Autumn longing: C.S. Lewis

The autumn season has always carried a special emotional potency for me. When the weather turns crisp and the colors of nature change first to vibrant reds, oranges, and golds, and then progress onward toward rustling browns, tending toward the death-sleep of winter, I’m struck with feelings of poignancy and melancholy that burn more brightly, or perhaps more darkly, than at any other time of the year. I’m also more exquisitely sensitive to the aesthetic influence of art, whether literary, musical, visual, or otherwise.

It was many years ago that I first realized and articulated to myself that this autumnal mood is inextricably bound up with a certain, strange longing. When the mood of autumn comes over me, it is always characterized by a kind of nostalgia for something I have never really known, as if I possess some vestigial memory of a lost knowledge or emotion that flits maddeningly and elusively on the edge of my ability to recall directly. It’s truly a numinous experience, that is, an experience that makes me feel as I’ve come into brief contact with some sort of transcendent spiritual truth. It tends to generate the impression of an absolute, unmediated experience of supernal beauty hovering just beyond the edge of my inner grasp. All the flickering hints of this beauty that I sometimes encounter in literature, film, music, and scenic natural vistas and skyscapes, seem to reach their apotheosis in this ungraspable ultimacy, as if they are merely finite carriers that filter and refract partial glimpses of an infinite reality, like the Platonic Form of the Beautiful itself.

Naturally, with this experience forming an important part of my psychological makeup, I am exceedingly fascinated by the accounts of others who have also felt it. Some years ago I began collecting quotes and passages from the works of various writers who have described their own encounters with this strange longing. Given that it is presently the height of October as I write these words, with the world outside my window standing fully in the grip of that special autumnal alchemy of bittersweet exuberance commingled with twilit dreariness, I thought there could be no better time for me to share some of these writers and their words.

The emotion in question has no essential connection to autumn, by the way. My own first memory of it actually hails from early summertime, from a lost day in my early adolescence — I think I was around twelve years old — when I walked out of my house and into the front yard, and was overcome suddenly by a kind of mental melding together of the soft greens of the trees and grasses, aided by the caress of a delicate warm breeze, that brought the emotion vividly to life. I spent several minutes standing there silently in the sway of an overpowering impression that I had forgotten something, some crucial event from years past, or perhaps a bit of intellectual or emotional knowledge, that would explain this explosion of pleasurable nostalgia. I never did grasp the elusive (or perhaps illusive) memory, but the memory of that first self-aware experience of the mysterious longing marked me permanently.

So as I said, this longing has no especial, essential connection to autumn. I simply associate it with the autumn season because that’s what seems to awaken it the most readily for me. In this, I am of course not alone, as attested by the veritable reams of autumn-themed poetry, centered around or inspired by a feeling of longing, that populate the pages of many a literary anthology

In my bookish wanderings in search of others who have shared this experience, I have been most interested to find writings that describe the longing, as distinct from literary attempts to evoke it. For the latter, any number of famous poets and poems will do: Sarah Teasdale, William Blake, Algernon Swinburne, Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen Dobyns, Emily Dickinson, Percy Shelley, William Wordsworth — the list could be extended indefinitely. But I’ve found that it’s all too rare, and therefore all the more special, to find a writer who attempts to provide an actual account of this special emotion of longing itself. What I want are the equivalent of phenomenological descriptions of what it feels like to be possessed by this strange and sui generis emotion, perhaps accompanied by a few ruminations on the possible meaning of it all.

To my knowledge, nobody has fulfilled this wish more completely than C.S. Lewis, who famously developed a Christian apologetic whose very foundation is rooted in the experience of nostalgic, transcendent longing. One might disagree with the conclusions he draws from his own lifelong experiences of it — “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world,” he wrote in Mere Christianity — but the power and precision of his phenomenological description itself is undeniable. In fact, I find that his words in this vein tend to reawaken my own longing, no matter how many times I reread them.

The following paragraphs come from the preface to C.S. Lewis’s allegorical novel, The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933), which was the first book he wrote after his adult conversion to Protestant Christianity. Subtitled “An Allegorical Apology for Christianity Reason and Romanticism,” the book presents an explicit allegory that depicts Lewis’s own journey from the dry, dead, inherited Christianity of his boyhood, through the problematic philosophies of the modern world, to the vibrant Christian faith of his adulthood. He intended it to serve as a Pilgrim’s Progress for the 20th century.

