The very frontier of Heaven

“He was on the very frontier of that heaven he had known in the spaceship, and rays that the air-enveloped words cannot taste were once more at work upon his body. He felt the old lift of the heart, the soaring solemnity, the sense, at once sober and ecstatic, of life and power offered in unasked and unmeasured abundance. If there had been air enough in his lungs he would have laughed aloud. And now, even in the immediate landscape, beauty was drawing near.” ~ C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet

Corbin Scott Carnell cites Lewis’ space trilogy in making his case for his notion of Sehnsucht in Bright Shadow of Reality: Spiritual Longing in C. S. Lewis, where longing is not painful but a mixture of both melancholy and joy.  (You can buy it here.) Lewis* revisits it again in That Hideous Strength: “The inconsolable wound with which man is born waked and ached at this touching.”

Lewis talks so much in his work about how Myth with a capital M, far from being fiction, is actually a reflection of original truth – as Tolkien put it: ” a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man ascribe to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall.” In Lewis’ introduction to George MacDonald’s Phantastes he gets at how inexpressibly beautiful and precious is this longing for the “Other-World” and how the myths we have built around it act upon our soul:

“It begins to look as if there were an art, or a gift, which criticism has largely ignored. It may even be one of the greatest arts; for it produces works which give us (at the first meeting) as much delight and (on prolonged acquaintance) as much wisdom and strength as the works of the greatest poets. It is in some ways more akin to music than to poetry — or at least most poetry. It goes beyond the expression of things we have already felt. It arouses in us sensations we have never had before, never anticipated having, as though we had broken out of our normal mode of consciousness and “possessed joys not promised to our birth.” It gets under our skin, hits us at a level deeper than our thoughts or even our passions, troubles oldest certainties till all questions are reopened, and in general shocks us more fully awake than we are for most of our lives.”

* I don’t mean to keep going back again and again to Lewis, but he’s my reading challenge this year and expresses the idea of longing for the New Earth so well.

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