the earlier Christian fashion, as the work of devils. That I might, conceivably, been brought to believe. But the impression that I got was that religion in general, though utterly false, was a natural growth, a kind of endemic nonsense into which humanity tended to blunder. In the midst of a thousand such religions stood our own, the thousand and first, labeled True. But on what grounds could I believe in this exception? It obviously was in some general sense the same king of thing as all the rest. Why was it so differently treated? Need I, at any rate, continue to treat it differently? I was very anxious not to.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • I was also, as you may remember, one whose negative demands were more violent than his positive, far more eager to escape pain than to achieve happiness, and feeling it something of an outrage that I had been created without my own permission. To such a craven the materialist's universe had the enormous attraction that it offered you limited liabilities. No strictly infinite disaster could overtake you in it. Death ended all. And if ever finite disasters proved greater than one wished to bear, suicide would always be possible. The horror of the Christian universe was that it had no door marked Exit. It was also perhaps not unimportant that the externals of Christianity made no appeal to my sense of beauty. Oriental imagery and style largely repelled me; and for the rest, Christianity was mainly associated for me with ugly architecture, ugly music, and bad poetry. Wyvern Priory and Milton's verse were almost the only points at which Christianity and beauty had overlapped in my experience. But, of course, what mattered most of all was my deep-seated hatred of authority, my monstrous individualism, my lawlessness. No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word Interference. But Christianity placed at the center what seemed then seemed to me a transcendental Interferer. If this picture were true then no sort of "treaty with reality" could ever be possible. There was no region even in the innermost depth of one's soul (nay, there least of all) which one could surround with a barbed wire fence and guard with a notice No Admittance. And that was what I wanted; some area, however small, of which I could say to all other beings, "This is my business and mine only."
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • And, of course, I exulted with youthful and vulgar pride in what I thought my enlightenment. In argument with Arthur I was a very swashbuckler. Most of it, as I now see, was incredibly crude and silly. I was I that state of mind in which a boy thinks it extremely telling to call God Jahveh and Jesus Yeshua.
  • It was here that I first read a volume of Chesterton's essays.
  • Liking an author may be as involuntary and improbable as falling in love. I was by now a sufficiently experienced reader to distinguish liking from agreement.
  • For the critics who think Chesterton frivolous or "paradoxical" I have to work hard to feel even pity; sympathy is out of the question. Moreover, strange as it may seem, I liked him for his goodness. I can attribute this taste to myself freely (even at that age) because it was a liking for goodness which seems to be quite common in better men than me. "Smug" and "smugness" were terms of disapprobation which had never had a place in my critical vocabulary. I lacked the cynic's nose, the odora canum vis or bloodhound sensitivity of hypocrisy or Pharisaism. It was a matter of taste: I felt the "charm" of goodness as a man feels the charm of a woman he has no intention of marrying. It is, indeed, at that distance that its "charm" is most apparent.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere - "Bibles laid open, millions of surprises," as Herbert says, "fine nets and stratagems." God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.
  • George MacDonald had done more to me than any other writer; of course it was a pity that he had that bee in his bonnet about Christianity. He was good in spite of it. Chesterton had more sense than all the other moderns put together; bating, of course, his Christianity. Johnson was one of the few authors whom I felt I could trust utterly; curiously enough, he had the same kink. Spenser and Milton by a strange coincidence had it too. Even among ancient authors the same paradox was to be found. The most religious (Plato, Aeschylus, Virgil) were clearly those on whom I could really feed. On the other hand, those writers who did not suffer from religion and with whom in theory my sympathy ought to have been complete - Shaw and Wells and Mill and Gibbon and Voltaire - all seemed a little thin; what as boys we called "tinny." It wasn't that I didn't like them. They were all (especially Gibbon) entertaining; but hardly more. There seemed to be no depth in them. They were too simple. The roughness and density of life did not appear in their books.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • The only non-Christians who seemed to me really to know anything were the Romantics; and a good many of them were dangerously tinged with something like religion, even at times with Christianity. The upshot of it all could nearly be expressed in a perversion of Roland's great line in Chanson -
  • Christians are wrong, but all the rest are bores.
  • The natural step would have been to inquire a little more closely whether the Christians were, after all, wrong. But I did not take it. I thought I could explain their superiority without that hypothesis. Absurdly (yet many Absolute Idealists have shared this absurdity) I thought that "the Christian myth" conveyed to unphilosophic minds as much of the truth, that is of Absolute Idealism, as they were capable of grasping, and that even that much put them above the irreligious. Those who could not rise to the notion of the Absolute would come nearer to the truth by belief in "a God" then by disbelief. Those who could not understand how, as Reasoners, we participated in a timeless and therefore deathless world, would get a symbolic shadow of the truth by believing in life after death. The implication - that something which I and most other undergraduates could master without extraordinary pains would have been too hard for Plato, Dante, Hooker, and Pascal - did not yet strike me as absurd. I hope this is because I never looked it squarely in the face.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • When I began teaching for the English Faculty, I made two other friends, both Christians (these queer people seemed now to pop up on every side) who were later to give me much help in getting over that last stile. They were H.V.V. Dyson (then of Reading) and J.R.R. Tolkien. Friendship with the latter marked the breakdown of two old prejudices. At my first coming into the world I had been (implicitly) warned never to trust a Papist, and at my first coming into the English Faculty (explicitly) never to trust a philologist. Tolkien was both.