Lewis added the preface in 1943, ten years after the novel’s initial publication, because he wanted to clarify his use of the word “Romanticism” to describe “the experience which is central in this book.” After discussing several different ways in which the word is commonly understood, he explained his own idiosyncratic use of it to refer to “an experience of intense longing,” and in doing so, he came close to giving what is for me the quintessential description of the matter. I don’t necessarily endorse his argument in the latter paragraphs quoted below, where he explains the thought process that led him to accord this longing the status of evidence in a novel type of theological apologia. But still, I can’t deny that his very speculations in this area tend to arouse and intensify the longing within me.

* * * * *

“What I meant by ‘Romanticism’ when I wrote the Pilgrim’s Regress — and what I would still be taken to mean on the title page of this book—was . . . a particular recurrent experience which dominated my childhood and adolescence and which I hastily called ‘Romantic’ because inanimate nature and marvelous literature were among the things that evoked it. I still believe that the experience is common, commonly misunderstood, and of immense importance: but I know now that in other minds it arises under other stimuli and is entangled with other irrelevancies and that to bring it into the forefront of consciousness is not so easy as I once supposed. I will now try to describe it sufficiently to make the following pages intelligible.

“The experience is one of intense longing. It is distinguished from other longings by two things. In the first place, though the sense of want is acute and even painful, yet the mere wanting is felt to be somehow a delight. Other desires are felt as pleasures only if satisfaction is expected in the near future: hunger is pleasant only while we know (or believe) that we are soon going to eat. But this desire, even when there is no hope of possible satisfaction, continues to be prized, and even to be preferred to anything else in the world, by those who have once felt it. This hunger is better than any other fullness; this poverty better than all other wealth. And thus it comes about, that if the desire is long absent, it may itself be desired, and that new desiring becomes a new instance of the original desire, though the subject may not at once recognize the fact and thus cries out for his lost youth of soul at the very moment in which he is being rejuvenated. This sounds complicated, but it is simple when we live it. ‘Oh to feel as I did then!’ we cry; not noticing that even while we say the words the very feeling whose loss we lament is rising again in all its old bitter-sweetness. For this sweet Desire cuts across our ordinary distinctions between wanting and having. To have it is, by definition, a want: to want it, we find, is to have it.

“In the second place, there is a peculiar mystery about the object of this Desire. Inexperienced people (and inattention leaves some inexperienced all their lives) suppose, when they feel it, that they know what they are desiring. Thus if it comes to a child while he is looking at a far off hillside he at once thinks ‘if only I were there’; if it comes when he is remembering some event in the past, he thinks ‘if only I could go back to those days.’ If it comes (a little later) while he is reading a ‘romantic’ tale or poem of ‘perilous seas and faerie lands forlorn,’ he thinks he is wishing that such places really existed and that he could reach them. If it comes (later still) in a context with erotic suggestions he believes he is desiring the perfect beloved. If he falls upon literature (like Maeterlinck or the early Yeats) which treats of spirits and the like with some show of serious belief, he may think that he is hankering for real magic and occultism. When it darts out upon him from his studies in history or science, he may confuse it with the intellectual craving for knowledge.

“But every one of these impressions is wrong. The sole merit I claim for this book is that it is written by one who has proved them all to be wrong. There is no room for vanity in the claim: I know them to be wrong not by intelligence but by experience, such experience as would not have come my way if my youth had been wiser, more virtuous, and less self-centered than it was. For I have myself been deluded by every one of these false answers in turn, and have contemplated each one of them earnestly enough to discover the cheat. To have embraced so many false Florimels is no matter for boasting: it is fools, they say, who learn by experience. But since they do at last learn, let a fool bring his experience into the common stock that wiser men may profit by it.

