Thursday, August 25, 2011

More on the Darkness of the Soul: CS Lewis

Yesterday I commented on a post by Chris Armstrong who is writing an article on the Dark Night of the Soul. Yesterday he talked about Mother Theresa. Chris has posted another section of his article, this time on C.S. Lewis. While most know Lewis for his Chronicles of Narnia, others will be aware that he wrote a variety of theological books as well.

One that most did not know he wrote until after he died was A Grief Observed. Lewis wrote the book under pseudonym, perhaps because he was bearing his soul and did not want everyone to know it was him.

Below is how Chris connects the story of Lewis to his article.

Lewis experienced, in other words, both the emotional and the intellectual pain of Absence—not just the absence of his wife, but the immense Absence of God. The “dark night of the soul.” In his words,

“Meanwhile, where is God? When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. . . . Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?”

What disturbs Lewis most at first is not the thought that God does not exist. Rather, it is the thought that he does, and that he may inflict pain from motives that we do not recognize as positive or even ethical: What reason have we, except our own desperate wishes, to believe that God is, by any standard we can conceive, ‘good’? Doesn’t all the prima facie evidence suggest exactly the opposite? What have we to set against it?” But even this angry thought, written early in his notebooks, he soon subjects to cooler judgment: “I wrote that last night. It was a yell rather than a thought.”

Yelling at God in times of darkness has a long history, beginning with Jesus himself: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” A vivid cinematic example occurs in Robert Duvall’s movie “The Apostle,” when evangelist Sonny Dewey, who has had his own share of darkness, paces up an down in his room, abusing God in a loud voice. “I love you, Lord,” he bellows, “but I’m mad at you!” Below, his mother is awoken by a phone call from a neighbor, complaining of her son’s raucousness. She only grins and says, “I tell ya ever since he was an itty bitty boy, sometimes he talks to the Lord and sometimes he yells at the Lord, and tonight he just happens to be yellin’ at him.” Somehow I think Jesus intercedes for those in pain and darkness who yell at the Father.

Read the rest of the post over at the Grateful for the Dead blog.

Chris also has a post up about Martin Luther's dark night.

1 comment:

  1. Timely post, I just finished reading the first two books of Lewis' space trilogy over vacation ("Out of the Silent Planet" and "Perelandra"). What a wonderful mind and imagination!