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Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Sehnsucht, a German word for “longing,” was the technical term C. S. Lewis used for “Joy,” the unfulfilled desire evoked by literature, music, or nature that was better than any other having, and which he interpreted as a signpost pointing to the fact that we were made for God.  It comes out of the blue when a glimpse of a higher beauty comes through to you with the shocking realization that we were made for something that this world can hint at but cannot give us.  Has it ever hit you out of the blue?  This is an attempt to record one of the times it hit me.

C. S. Lewis, Theologian of Joy.

SEHNSUCHT

When the fog obscures the outlines of the trees

But breaks to show the sharpness of the stars

And the blood feels sudden chill, although the breeze

Is warm, and all the old internal scars

From stabbing beauty start to ache anew;

When mushrooms gather in a fairy ring

And every twig and grass-blade drips with dew

And then a whippoorwill begins to sing;

When all the world beside is hushed, awaiting

The sun as if it were his first arising

And you discover that, anticipating,

You’ve held your breath and find the fact surprising:

Then all the old internal wounds awake.

The pain is sweet we bear for beauty’s sake.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest books: Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2016) and “An Encouraging Thought”: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of L. R. R. Tolkien (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2018)!  Order from the publisher or Amazon.

“YOU NEVER ENJOY THE WORLD ARIGHT UNTIL . . .” The Argument from Desire Revisited

One of C. S. Lewis’s most interesting contributions to Christian apologetics is the Argument from Desire:

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.  A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food.  A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.  Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex.  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”  (Mere Christianity 120).

enterpriseinorbit

What “other world” would you like to have been made for? Hint: an even better one than this!

I was interested to discover a respondent on an internet forum who denied having any unsatisfiable desires. He admitted that certain desires had never been satisfied perfectly, but maintained that they could be in theory, or that the satisfactions he could find in this life were good enough. How does one respond to this line of argument?  It’s rather like trying to convince the dwarfs in The Last Battle that they aren’t in a stable!

One conclusion might be that the argument from desire just doesn’t work with a certain type of person. Some of us are just too emotionally undeveloped- -or jaded–to be susceptible. But I would suggest that we make a mistake by taking such people’s statements at face value. Solomon tells us that “God has set eternity in their hearts” (Eccl. 3:11). Either Scripture is wrong or the denial of transcendent desire is a smokescreen, a defense mechanism designed to protect dwarfish atheists from reality.

tolkien-secretgate

A person who is still human is not in fact satisfied by the temporal and physical, however hard he tries to convince himself that he is. But you probably can’t argue him out of his position. You can only try to arouse the desire, to fan it to the point where he cannot ignore it any more. And the best way to do that might be to talk about the foretastes of fulfillment we have already been granted in Christ, or just to live a life of transcendent openness to Joy before him.

If you can get him to read Thomas Traherne’s Five Centuries of Meditation, it wouldn’t hurt. “Things unknown have a secret influence on the soul, and like the center of the earth unseen violently attract it.  We love we know not what, and therefore everything allures us. . . . Do you not feel yourself drawn by the expectation of some Great Thing? . . . You never enjoy the world aright till you see how a [grain of] sand exhibiteth the wisdom and power of God. . . . You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars. . . . Infinite wants satisfied produce infinite joys. . . . You must want like a God that you may be satisfied like God.  Were you not made in his image?”

ballynoecountydownireland

Now, I desire to be here! But it’s only a sign and a symbol for something that lies down an even more enticing path.

Lewis learned the argument from desire from Augustine’s Trinity-shaped vacuum and his heart that was “restless until it rest in Thee,” as developed by Traherne, Herbert, and MacDonald. The argument will have a certain logical cogency for those in whose hearts Desire has been sufficiently aroused. The best service those earlier writers–and Lewis himself–may do us is to fan that flame. In it, let us burn.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Order Dr. Williams’ books Stars through the Clouds, Inklings of Reality, or Reflections from Plato’s Cave ($15.00 each + shipping) at https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

“YOU NEVER ENJOY THE WORLD ARIGHT UNTIL . . .” The Argument from Desire Revisited

Here’s my first contribution to our “Summer Re-Run” series, originally posted o a couple of years ago:

One of C. S. Lewis’s most interesting contributions to Christian apologetics is the Argument from Desire:

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.  A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food.  A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.  Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex.  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”  (Mere Christianity 120).

enterpriseinorbitWhat “other world” would you like to have been made for? Hint: an even better one than this!