“Every one of these supposed objects for the Desire is inadequate to it. An easy experiment will show that by going to the far hillside you will get either nothing, or else a recurrence of the same desire which sent you thither. A rather more difficult, but still possible, study of your own memories, will prove that by returning to the past you could not find, as a possession, that ecstasy which some sudden reminder of the past now moves you to desire. Those remembered moments were either quite commonplace at the time (and owe all their enchantment to memory) or else were themselves moments of desiring. The same is true of the things described in the poets and marvelous romancers. The moment we endeavor to think out seriously what it would be like if they were actual, we discover this. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle claimed to have photographed a fairy, I did not, in fact, believe it: but the mere making of the claim — the approach of the fairy to within even that hailing distance of actuality — revealed to me at once that if the claim had succeeded it would have chilled rather than satisfied the desire which fairy literature had hitherto aroused. Once grant your fairy, your enchanted forest, your satyr, faun, wood-nymph and well of immortality real, and amidst all the scientific, social and practical interest which the discovery would awake, the Sweet Desire would have disappeared, would have shifted its ground, like the cuckoo’s voice or the rainbow’s end, and be now calling us from beyond a further hill. With Magic in the darker sense (as it has been and is actually practised) we should fare even worse. How if one had gone that way — had actually called for something and it had come? What would one feel? Terror, pride, guilt, tingling excitement . . . but what would all that have to do with our Sweet Desire? It is not at Black Mass or séance that the Blue Flower grows. As for the sexual answer, that I suppose to be the most obviously false Florimel of all. On whatever plane you take it, it is not what we were looking for. Lust can be gratified. Another personality can become to us ‘our America, our New-found-land.’ A happy marriage can be achieved. But what has any of the three, or any mixture of the three, to do with that unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of a bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves?

“It appeared to me therefore that if a man diligently followed this desire, pursuing the false objects until their falsity appeared and then resolutely abandoning them, he must come out at last into the clear knowledge that the human soul was made to enjoy some object that is never fully given — nay, cannot even be imagined as given — in our present mode of subjective and spatio-temporal existence. This Desire was, in the soul, as the Siege Perilous in Arthur’s castle — the chair in which only one could sit. And if nature makes nothing in vain, the One who can sit in this chair must exist. I knew only too well how easily the longing accepts false objects and through what dark ways the pursuit of them leads us: but I also saw that the Desire itself contains the corrective of all these errors. The only fatal error was to pretend that you had passed from desire to fruition, when, in reality, you had found either nothing, or desire itself, or the satisfaction of some different desire. The dialectic of Desire, faithfully followed, would retrieve all mistakes, head you off from all false paths, and force you not to propound, but to live through, a sort of ontological proof. This lived dialectic, and the mere argued dialectic of my philosophical progress, seemed to have converged on one goal; accordingly I tried to put them both into my allegory which thus became a defense of Romanticism (in my peculiar sense) as well as of Reason and Christianity.”

* * * * *

Not incidentally, Lewis later seized upon the German word sehnsucht to refer to this emotion. Sehnsucht refers to a wistful, nostalgic longing, and was employed by, for example, E.T.A. Hoffmann (19th cent.) in reference to Beethoven’s music, which in Hoffmann’s words “awakens just that infinite longing [sehnsucht] which is essence of romanticism.” I find it absolutely fascinating to observe the teeming cross section of outlooks and attitudes spanned by the experience of sehnsucht, which is a term that I have found to be as practically and emotionally useful as Lewis did.

For example, another author whose work I cherish, H.P. Lovecraft, was an ardent atheist and materialist, and yet he was gripped by precisely the same experience that gripped Lewis. Of course he drew different conclusions about the emotion, and accorded it a far different ontological and philosophical status. But as with Lewis, Lovecraft’s experience of sehnsucht was so central to his emotional makeup that it could not help but assume a central place in his art.

Other famous cases of sehnsucht-in-action can be seen in the writings of such disparate authors as Colin Wilson, William Wordsworth, Alan Watts, Arthur Machen, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Eugene O’Neill, Henri Amiel, Li Po, George Gissing, Anne Frank, and more. In future blog posts, I plan to offer quotes from some or all of these — most of them, I assure you, in much briefer form than the Lewis quote above. Perhaps one or more of them will prove as useful for you, in clarifying and articulating some of your own emotional tendencies, as they have been for me.

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD, GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES, and HORROR LITERATURE THROUGH HISTORY.