  • Realism had been abandoned; the New Look* was somewhat damaged; and chronological snobbery** was seriously shaken. All over the board my pieces were in the most disadvantageous positions. Soon I could no longer cherish even the illusion that the initiative lay with me. My Adversary began to make His final moves. [This is the first Move.]
  • * "always judging and acting in future with the greatest good sense"
  • ** the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • The next Move was intellectual, and consolidated the first Move. I read in Alexander's Space Time and Deity his theory of "Enjoyment" and "Contemplation." These are technical terms in Alexander's philosophy; "Enjoyment" has nothing to do with pleasure, nor "Contemplation" with the contemplative life. When you see a table you "enjoy" the act of seeing and "contemplate" the table. Later, if you took up Optics and thought about Seeing itself, you would be contemplating the seeing and enjoying the thought. ... We do not "think a thought" in the same sense in which we "think that Herodotus is unreliable." When we think a thought, "thought" is a cognate accusative (like "blow" in "strike a blow"). We enjoy the thought (that Herodotus is unreliable) and, in so doing, contemplate the unreliability of Herodotus.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • I accepted this distinction at once and have ever since regarded it as an indispensable tool of thought. ... It seemed to me self-evident that one essential property of love, hate, fear, hope, or desire was attention to their object. To cease thinking about or attending to the woman is, so far, to cease loving; to cease thinking about or attending to the dreaded thing is, so far, to cease being afraid. But to attend to your own love or fear is to cease attending to the loved or dreaded object. In other words the enjoyment and the contemplation of our inner activities are incompatible. You cannot hope and also think about hoping at the same moment. ... This was not merely a logical result of Alexander's analysis, but could be verified in daily and hourly experience. The surest means of disarming an anger or a lust was to turn your attention from the girl or insult and start examining the passion itself. The surest way of spoiling a pleasure was to start examining your satisfaction. But if so, it followed that all introspection is in one respect misleading. In introspection we try to look "inside ourselves" and see what is going on. But nearly everything that was going on a moment before is stopped by the very act of our turning to look at it. Unfortunately this does not mean that introspection finds nothing. On the contrary, it finds precisely what is left behind by the suspension of all our normal activities; and what is left behind is mainly mental images and physical sensations. The great error is to mistake this mere sediment or track or byproduct for the activities themselves. That is how many men may come to believe that thought is only unspoken words, or the appreciation of poetry only a collection of mental pictures, when these are in reality are what the thought or the appreciation, when interrupted, leave behind. ... We do not love, fear, or think without knowing it. Instead of the twofold division into Conscious and Unconscious, we need a threefold division: the Unconscious, the Enjoyed, and the Contemplated.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • This discovery flashed a new light back on my whole life. I saw that in all my waitings and watching for Joy, all my vain hope to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say, "This is it," had been a futile attempt to contemplate the enjoyed. ... I knew now that they were merely the mental track left by the passage of Joy - not the wave but the wave's imprint on the sand.
  • There was no doubt that Joy was a desire. But a desire is turned not to itself but to its object. Not only that, but it owes all its character to its object. Erotic love is not like desire for food, nay, a love for one woman differs from a love for another woman in the very same way and the very same degree as the two women differ from one another. ... The form of the desired is in the desire. ... Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which Joy was desiring. And that object, quite clearly, was no state of my own mind or body at all. In a way, I had proved this by elimination. ... Inexorably Joy proclaimed, "You want - I myself am your want of - something other, outside, not you nor any state of you." I did not yet ask, Who is the desired? only What is it? But this brought me already into the region of awe, for I thus understood that in deepest solitude there is a road right out of the self, a commerce with something which, by refusing to identify itself with any object of the senses, or anything whereof we have biological or social need, or anything imagined, or any state of our own minds, proclaims itself sheerly objective. Far more objective than bodies, for it is not, like them, clothed in our senses; the naked Other, imageless (though our imagination salutes it with a hundred images), unknown, undefined, desired.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • I saw that Joy, as I now understood it, would fit in.
  • Joy was not a deception. Its visitation were rather the moments of clearest consciousness we had, when we became aware of our fragmentary and phantasmal nature and ached for that impossible reunion which would annihilate us or that self-contradictory waking which would reveal, not that we had had, but that we were, a dream. This seemed quite satisfactory intellectually. Even emotionally too; for it matters more that Heaven should exist than that we should ever get there.