I was interested to discover a respondent on an internet forum who denied having any unsatisfiable desires. He admitted that certain desires had never been satisfied perfectly, but maintained that they could be in theory, or that the satisfactions he could find in this life were good enough. How does one respond to this line of argument?  It’s rather like trying to convince the dwarfs in The Last Battle that they aren’t in a stable!

One conclusion might be that the argument from desire just doesn’t work with a certain type of person. Some of us are just too emotionally undeveloped- -or jaded–to be susceptible. But I would suggest that we make a mistake by taking such people’s statements at face value. Solomon tells us that “God has set eternity in their hearts” (Eccl. 3:11). Either Scripture is wrong or the denial of transcendent desire is a smokescreen, a defense mechanism designed to protect dwarfish atheists from reality.

tolkien-secretgate

A person who is still human is not in fact satisfied by the temporal and physical, however hard he tries to convince himself that he is. But you probably can’t argue him out of his position. You can only try to arouse the desire, to fan it to the point where he cannot ignore it any more. And the best way to do that might be to talk about the foretastes of fulfillment we have already been granted in Christ, or just to live a life of transcendent openness to Joy before him.

If you can get him to read Thomas Traherne’s Five Centuries of Meditation, it wouldn’t hurt. “Things unknown have a secret influence on the soul, and like the center of the earth unseen violently attract it.  We love we know not what, and therefore everything allures us. . . . Do you not feel yourself drawn by the expectation of some Great Thing? . . . You never enjoy the world aright till you see how a [grain of] sand exhibiteth the wisdom and power of God. . . . You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars. . . . Infinite wants satisfied produce infinite joys. . . . You must want like a God that you may be satisfied like God.  Were you not made in his image?”

ballynoecountydownirelandNow, I desire to be here! But it’s only a sign and a symbol for something that lies down an even more enticing path.

Lewis learned the argument from desire from Augustine’s Trinity-shaped vacuum and his heart that was “restless until it rest in Thee,” as developed by Traherne, Herbert, and MacDonald. The argument will have a certain logical cogency for those in whose hearts Desire has been sufficiently aroused. The best service those earlier writers–and Lewis himself–may do us is to fan that flame.

In it, let us burn.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Order Dr. Williams’ books Stars through the Clouds, Inklings of Reality, or Reflections from Plato’s Cave ($15.00 each + shipping) at https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Inklings of Reality 2nd Edition

“YOU NEVER ENJOY THE WORLD ARIGHT UNTIL . . .” The Argument from Desire Revisited

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“YOU NEVER ENJOY THE WORLD ARIGHT UNTIL . . .”

The Argument from Desire Revisited

 One of C. S. Lewis’s most interesting contributions to Christian apologetics is the Argument from Desire:

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.  A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food.  A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.  Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex.  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.  (Mere Christianity 120)

EnterpriseInOrbit
What “other world” would you like to have been made for? Hint: an even better one than this!

 

I was interested to discover a respondent on an internet forum who denied having any unsatisfiable desires. He admitted that certain desires had never been satisfied perfectly, but maintained that they could be in theory, or that the satisfactions he could find in this life were good enough. How does one respond to this line of argument?  It’s rather like trying to convince the dwarfs in The Last Battle that they aren’t in a stable!

One conclusion might be that the argument from desire just doesn’t work with a certain type of person. Some of us are just too emotionally undeveloped- -or jaded–to be susceptible. But I would suggest that we make a mistake by taking such people’s statements at face value. Solomon tells us that “God has set eternity in their hearts” (Eccl. 3:11). Either Scripture is wrong or the denial of transcendent desire is a smokescreen, a defense mechanism designed to protect dwarfish atheists from reality.

Tolkien-SecretGate

 A person who is still human is not in fact satisfied by the temporal and physical, however hard he tries to convince himself that he is. But you probably can’t argue him out of his position. You can only try to arouse the desire, to fan it to the point where he cannot ignore it any more. And the best way to do that might be to talk about the foretastes of fulfillment we have already been granted in Christ, or just to live a life of transcendent openness to Joy before him.


            If you can get him to read Thomas Traherne’s Five Centuries of Meditation, it wouldn’t hurt. “Things unknown have a secret influence on the soul, and like the center of the earth unseen violently attract it.  We love we know not what, and therefore everything allures us. . . . Do you not feel yourself drawn by the expectation of some Great Thing? . . . You never enjoy the world aright till you see how a [grain of] sand exhibiteth the wisdom and power of God. . . . You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars. . . . Infinite wants satisfied produce infinite joys. . . . You must want like a God that you may be satisfied like God.  Were you not made in his image?”