Posted on October 16, 2006, in Arts & Entertainment, Religion & Philosophy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. I have always had a fondness for autumn too, ever since I was a child. I have come to the conclusion that it is somehow wrapped up in death (or misanthropy). The Dying Season, aptly named. The beginning of the cessation of life and all the pain and idiocy that it entails.

    There is a very funny passage in Huckleberry Finn. I hope I am remembering this correctly. Huck is taken into the home of a couple that has recently lost a daughter. She was young, in her teens. He stayed in her room and it was filled with her paintings of desolate autumnal landscapes and graveyard scenes. Huck, clear-headed as always, thinks she is probably happier now that she is dead. Twain was a genius.

    I have to confess that I have never been able to follow a C.S. Lewis line of thought to his conclusions. I have no idea what he is talking about. On occasion, I have felt like saying: Stop lying! Like Ligotti, I have an aversion to his thought, and have had long before TL ever mentioned him.

    I find it interesting that these C.S. Lewis types, after their so-called atheistic spiritual adventures, somehow manage to find their way home to the safety and security of their childhood Christian god. I’m sure it’s psychologically comforting, if nothing else.

    If you enjoy C.S. Lewis, you could do worse than listen to the recorded book The Screwtape Letters narrated by John Cleese. The humor made the book worthwhile.

    I am fascinated with HPL’s nostalgic feeling for old architecture. I would love to get one of his travelogues and make a vacation of it. I recall him trying to explain it, but I don’t think it is necessary to try to justify every enthusiasm. Unless, of course, you are preaching.

    • “I find it interesting that these C.S. Lewis types, after their so-called atheistic spiritual adventures, somehow manage to find their way home to the safety and security of their childhood Christian god. I’m sure it’s psychologically comforting, if nothing else.”

      An odd response, since it seems to assume atheists who convert were only atheists ‘so-called’. I have seen a similar argument used by Christians to dismiss the authenticity of Christians who become atheists.

      Speaking as an atheist who converted, I submit that there is nothing so-called in the matter, not for devoted, honest, serious atheists. These are men, and I was one such, who are atheists because belief in the supernatural they conclude to be unsupported, unreasonable, preposterous, or even sinister. If there is some additional qualification to be counted a real atheist — such as that one must never thereafter change one’s mind on the point — it is unknown to me.

      The means by which a committed atheist comes to another conclusion would make an interesting study, but it is by no means clear that all conversions can be dismissed so lightly as to say no “real” atheist converts. Such an argument would be circular.

      Again, speaking for myself, and perhaps for Mr. Lewis, I would hesitate to call the conversion experience psychologically comforting. Indeed, very much the opposite is the case: unlike my atheist self of yore, I am now beholden to a higher authority, who pins me to a standard of thought and deed very much against my nature and inclination.

      I invite you to live as a self-centered and arrogant atheist for 35 years, wait until all your mental and emotional habits are set as if in concrete, and then try to obey the call to be charitable, loving, longsuffering, meek. Make the attempt for a day or a week, and then come back and tell me if it increases your comfort rather than the opposite. Tell me how comforting it is to long for the palm of martyrdom, or to rejoice at being reviled in public.

      Contemplate the difference between living in a universe where death is merely oblivion, and one where death is a crossroad leading to something further: and the larger path, the easy one, leads to hellfire. If that is what you find comforting, your psychology differs indeed from mine. By any rational Pascalian wager, the universe where death is oblivion contains far less immense risks of far less pain.

      I should mention that I am also an Autumn person, and have felt that strange otherworldly longing — all it lead me to was a career as a writer. My religion was another matter, and came about through more empirical and logical means.

      Mr. Lewis’ argument I dismiss. Merely because a longing exists does not necessitate that a means exists to satisfy it.

      Who has not longed to fly to the stars? What poet never dreamed to speak to the trees and rivers and hills, and learn their lore, or dance with the sun and moon, or wrap oneself in the shining galaxy as with a mantle, or peer into the thoughts of another, or live his life?

      What robust man has not, if only briefly, entertained the longing to fight in the eternal melee of the slain in Valhalla, or possess the seventy-two glancing eyed houri of the paradise of Mohammed? What sage wearied with wisdom has not longed to quench his sorrows in the oblivion of Nirvana, and achieve unutterable Oneness? But these longings cannot be sated, even if one could chose somehow one’s afterlife, for they are contrary to each other.

