Thursday, December 07, 2006

Erudite Limpets.


Last night, inspired by the discussion at our parish Advent programme, we shared thoughts on heaven and earth, hell and purgatory.

We pondered God, perceptions of God and perceptions of the states of heaven or hell.

I was reminded of C.S. Lewis' analogy of "erudite limpets." I read this section a few nights ago, as part of my Advent reading. And shared the story of Lewis' erudite limpets with Gerry and the kids.

The boys were intrigued by the analogy and the discussion.

The "limpet" discussion is from Miracles. Lewis likens our own experience of defining God to that of the erudite limpets in defining Man.

"Why are many people prepared in advance to maintain that, whatever else God may be, He is not the concrete, living, willing, and acting God of Christian theology? I think the reason is as follows.

Let us suppose a mystical limpet, a sage among limpets, who (rapt in vision) catches a glimpse of what Man is like. In reporting it to his disciples, who have some vision themselves (though less than he) he will have to use many negatives. He will have to tell them that Man has no shell, is not attached to a rock, is not surrounded by water. And his disciples, having a little vision of their own to help them, do get some idea of Man. But then there come erudite limpets, limpets who write histories of philosophy and give lectures on comparative religion, and who have never had any vision of their own. What they get out of the prophetic limpet’s words is simply and solely the negatives. From these, uncorrected by any positive insight, they build up a picture of Man as a sort of amorphous jelly (he has no shell) existing nowhere in particular (he is not attached to a rock) and never taking nourishment (there is no water to drift it toward him). And having a traditional reverence for Man they conclude that to be a famished jelly in a dimensionless void is the supreme mode of existence, and reject as crude, materialistic superstition any doctrine which would attribute to Man a definite shape, a structure, and organs. "

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and how true!

Thank you for sharing!

Leonie said...

Its a cool quote, isn't it? C S Lewis often has a way with words...

WRyan said...

I love that -- will have to share it with my teens!

Leonie said...

Its an interesting thought and my kids enjoyed discussing the ideas - hope yours do the same, Willa!