  • I was to be allowed to play at philosophy no longer. It might, as I say, still be true that my "Spirit"* differed in some way from "the God of popular religion." My Adversary waived the point. It sank into utter unimportance. He would not argue about it. He only said, "I am the Lord"; "I am that I am"; "I am."
  • * [Lewis at this point felt there was only a great "Spirit," and even thought of Him as "God," but had not yet accepted Christianity or the concept of a personal God.]
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. ... The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.
  • As soon as I became a Theist I started attending my parish church on Sundays and my college chapel on weekdays. ... The idea of churchmanship was to me wholly unattractive. I was not the least anticlerical, but I was deeply antiecclesiastical.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • To me, religion ought to have been a matter of good men praying alone and meeting by two and threes to talk of spiritual matters. And then the fussy, time-wasting botheration of it all! The bells, the crowds, the umbrellas, the notices, the bustle, the perpetual arranging and organizing. Hymns were (and are) extremely disagreeable to me. Of all musical instruments I liked (and like) the organ least. I have, too, a sort of spiritual gaucherie which makes me unapt to participate in any rite.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • In my mind the perplexing multiplicity of "religions" began to sort itself out. The real clue had been put into my hand by that hard-boiled Atheist when he said, "Rum thing, all that about the Dying God. Seems to have really happened once"; by him and by Barfield's encouragement of a more respectful, if not more delighted, attitude to Pagan myth. The question was no longer to find the one simply true religion among a thousand religions simply false. It was rather, "Where has religion reached its true maturity? Where, if anywhere, have the hints of all Paganism been fulfilled?" With the irreligious I was no longer concerned; their view of life was henceforth out of court. As against them, the whole mass of those who had worshipped - all who had danced and sung and sacrificed and trembled and adored - were clearly right. But the intellect and the conscience, as well as the orgy and the ritual, must be our guide. There could be no question of going back to primitive, untheologized and unmoralized, Paganism.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • The God whom I had at last acknowledged was one, and was righteous. Paganism had been only the childhood of religion, or only a prophetic dream. Where was the thing full grown? or where was the awakening? (The Everlasting Man was helping me here.) There were really only two answers possible: either in Hinduism or in Christianity. Everything else was either a preparation for, or else (in the French sense) a vulgarization of, these. Whatever you could find elsewhere you could find better in one of these. But Hinduism seemed to have two disqualifications. For one thing, it appeared to be not so much a moralized and philosophical maturity of Paganism as a mere oil-and-water coexistence of philosophy side by side with Paganism unpurged; the Brahmin meditating in the forest, and, in the village a few miles away, temple prostitution, sati, cruelty, monstrosity. And secondly, there was no such historical claim as in Christianity. I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. And yet the very matter which they set down in their artless, historical fashion - those narrow, unattractive Jews, too blind to the mythical wealth of the Pagan world around them - was precisely the matter of the great myths. If ever a myth had become a fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this. And nothing else in all literature was just like this. Myths were like it in one way. Histories were like it in another. But nothing was simply like it. And no Person was like the Person it depicted; as real, as recognizable, through all that depth of time, as Plato's Socrates or Boswell's Johnson (ten times more than Eckerson's Goethe or Lockhart's Scott), yet also numinous, lit by a light from beyond the world, a god. But if a god - we are no longer polytheists - then not a god, but God. Here and here only in all time the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man. This is not "a religion," nor "a philosophy." It is the summing up and actuality of them all.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • As I have said, I speak of this last transition less certainly than of any which went before it, and it may be that in the preceding paragraph I have mixed thoughts that came later. But I can hardly be wrong about the main lines. Of one thing I am sure. As I drew near the conclusion, I felt a resistance almost as strong as my previous resistance to Theism. As strong, but shorter-lived, for I understood it better. Every step I had taken, from the Absolute to "Spirit" and from "Spirit" to "God," had been a step toward the more concrete, the more imminent, the more compulsive. At each step one had less chance "to call one's soul one's own." To accept the Incarnation was a further step in the same direction. It brings God nearer, or near in a new way. And this, I found, was something I had not wanted. But to recognize the ground for my evasion was of course to recognize both its shame and its futility. I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion. "Emotional" is perhaps the last word we can apply to some of the most important events. It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake. And it was, like that moment on top of the bus, ambiguous. ... As for what we commonly call Will, and what we commonly call Emotion, I fancy these usually talk too loud, protest too much, to be quite believed, and we have a secret suspicion that the great passion or the iron resolution is partly a put-up job.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • But what, in conclusion, of Joy? for that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian. I know now the that the experience ... had never had the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer.
  • Quotes From Surprised by Joy
  • When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, 'Look!' The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. 'We would be at Jerusalem.'


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