Friday, June 26, 2009

C. S. Lewis and the Empty Universe

A redated post.

This is a passage from C. S. Lewis's The Empty Universe, which was a introduction Lewis wrote to a book entitled A New Diagram of Heaven and Earth by a man named Harding. It parallels some of the comments I have been putting up on DI2 about the "siphoning off" argument is Swinburne and Feser.

The process whereby man has come to know the universe is from one point of view extremely complicated; from another it is alarmingly simple. We can observe a single one-way progression. At the outset the universe appears packed with will, intelligence, life, and positive qualities; every tree is a nymph and every planet a god. Man himself is akin to the gods. The advance gradually empties this rich and genial universe, first of its gods, then of its colours, smells, sounds and tastes, finally of solidity itself as solidity was originally imagined. As these items are taken from the world, they are transferred to the subjective side of the account:classified as out sensations, thoughts, images or emotions. The Subject becomes gorged, inflated, at the expense of the Object. But the matter does not rest there. The same method which has emptied the world now proceeds to empty ourselves. The masters of the method soon announce that we were just mistaken (and mistaken in much the same way) when we attributed “souls” or ‘selves” or “minds’ to human organisms, as when we attributed Dryads to the trees. Animism, apparently, begins at home. We, who have personified all other things, turn out to be ourselves mere personifications. Man is indeed akin to the gods, that is, he is no less phantasmal than they. Just as the Dryad is a “ghost,” an abbreviated symbol for certain verifiable facts about his behaviour: a symbol mistaken for a thing. And just as we have been broken of our bad habit of personifying trees, so we must now be broken of our habit of personifying men; a reform already effected in the political field. There never was a Subjective account into which we could transfer the items which the Subject had lost. There is no “consciousness” to contain, as images or private experiences, all the lost gods, colours, and concepts. Consciousness is “not the sort of noun that can be used that way.”

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At 8/02/2007 07:06:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Lewis was perhaps premature in lamenting the loss of a sense of the sacred in nature. In terms of spiritual history, from a Biblical point of view nature is sacred to the extent that even in its imperfect form it reflects God's wisdom and creative prodigality and contains the seed of a glorious future reality. If the sense of the sacred becomes invested in nature as such, without reference to its Author, it becomes idolatrous.

In this light, the naturalist program has made little conceptual headway, because even after physical science has ostensibly emptied nature of sacred mystery the exponents of the program bring it back. Listen to scientists talk about environmental issues and they usually invest nature with sacredness. They may defend this as human self-interest: "Saving species diversity is really guarding our own future." But the ruse is transparent. Anyone can see that nature is being exalted far beyond what crass pragmatism can justify. The difference is that God has been surgically removed.

It is acceptable to wonder admiringly at the ingenuity and intricacy of "life" or "nature" as long as there is no reference to an originating Mind. It is the mark of intelligence to gaze upward in a kind of enlightened rapture and credit the stellar furnaces and quantum gravity with our own creation, or else meditate upon the eternal pulsation/transmogrification of cosmic energy. Sort of like creating a shrine to Da Vinci's paintbrush. Humanity comes full circle to worshiping trees, fish and stars--between making lunch appointments on cell phones.

At 3/23/2009 08:00:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Darek Barefoot's answer :

1) Religious followers have often been divided between the majority who only dumbly rehearse the dogmas ... and those, far fewer, who understand them. Your "loss of the sacred", in that light, existed nearly as early as religions spread within mankind ...

2) I do not like the stupidly generic term "scientists", which encompasses about the same homogeneity as "web surfer".
Biologists talk about the uncontrolled spread of GMOs; some geneticists admit we barely have scratched the surface of their fields; ecology specialists understand the intricate inter-locking between species inhabiting this tiny blue planet ...
The interesting thing to note is that only the most clever in their field openly referenced some kind of "hidden magic" behind what they discovered ...
How they decided to CALL it is a whole new problem, as countless psychologist have cleverly written about. Why not call it "theory of everything", or even "physics, mathematics & chemistry" if you despise "God" and "holy trinity" so much ?

3) "It is acceptable" would seem to point at a social norm-setter ... however, you do not mention what it would be (you ?) !!
"as long as there is no reference to an originating mind" ... be careful, as you fell in the RELIGION of Buddha religion, there (mind is unceasing).

Believe whatever you want ... but as long as religious followers will have POSITIVE RESULTS from their faiths, you won't succeed at weeding out the underlying cause (such a shame that Vatican's middle ages record are not public) !

While I can tell you the wavelength of "yellow", along with some of its physiological impacts, and cultural associations ... but if you're born-blind, nothing I'll say will make you realize what it is ... and if you suffer from Daltonism, you will distort reality completely !!!

(Finally, if you reject a greater entity, why post using 10, 13, and 12 lines per paragraph ? Check their meaning across religions & cultures before uttering nonsense ...)

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