A.W. Tozer writes, in The Pursuit of God, of this inexpressible longing, wonder and awe:
“Every one of us has had experiences which we have not been able to explain: a sudden sense of loneliness, or a feeling of wonder or awe in the face of the universal vastness. Or we have had a fleeting visitation of light like an illumination from some other sun, giving us in a quick flash an assurance that we are from another world, that our origins are divine. What we saw there, or felt, or heard, may have been contrary to all that we had been taught in the schools and at wide variance with all our former beliefs and opinions. We were forced to suspend our acquired doubts while, for a moment, the clouds were rolled back and we saw and heard for ourselves. Explain such things as we will, I think we have not been fair to the facts until we allow at least the possibility that such experiences may arise from the Presence of God in the world and His persistent effort to communicate with mankind. Let us not dismiss such a hypothesis too flippantly.
It is my own belief (and here I shall not feel bad if no one follows me) that every good and beautiful thing which man has produced in the world has been the result of his faulty and sin-blocked response to the creative Voice sounding over the earth. The moral philosophers who dreamed their high dreams of virtue, the religious thinkers who speculated about God and immortality, the poets and artists who created out of common stuff pure and lasting beauty: how can we explain them? It is not enough to say simply, “It was genius.” What then is genius? Could it be that a genius is a man haunted by the speaking Voice, laboring and striving like one possessed to achieve ends which he only vaguely understands?”
You can read the full chapter, The Speaking Voice, here.
“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.