      No, for my part, I can think of far too many longings I or others have never to be fulfilled to be comfortable with the conclusion that nature never implants vain longings in us.

      John C. Wright

      • John, it looks like I, um, fell behind on responding to your comment (he said, 13 months and one day after the fact). Thanks for weighing in with such an insightful contribution to the conversation. I’ve seen the extensive discussion that began last year at your blog in response to your linking to my Autumn Longing posts, and have found it fascinating.

  2. Thanks for the fascinating post, Matt. Unlike your other commenter, I find that C.S. Lewis’s work is full of moments in which I react with “Yes! That’s it exactly!”. Funny how the same ideas can bounce off some and penetrate others so deeply. I don’t mean that some are better at comprehending than others; bendk is certainly no less astute than I. I only mean that, to mix metaphors, the ideas mesh perfectly with my gears yet jam in his.

    I too am an autumnal individual, and was even when a new spring sprout myself. Other aspects that can be appreciated at face value or as something more include the mature beauty (in a temperate zone, anyway) of the natural world that works all year towards this point and then is this stunning only briefly; the crisp chill and fantastic skies of October; and the haste of creatures to prepare for bleak winter. Even the raking of leaves has a certain resemblance to how we sometimes deal with death and legacies.

  3. Thanks for both of your comments, bendk and Todd. How interesting it is to see how we all react in various ways to the same provocation.

    bendk — You know, I’ve been intrigued for years by the fact that Lewis forms such a sharp dividing line among people with whom I otherwise share so many similar or identical passions. Obviously, Tom Ligotti’s disdain for him factors in here, as does your own. When you say that you can’t follow him to his conclusions and can’t understand what he’s talking about, I’m honestly baffled because my own overwhelming experience is one of being persuaded by him, and even of identifying powerfully with both his mode of speaking and the content of what he says, while still realizing that I don’t agree with many of his conclusions, at least not literally. In other words, he get under my skin, as it were, in exactly the same way that Tom does, by talking about themes and things that are deeply important to me, and by doing so in a way that seems to mesh perfectly with one of the modes of discourse that is native to me. My attraction to him is helpless. I’m inexorably moved by words and passages like the ones I included in my blog post.

    That said, I do understand exactly what you mean about the cynical eye with which you regard all of those Lewisian conversions to Protestant Christianity. His own journey into atheism and then back to a mature Christianity by way of various philosophical and theological roads was quite authentic, I think, but I also can’t help thinking that the army of Christian apologists who draw upon his work have styled themselves a little too self-consciously as clones of his. It wears thin and invites ridicule after awhile. One can almost imagine a room full of pseudo-Lewises sporting his same suit and haircut, rather like a Christian version of the rapper wannabe army that attends Eminem.

    Speaking of Lovecraft (as you did), look for a new blog post, probably to follow shortly after this comment, talking about HPL’s own experience of sehnsucht. Of course, this will consist mostly of a quoted passage from my Lovecraft-Ligotti essay, which I believe both you and Todd may have already read.

    Todd — Interesting autumnal thoughts. Thanks for sharing them.

  4. I thought I was the only one that had these longing feelings. Usually comes upon me in mid-summer (now). It’s a feeling hard to explain in that it feels deeply rooted in a past and place not known to me. A feeling of nature and a need or wanting to migrate or roam, to become a part of nature. Maybe linked to past ancestral lives. I feel unsettled by it for weeks sometimes months. I don’t know, I’ll keep searching…

  5. Thanks for the comment, Eric. I’m always more than a little interested to hear from people who share this experience with me. Good luck to you in your search.

  6. For as long as I can remember autumness has always come to me in late July, no matter the soaring temps. It flits into my summer routine, but like the ephemeral butterfly is gone before I can capture it., Sometimes it makes odd reappearances throughout the year, but then again sometimes it leaves me waiting until the next July.

    Then there is rootedness–the grounded, communal feeling that envelopes the visitor of ancestral graves. It is somewhat akin to autumness.but is also expansive like Lewis’ northerness., and perhaps a bit Arthurian. Reassuring signposts?.

