Meditations with C. S. Lewis: The Deep Magic and the Human Mind
C. S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was also one of the most profound thinkers of twentieth century Christianity. Along with J. R. R. Tolkien, he has inspired millions of people, include all of the authors at Lantern Hollow Press. On Sundays we would like to take a moment to offer up a little Lewis for your consideration.
[T]hough the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still that she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation.
–Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
One pre-requisite of any religion worth my time and effort is that it must be able to blow my mind, to provide me with insights that no mere human invention could. In order to do that, the object of belief must, by definition, transcend anything that intellect could obviously produce.* It is that fact about Christianity, and its Narnian equivalent, that Aslan is alluding to here.
The problem for any of the purely secular religions–including all the variations of scientism, atheism, and secular humanism–is that they are limited by the very real shortcomings of the human mind, since we are dependent wholly on ourselves for their formulation. A purely naturalistic intellect and the evidence it observes can only take us as far as the edge of all possible human knowledge (to assert otherwise is to make the claim in blind faith and to imagine something frankly akin to a supernatural god). We know that human knowledge, while impressive to creatures like us, is not and never could be infinite. We are severely limited to the few years allotted our short lives and, were we to somehow extend them, we would still be bound by the realities of our position inside time and space. Even if I lived forever, I could never know everything, especially things that happened before I came along or that fell outside the purview of time itself. In the words of Hamlet, “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Indeed, there are more things out there than philosophy or science ever could dream of, even in theory–and that is saying something.**
The Christian God, quite explicitly, transcends both Time and Space. Genesis tells of God hovering over the deeps when there are no words to truly describe what He knew. With Him was Christ, the Word, through whom “all things were made.” As such, the power and majesty of God and Christ emerge as not only believable but what we should expect to see if Christianity is actually what it claims to be. This stands in sharp contrast to so many other early religions, where the gods are really little more than exalted, petty men and women, squabbling with themselves and with humans for pieces of a self-created pie.
Of course, it isn’t my purpose here to convince anyone of the essential Truth of particular facts–those are discussions for another time and place where space isn’t so limited. I am merely attempting to say that on this one point–the sheer size and majesty of the God to which Lewis alludes–makes good sense indeed.
In a few short words, then, Lewis has pointed us to precisely the sort of God I would expect to find as the mastermind behind Time itself. In comparison, the vaunted might of the human intellect seems suitably small.
*It must also exist. While I’ve never been swayed by his famous argument, I would agree with St. Anselm on that much.
**That said, I must stick up for the many, many amazing things that we can know and are still learning through the very good, very useful pursuit of science. In the end, though, the more we discover, the more we realize how much there is still to learn! All of human experience, which is much more vast than the tiny slice we’ve collected and call “human knowledge” is but the blink of the cosmic eye. The effect of all this should be humbling, to those not drunk on the tiny draught of understanding of which we as a species have so far partaken.
Click here for the entire run of “Meditations with C. S. Lewis” so far. Interested in more about C. S. Lewis? Check out Passing Through the Shadowlands–an extended project where I am blogging through his life in letters, essays, and books.
Posted on June 24, 2012, in Brian Melton, C. S. Lewis, Christianity, Meditations, Philosophy and tagged Aslan, atheism, C. S. Lewis, Christianity, Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis, God, Narnia, secular humanism, the finite mind. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.