Sunday, August 4, 2013

C.S. Lewis and his dialectics teacher Kirkpatrick / 3

     I have said that he was almost wholly logical; but not quite.  He had been a Presbyterian and was now an Atheist.  He spent Sunday, as he spent most of his time on weekdays, working in his garden.  But one curious trait from his Presbyterian youth survived.  He always, on Sundays gardened in a different, and slightly more respectable, suit.  An Ulster Scot may come to disbelieve in God, but not to wear his weekday clothes on the Sabbath.
     Having said that he was an Atheist, I hasten to add that he was a "rationalist" of the old, high and dry ninteenth century type.  For Atheism has come down in the world since those days, and mixed itself with politics and learned to dabble in dirt... At the time when I knew him, the fuel of Kirk's Atheism was chiefly of the anthropological and pessimistic kind.  He was great on The Golden Bough and Schopenhauer.
     The reader will remember that my own Atheism and Pessimism were fully formed before I went to Bookham. What I got there was merely fresh ammunition for the defense of a position already chosen.  (pp. 139,140.  C.S.Lewis. Surprised by Joy. Harcourt. 1955)

On the internet I have met a few atheists and former Christians and they seem to me particularly stressed on Sundays and high holy days.  Some of them need to engage in hightened rhethoric and polemic against religion on those days.  I believe this is how this stress manifests and have come to expect it, though it detracts from my own celebration.  If we said that we pray for them when we recognize this we would put them even into a higher distress and frenzy, so one doesn't quite know what to do.  We will just take it and pray in silence (but do know that we pray for you because we... just have to.  XO).

So dear old Knock wore his different suit on Sundays.  Something in him needed to separate the day and honor it.

Schoperian atheism or pessimism I have read about, but I am not sure he has much to tell me that I need to know.  I already know that my own will is pretty bad.  The Golden Bough I haven't read either.  Maybe I will read a summary.

The Golden Bough attempts to define the shared elements of religious belief to scientific thought, discussing fertility rites, human sacrifice, the dying god, the scapegoat and many other symbols and practices whose influence has extended into twentieth-century culture.[2] Its thesis is that old religions were fertility cults that revolved around the worship and periodic sacrifice of a sacred king. Frazer proposed that mankind progresses from magic through religious belief to scientific thought.

Aha.  That sounds like some people.  I might have to peruse it some time.

Alright, then C.S. Lewis describes the day of study, reading, discussion and basic seclusion at the Kirkpatrick house and makes a little point about selfishness and self-centeredness, which is interesting but a little cryptic here.  He does pick up the theme in other places such as the Screwtape Letters.

Such is my ideal, and such then (almost) was the reality of "settled, calm, epicurean life."  It is no doubt for my own good that I have been so generally prevented fro leading it, for it is a life almost entirely selfish.  Selfish, not self centered;  for in such a life my mind would be directed toward a thousand things, not one of which is myself.  the distinction is not unimportant   One of the happiest men and most pleasing companions I have ever known was intensely selfish.  On the other hand I have known people capable of real sacrifice whose lives were nevertheless a misery to themselves and to others, because self-concern and self-pity filled all their thoughts.  Either condition will destroy the soul in the end.  But till the end, give me the man who takes the best of everything (even at my expense) and then talks of other things rather than the man who serves me and talks of himself, and whose very kindnesses are a continual reproach, a continual demand for pity, gratitude, and admiration.


We know about these things.  The Lord preserve us from them in others and ourselves.  It is the great trial to deal with the ego and that of others. 

Kirkpatrick's ego one could stand to hear a bit more about, but Lewis leaves it at that.  It seems Kirkpatrick was a reclusive man who thought, as we heard, even the bridge ladies wanted to define terms for hours on end.  Is that what Lewis meant:  a man wholly absorbed in his own thoughts and own way of thinking to his own pleasure?

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