Arts and the New Earth

“But the romantic muse is still called to be a handmaiden of the Lord, and … the Maid of Longing dances wildly but chastely in praise to God. She nourishes us more than we realize, for our taproots which go deep in the soil draw upon the secret mysteries which she provides.” ~ Corbin Scott Carnell, “Bright Shadow of Reality: Spiritual Longing in C.S. Lewis”

I loved this book not just for what it says about Lewis and inconsolable longing – about the divine, the ecstatic wonder – but how vastly the better part of the arts reflect man’s great longing for God, by design or by common grace, and how such arts “give us a foretaste of what an ordered world might be.”

This comes with a caveat; Lewis says in The Great Divorce that “Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to the love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him.” But Lewis strikes just the right balance on the razor’s edge:

“The Well at the World’s End, the Green Hills Beyond, Shangri-La, El Dorado, Narnia – Lewis believes these are all splashes of Godlight in the dark wood of our life. … Lewis can take aesthetic experience seriously because he does not make it into a religion. By interpreting the aesthetic “under the aspect of eternity,” he is able to let the experience be itself. It points to a Great Dance, yes, and to the Lord of the Dance, but it also provides the first halting steps of that exultant movement and our feet can begin now to learn its figures and its rhythm.” (Carnell)


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