Continuing yesterday’s installment from A Prison, A Paradise. After her near-suicide, Gay Taylor writes:
…when I came back from Tripoly, the peace of God seemed to enter my heart. I feel that it all had to happen, and happen in just that way. Nothing else would have removed the suicide-obsession I’ve cherished secretly, ever since I was a child. Those hours by the northern river had to be, when I was beyond all human help, and knew at last that God was there.
October 4th. Mist and cold, after yesterday’s Indian summer. It was one of the perfect days—the high tide of this present time. I went out for a walk, then picked blackberries on Periton Hill, in that far clump at the edge of the downs. For a long time I sat on the crumbling turf, sheltered from the wind, with the blue distances below, and warm sun lying over this lovely autumn land. And suddenly I was swept out of myself—knowing, knowing, knowing. Feeling the love of God burning through creation, and an ecstasy of bliss pouring through my spirit and down into every nerve. I’m ashamed to put it down in these halting words. For it was ecstasy—that indissoluble mingling of fire and light that the mystics know. There was a scalding sun in my breast—the “kingdom of God within”—that rushed out to that All-Beauty.
Blackberries photo by Yolanda Leyva on Unsplash
Periton Hill photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash
Continuing with Lewis’s memoir. Note how this excerpt (and the next) show literature, books, as the vehicle for the mystical experience. These experiences had this one effect among others: They contributed to Lewis’s tremendous love of and life-long dedication to poetry and stories.
Somewhat the same thing happened to me as a child. Books such as A Wrinkle in Time, The Outsiders (S . E. Hinton), The Lord of the Rings, and Lewis’s own Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle provided this kind of unspeakable joy and longing and a glimpse of something quite beyond the story and the walls of the world around me. Has it happened to you?
The second glimpse came through Squirrel Nutkin; through it only, though I loved all the Beatrix Potter books. But the rest of them were merely entertaining; it administered the shock, it was a trouble. It troubled me with what I can only describe as the Idea of Autumn. It sounds fantastic to say that one can be enamored of a season, but that is something like what happened; and, as before, the experience was one of intense desire. And one went back to the book, not to gratify the desire (that was impossible–how can one possess Autumn?) but to reawake it. And in this experience also there was the same surprise and the same sense of incalculable importance. It was something quite different from ordinary life and even from ordinary pleasure; something, as they would now say, “in another dimension.” –C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1955. @ C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd.
Photo by Sandis Helvigs on Unsplash