I. The Idea of Joy
Fundamental to Lewis’ life was the idea of longing or Sehnsucht (p. 7) — a creature longing for eternity. Consider autumn as an idea (p. 16). And northernness may take some explaining (p. 17).
II. Trying to Be a Christian
Lewis was brought up in the faith, and simply accepted it. “I began seriously to pray and to read my Bible and to attempt to obey my conscience” (p. 34). He worked hard at religion-“My nightly task was to produce . . .” (pp. 61-62). And that was the problem, and the beginning of his later apostasy.
III. The Idea of the Numinous
The concept of the numinous was developed by Rudolph Otto in his work The Idea of the Holy. The true God, worshiped insipidly, appears to be no God at all. False gods, disbelieved, and yet numinous, appeal. Consider what Lewis said: “We are taught in the Prayer Book . . .” (p. 77)
IV. Aesthetic Training
One of Lewis’ great instructors was named Smewgy-“He was honey-tongued” (pp. 110-111). A true aesthete, he could say of a line from Milton, that “that line made me happy for a week.”
V. Inanity of Atheism
There is no God, and I hate Him. “I was by this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions” (p. 115).
VI. The Great Knock
Notice Lewis and his comfortable mastery of allusion. “. . . but because it was wasting time, darkening counsel” (p. 136).
VII. The Critical Stand
Lewis ranks among the great literary critics. And he notes a problem with Cicero: “The Two Great Bores (Demosthenes and Cicero) could not be avoided” (p. 144). He had a great measure of romantic protection: “But this slight error saved me from that far deeper error of ‘classicism’ with which the Humanists have hoodwinked half the world” (p. 145).
He was a man of particular focus. “I will take part in battles but not read about them” (p. 158).
He also at this time had remaining prejudices: “Why-damn it-it’s medieval,” I exclaimed; for I still had all the chronological snobbery of my period and used the names of earlier periods as terms of abuse” (p. 206).
VIII. Turning Point
It was a book that undid him. “Turning to the bookstall, I picked out an Everyman in a dirty jacket . . .” (p. 179). Chesterton is apropos: “The sword glitters not because . . .” (pp. 190-191). “God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous” (p. 191).
IX. Few Are Chosen
Lewis was no anti-Calvinist. On freedom and necessity-“. . . it did not seem possible to do the opposite” (p. 224). “In the Trinity Term of 1929 . . .” (p. 228). He was brought back to the faith while going to the zoo-“When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did” (p. 237).