    • Very interesting that you would say this, Di, because my own first conscious memory of being literally spellbound by an uprush of this sensation/emotion/state comes from a late spring or early summer setting, when I walked out of my boyhood house and was suddenly transfixed by the sense of some beautiful, aching memory that trembled on the edge of recollection. I was halfway down the sidewalk to the driveway, with the house behind me and the front lawn with our huge, leafy hickory tree before me. Very vivid and permanently significant. And, again, it was around the same time of year that you’re talking about. Only afterward, after years of additional experience and reflection, did I find it appropriate to peg the experience as quintessentially “autumnal.”

  7. i have experienced the same intense longing feeling for most of my life (42 y.o. now). I have always enjoyed the feeling and certain events (the city and the lights in the evening, the fall, many songs evoke the longing, and many other things) make this emotion come forward. Ive read that the german word “Sehnsucht” describes the feeling. But the emotion is unique to each person and hard to define. Would like to understand more, because it seems to be so unique, unlike other emotions which can be easily explained and understood by others.

    • Thanks for sharing, Chris. The things you describe also evoke the longing in me. If you haven’t already seen them, you might look at my other entries in this post series (type “autumn longing” in the blog’s search field) for more elaboration.

  8. i can identify with every word you have written here.
    many thanks for posting this! 🙂

    • You’re welcome, Aahish, and thank you for the comment. I’ve been impressed at how many people have responded to this and/or to the other posts in this series to say that they know from personal experience what it’s all about.

  9. I was so glad to discover your blog. The feeling that you’re speaking about happens to me at the beginning of each March and September. When the sunlight changes in the way it streams through my kitchen, the feeling sneaks up on me, sometimes bringing contentment, but at other times dull sadness that never produces a tear, only an ache.

    By the way, is it just me, or is there a reason almost all of the blog comments were made in August, September, and October of each year?

    • Sounds like you truly do suffer from a burning case of sehnsucht, Lisa. I’m glad my words could speak to that.

      And that’s a good catch on noticing the timing of the comments here. It doesn’t surprise me that people’s Internet searches lead them to an article or blog post like this when the season begins to turn and all of these feelings start to awaken.

  10. Ah, a blog with a series about sehnsucht! Thank you much, sir.

    Modally I experience sehnsucht in response to some image, whether visualized or in a photograph or painting, of central or Eastern Europe. But I have experienced it in response to many other stimuli. I was once surprised to feel it in a romantic-erotic setting, seemingly about the person I was with; soon afer I felt amused and mildly ridiculous to have felt such intense longing and almost overwhelming bitter-sweet-ness over the apparent impossibility of being with someone who was literally right next to me! So close yet so far; a fine demonstration that what you think you’re longing for in the moment, no matter how beautiful it is, is still infinitely distant from the actual object of yearning. I can understand how Lewis would postulate the necessary existence of heaven in the face of such absurdity; it is in fact rather confusing that such a phenomenon exists, and the unknowingly known existence of heaven is at least an explanation, even if of questionable parsimony.

    I’ve experienced sehnsucht in vivid dreams on a few occasions; the dreams were set in Europe, Asia, or in one case Northern Africa. They are the only dreams of hundreds I remember having that were explicitly set somewhere besides the United States. Perhaps that it is possible to experience sehnsucht when dreaming provides some information about the origin or significance of the phenomenon, though I don’t immediately see how.

    • Perhaps I should provide another datapoint re Autumn: I am very fond of the idea and depictions of Autumn and think of it as my favorite season, but I grew up in Arizona and now live in Berkeley, California, and thus have never actually experienced an Autumn. Alas!

      • Your encounters with sehnsucht are a joy to read about. Thank you for sharing/airing them here, Will. How sad that you’ve never actually had a firsthand experience of autumn, though. I spent my whole life up until the age of 38 living in the Missouri Ozarks, where all four seasons are very pronounced, and I always savored autumn up there. I live in Central Texas now, where autumn is decidedly more muted, and sometimes nonexistent. A considerable loss.