BallynoeCountyDownIreland
Now, I desire to be here! But it’s only a sign and a symbol for something that lies down an even more enticing path.

Lewis learned the argument from desire from Augustine’s Trinity-shaped vacuum and his heart that was “restless until it rest in Thee,” as developed by Traherne, Herbert, and MacDonald. The argument will have a certain logical cogency for those in whose hearts Desire has been sufficiently aroused. The best service those earlier writers–and Lewis himself–may do us is to fan that flame. In it, let us burn.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Order Dr. Williams’ books Stars through the Clouds, Inklings of Reality, or Reflections from Plato’s Cave ($15.00 each + shipping) at https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

 

Seeing: the Light of Intellect and Desire to Ascend

– A little discussion on Dante’s Purgitorio 
Augustine teaches that believing is seeing, while Aquinas teaching that seeing is believing. The difference between these two philosophies is at once subtle and yet very distinct. Augustine’s concept relies on faith or what also could be called desire—the desire to draw near to God. If faith comes first, then it is a person’s desire that compels them to the truth of sight. However, Aquinas emphasizes sight or what could be called intellect—the truth about God. If sight comes first, then it is a person’s intellect that draws them to God and faith in him. In both instances, seeing is associated with intellect and belief is desire. Although Augustine’s view is more popular in modern circles, it is not the case with Dante. Dante uses the concept of seeing is believing in the Divine Comedy, employing it most effectively in Purgatorio as a means of describing the process of penitence “through lack or excess of light or distance, obliquity of vision, movement of the object of vision or its background, similarity of colour between the object and its background” (Rutledge 152). Light becomes synonymous with sight, and the higher up Dante climbs, the more light he sees and the more understanding he has. Dante uses three different elements of light and sight—the light of the stars and other natural light, the sight of the penitence, and the light of the angels—to reveal that seeing is the way to belief and desire.
To truly understand all of the uses of light in Purgatorio, it is necessary to explore the larger picture of the Divine Comedy and how it uses light. The three different sections of the Divine ComedyInferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso—are reflections of three different kinds of light as Scott explains:

[W]e learn from St. Thomas Aquinas that each of these three lights is natural to some order of existence. The first represents the vision of Truth attainable by the natural light of man’s intellect (philosophical contemplation); the second, the perception given by the light of Faith to the saints in this life; and the third, that contemplation of the glory and essence of God which is only to be enjoyed by the blessed in Heaven. (Scott 169)

As is seen in Inferno, man’s intellect devoid of God’s intellect is only darkness and despair. Those souls in Limbo can only contemplate the limits of their human understanding without the hope of receiving any truth. This is where Virgil suffers his eternity. The second type of light, the light of Faith through penitence, is slightly out of Virgil’s grasp as a guide but it is something he can still relate to because the suffering and the process is not unlike the philosophers pursuit. The advantage is that the saints have seen the light of God. The final light is beyond Virgil’s comprehension and since he did not know God while he lived he cannot know God know that he is dead. The contemplation of the divine truth requires a holy guide and Beatrice is that light for Dante.

Without the light of the guides, Dante would be lost in the dark wood. The light is the intellect which draws Dante out of himself and into the truth. He cannot ascend the mountain of Purgatory by himself or by his own sheer will power. His desire to ascend cannot compel him alone. Dante needs his desire to have sight and purpose. The intellect gives the desire or will purpose and direction. If the intellect is God’s intellect, it will cause a person to desire God and his good intellect as opposed to the dark meaningless intellect of man. Dante’s journey through Hell showed him the blindness of man’s intellect and man’s perverse desire. Dante’s climb through Purgatory is a reconciliation of man’s desire and intellect with God’s perfect intellect and will (Purgatorio i.4-6).

  • Hollander, Jean & Robert. Trans. Purgatorio. New York: Anchor Books, 2003.
  • Scott, J. A. “Allegory in the Purgatorio.” Italica 37.3 (1960): 167-184. Web. JSTOR. 9 April 2011.
  • Rutledge, Monica. “Dante, the Body and Light.” Dante Studies 113 (1995): 151-165. Web. JSTOR. 9 April 2011.