Supposing We Really Found Him?
It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. 'Look out!' we cry, 'it's alive'. And therefore this is the very point at
which so many draw back - I would have done so myself if I could - and proceed no further with Christianity. An 'impersonal God' - well
and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our
own heads - better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a
vast power which we can tap - best of all. But God Himself, alive,
pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite
speed, the hunter, king, husband - that is quite another matter. There
comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars
hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a
moment when people who have been dabbling in religion ('Man's search for God!') suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found
Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He
had found us?
- from Miracles
January 1911 Lewis (age twelve) enrolls at Cherbourg Preparatory School in Malvern.
Imagine a Mystical Limpet
Why are many people prepared in advance to maintain that, whatever
else God may be, He is not the concrete, living, willing, and acting God
of Christian theology? I think the reason is as follows. Let us suppose
a mystical limpet, a sage among limpets, who (rapt in vision) catches a
glimpse of what Man is like. In reporting it to his disciples, who have
some vision themselves (though less than he) he will have to use
many negatives. He will have to tell them that Man has no shell, is not
attached to a rock, is not surrounded by water. And his disciples, having
a little vision of their own to help them, do get some idea of Man.
But then there come erudite limpets, limpets who write histories of
philosophy and give lectures on comparative religion, and who have
never had any vision of their own. What they get out of the prophetic
limpet's words is simply and solely the negatives. From these, uncorrected
by any positive insight, they build up a picture of Man as a sort
of amorphous jelly (he has no shell) existing nowhere in particular (he
is not attached to a rock) and never taking nourishment (there is no
water to drift it towards him). And having a traditional reverence for
Man they conclude that to be a famished jelly in a dimensionless void
is the supreme mode of existence, and reject as crude, materialistic
superstition any doctrine which would attribute to Man a definite
shape, a structure, and organs.
- from Miracles
January 1914 Lewis and childhood Belfast friend Arthur Greeves begin what would be a lifelong correspondence.
Not Naked but Reclothed
Our own situation is much like that of the erudite limpets. Great
prophets and saints have an intuition of God which is positive and concrete
in the highest degree. Because, just touching the fringes of His
being, they have seen that He is plenitude of life and energy and joy,
therefore (and for no other reason) they have to pronounce that He
transcends those limitations which we call personality, passion, change,
materiality, and the like. The positive quality in Him which repels these
limitations is their only ground for all the negatives. But when we come
limping after and try to construct an intellectual or 'enlightened' religion,
we take over these negatives (infinite, immaterial, impassible,
immutable, etc.) and use them unchecked by any positive intuition. At
each step we have to strip off from our idea of God some human attribute.
But the only real reason for stripping off the human attribute is to
make room for putting in some positive divine attribute. In St Paul's
language, the purpose of all this unclothing is not that our idea of God
should reach nakedness but that it should be reclothed. But unhappily
we have no means of doing the reclothing. When we have removed
from our idea of God some puny human characteristic, we (as merely
erudite or intelligent enquirers) have no resources from which to supply
that blindingly real and concrete attribute of Deity which ought to
replace it. Thus at each step in the process of refinement our idea of
God contains less, and the fatal pictures come in (an endless, silent sea,
an empty sky beyond all stars, a dome of white radiance) and we reach
at last mere zero and worship a nonentity.
- from Miracles
1892 J. R. R. Tolkien, Lewis's longtime friend, colleague, and fellow
Inkling (a group of friends who meet regularly from about 1930 to 1963 to share writings, good conversation, and the odd pint), is born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.