  11. Thank you for this, truly.

  12. What happened to the comments, on sehnsucht, I thought I posted here last summer ? They seemed to have disappeared …

    • I’m glad you spoke up about your missing comments, Jason. When I transferred the blog from its former WordPress.com address to the current independent hosting at http://www.teemingbrain.com, I had all of the comments transferred as well. But somehow yours aren’t showing up for this post/article, although I see that your comments did come through on “Is the spiritual counterculture doomed?”

      I just discovered, however, that I do have all of your comments still saved at the old address (which is not publicly accessible anymore). Let me see if I can manually get them over here, and if not, maybe I could send you the text of all of them and you could repost them. I’ll keep you updated.

  13. Thank you, Mr.Cardin .

    Grateful to you for going the extra mile . I wish more site administrators were as considerate about such matters as you are .

    [As an aside , I am quite flabbergasted with the myspace network for removing comments and blogs recently ].

  14. Since C.S.Lewis is cited in the current tread ,it is best again to state that C.S. Lewis a highly overrated theologian .

    Though he did have some quite noteworthy theological insights (the insights be the theologically liberal insights that fundamentalist/evangelical sorts of people , don’t tend to often quote, though they often try to coopt some writings of Lewis, preferring those lousy other statements : the latter of which are more compatible with evangelical/fundamentalist thinking ), the occasional good insights are like occasional gems amidst the much and mire ) however, there tends to be a lot more of the muck and mire with the writings of C.S. Lewis .

    C.S. Lewis tends to ,from time to time, in various books, promote statements which indirectly contradict one another .

    There is a book he wrote titled “The Abolition of Man” which is weirdly anti-intellectual . In that book , C.S. Lewis takes the ever so weird , insipid approach of making a nearly blanket dismissal of moralists and putative social reformers he calls : ‘conditionalists” .

    The disapproval that C.S Lewis puts forth concerning w woul de social reformers which he calls conditionalists is quite weird.

    The attitude that C. S. Lewis displays is quite similar to pluralist ideology: an ideology which disdains the notion of supporting the sort of society that is single minded in promoting standards of excellence . The tendency that C.S. Lewis proposes in the novel titled ‘The abolition of man’ is indeed a forerunner of to the trendy memes so popular with the attitude MTV-era postmodernism; of “to each their own” tolerance and acceptance, a weird sort of thinking (similar to that advocated by the mendacious Russell Kirk)

    It is the sort of thinking which *rejects* efforts to get human actions to fit a single minded ideal and , hence, weirdly rejects cultural engineering, despite how a more good culture would indeed seek to engineer in its citizens: a single minded devotion to ethical and aesthetic excellence .

    C.S. Lewis seeks a culture that accepts diversity (not merely the good diversity of those share forms of diversity which is benign , but , instead the sort of bsd diversity ,which sometimes includes , the murky and crass

    Both the book titled the “Abolition of Man” has the bizarre tendency to be anti-utopian, a characteristic that it has in common with both postmodernism and relativism (and also the sort of anti-utopian thinking advocated by Russell Kirk) .

    One of the quotes ascribed to Lewis, even goes as far as referring to those who offer constructive criticism : referring to ethicists ; moralists who insist on promoting ethical excellence : the moralists who are verbally criticizing those who support what is murky , as referring to them as “torturers”, and claiming that they are somehow worse from the robber barons .

  15. NOTE : The above recent critique on the work of C.S. Lewis ought to be somewhat revised for better sentence construction . Yours truly noticed sometime after posting it that some of the sentence construction /syntax is unclear in some places , and some better phrasing is in order . In a subsequent post , I would like to post a revised version of the text of the critique shown above , using the first version as a template .

  16. BRIEF CRITIQUE OF C.S. LEWIS REVISED

    Since C.S. Lewis has been cited in the current tread ,it is best again to state that C.S. Lewis a highly overrated theologian .

    Though he did have some quite noteworthy theological insights (the insights be the theologically liberal insights that fundamentalist/evangelical sorts of people , don’t tend to often quote, though they often try to coopt some writings of Lewis, preferring those lousy other statements : the latter of which are more compatible with evangelical/fundamentalist thinking ), the occasional good insights are like occasional gems amidst the much and mire . There tends to be a lot more of the muck and mire with the writings of C.S. Lewis , however, than the occasional gems .

    Furthermore ,C.S. Lewis tends to , from time to time, in various books, promote statements which indirectly contradict one another .

