journey of an atheist 4 -- navigating the course
2/10/2007 04:55:00 PM
Accepting the Absolute was a baby step compared the next step Lewis takes in the chapter entitled, "Checkmate". Checkmate is the term used by chess players to describe a situation in which the king can no longer avoid capture, and thus the game ends. Lewis describes his conversion experience from the "New Look" to theism in these terms. He divided his conversion into four moves, each distinct in its characteristic and fundamental to his surrender.

The First Move for Lewis was to "annihilate the last remains of the New Look." J.R.R. Tolkein played a significant role in tearing down the barriers between Lewis and theism. Tolkein was both a catholic and a philologist, which is one who studies ancient literature. Recall that Lewis adhered to chronological snobbery, so anything old was discredited in his mind on that basis and that Lewis wanted nothing to do with God. Tolkein's friendship help remove these barriers in Lewis. Lewis says as a result of Tolkein's influence that, "Realism had been abandoned; the New Look was somewhat damaged, and chronological snobbery was seriously shaken" (Checkmate). All these things had been essential to Lewis' philosophy before Tolkein.

The Second Move was for Lewis a complete paradigm shift. Lewis adopts and adapts the philosophy presented by Alexander in Space, Time and Deity. Lewis describes the philosophy, saying:
I accept this distinction at once and have ever since regarded it as an indispensable tool of thought...It seems 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 gear is to case attending to the loved or dreaded object. In other words, the enjoyment and the contemplation of our inner activities are incompatible. You cannot home and also think about hoping at the same moment. for in hoe we like to hopes object and we interrupt this by (so to speak) turning round to look at the hope itself; but they are distinct and incompatible. (Checkmate)
Lewis adds a third dimension to Alexander's philosophy: The unconscious He states succinctly: "We do not love, fear, or think without knowing it. Instead of the two fold division of Conscious and unconscious, we need a threefold division: Unconscious, the Enjoyed, and the Contemplated." (Checkmate) For Lewis, the he Unconscious is the mere acts; the Enjoyed the thought of the act; and the Contemplated is the thought on the thought of the act. For Lewis, this thinking was revolutionary. He reflects saying, "This discovery flashed new light back on my whole life. I saw that all my waitings and watchings for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say, 'That is it' had been futile attempts to contemplate the enjoyed." (Checkmate) He reflections on his attempts at Joy were "the mental track left by the passage of Joy -- not the wave but the waves imprint on the sand." Lewis then realizes he had been asking the wrong question all along. To him, it should have been, "Who is the desired?" and up to that point, he had only asked "What is it?" (Checkmate). This mode of thinking becomes the bedrock that permeates through many of Lewis' other writings.

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