    Suggesting that there could be a hell for humans that would be a heaven for mosquitos , and elsewhere suggesting , in a more lucid and plausible moment , that ‘hell was the outer rim of being where being fades away into nonentity” was not the only case where what Lewis affirms in one text runs contrary to what he apparently wrote in another .

    There is indeed a book Clive Staples Lewis apparently wrote titled “The Abolition of Man”, which is quite weirdly anti-intellectual, in tenor . In that book , C.S. Lewis takes the ever so weird , insipid approach of making a nearly blanket dismissal of zealous , absolutist moralists and putative social reformers (though he is *partially* right to dismiss some pretenders to the causes of reform , such as Marxists and so on), which he calls : “conditionalists” .

    The disapproval that C.S Lewis puts forth concerning would be social reformers which , Lewis calls conditionalists, is indeed quite weird.

    The attitude that C. S. Lewis displays is quite similar to pluralist ideology: an ideology which disdains and works *against* the notion of supporting the sort of society that is single minded in promoting standards of excellence . The tendency that C.S. Lewis proposes in the novel titled ‘The Abolition Of Man’ is indeed a forerunner of to the trendy memes so popular with the attitude MTV-era postmodernism; of the “to each their own” tolerance and acceptance, a weird sort of thinking ( a sort of backward thinking similar to that
    *ANTI*-utopian mystification advocated by the mendacious author Russell T. Kirk).

    It is the sort of thinking which *rejects* efforts to get human actions to fit a single minded ideal and , hence, weirdly rejects cultural engineering, despite how it is an elementary sort of insight to admit a more optimally good culture would, indeed, seek to engineer in its citizens: an ethos of single minded devotion to ethical and aesthetic excellence .

    C.S. Lewis seeks a culture that accepts diversity (not merely the good diversity of those share forms of diversity which are benign , or even uplifting to humanity, but , instead, one that even apparently involves even the sort of bad diversity ,which sometimes includes , the murky , the crass, the perverse) .

    Notably, the book titled the “Abolition of Man” has the bizarre tendency to be anti-utopian, a characteristic that it has in common with both postmodernism and relativism (and also the sort of anti-utopian thinking advocated by conservative thinkers such as Russell T Kirk, who advocates a politically different flavor of much the same sort of mystification advocated by the postmodernists, though Russell T. Kirk is not exactly in the postmodern camp ) .

    One of the quotes ascribed to Lewis, even goes as far as referring to those who offer constructive criticism : referring to those single-minded , thorough- going ethicists ; absolutist moralists who insist on promoting ethical excellence : the moralists who are verbally critical against the actions and statements advocated by those who support what is putatively murky or unjust, as so-called “torturers”, and claiming that they are somehow supposedly worse from the robber barons .

    In the quote ascribed to C.S. Lewis , where he (or someone claiming to be him…it is worth investigating to see if the quote is an actual quote from him) denounces those who seek to promote an ethical agenda with ideological zeal as “those who torture us for the good of our souls” . To refer to such efforts to persuade people to adopt idealistic zeal as “torture” is indeed a quite weird hyperbole , since all relativist histrionics aside, lecturing people (no matter how vehemently one does so) is *not* torture .

  17. I know this is an old post, but have you read Surprised by Joy? C.S. Lewis spoke of this theme at great length in his autobiography. I think his experience of Joy can be explained by the scientific term “frisson” but I still believe it is a spiritual response some people feel. It is most often triggered by feelings associated with autumn, literature, music, art. C.S. Lewis felt it and so did J.R.R. Tolkien. They both believed strongly that humans feel the urge to create other worlds because there *is* another world, and when you get a glimpse of another world you are rewarded with that feeling.

    • Yes, I have read Lewis’s autobiography. Or most of it, at least. I’m aware that he delved deeply into his experience and philosophy of sehnsucht in it. Surprised by Joy has long struck me as the most purely and pointedly British of Lewis’s books in terms of its attitude and prose style. Maybe that’s why I had slightly harder time staying with it all the way through than his others. Not that I don’t like that British-ness, but this one was thick with it, especially in his account of his earlier years that makes up the book’s first half. I really love the content of the thing overall, though.

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