C.S. Lewis (Excerpt)

Recall the testimony of C.S. Lewis and specifically the Whit-Sunday sermon that he preached at Mansfield College Chapel in Oxford. He gave this address the title “Transposition” as he worked to illustrate what we know as the sub-spiritual disadvantage in comprehending the Spiritual. I quote the lecturer;

“If the richer system is to be represented in the poorer at all, this can only be by giving each element in the poorer system more than one meaning. The transposition of the richer into the poorer must, so to speak, be algebraical, not arithmetical. If you are to translate from a language which has a large vocabulary, into a language that has a small vocabulary, then you must be allowed to use several words in more than one sense. If you are to write a language with twenty two vowel sounds in an alphabet with only five vowel characters then you must be allowed to give each of those five characters more than one value. If you are making a piano version of a piece originally scored for an orchestra, then the same piano notes which represent flutes in one passage must also represent violins in another.

As the examples show we are all quite familiar with this kind of transposition or adaptation from a richer to a poorer medium. The most familiar example of all is the art of drawing. The problem here is to represent a three-dimensional world on a flat sheet of paper. The solution is perspective, and perspective means that we must give more than one value to a two-dimensional shape. Thus in a drawing of a cube we use an acute angle to represent what is a right angle in the real world. But elsewhere an acute angle on the paper may represent what was already an acute angle in the real world: for example, the point of a spear on the gable of a house. The very same shape which you must draw to give the illusion of a straight road receding from the spectator is also the shape you draw for a dunces’ cap. As with the lines, so with the shading. Your brightest light in the picture is, in literal fact, only plain white paper: and this must do for the sun, or a lake in evening light, or snow, or human flesh.

It is clear that in each case what is happening in the lower medium can be understood only if we know the higher medium. The instance where this knowledge is most commonly lacking is the musical one. The piano version means one thing to the musician who knows the original orchestral score and another thing to the man who hears it simply as a piano piece. But the second man would be at an even greater disadvantage if he had never heard any instrument but a piano and even doubted the existence of other instruments. Even more, we understand pictures only because we know and inhabit the three-dimensional world.

If we can imagine a creature who perceived only two dimensions and yet could somehow be aware of the lines as he crawled over them on the paper, we shall easily see how impossible it would be for him to understand. At first he might be prepared to accept on authority our assurance that there was a world in three dimensions. But when we pointed to the lines on the paper and tried to explain, say, that “This is a road,” would he not say that the shape which we were asking him to accept as a revelation of our mysterious other world was the very same shape which, on our own showing, elsewhere meant nothing but a triangle. And soon, I think, he would say, “You keep on telling me of this other world and its unimaginable shapes which you call solid. But isn’t it very suspicious that all the shapes which you offer me as images or reflections of the solid ones turn out on inspection to be simply the old two-dimensional shapes of my own world as I have always known it? Is it not obvious that your vaunted other world, so far from being the archetype, is a dream which borrows all its elements from this one?”

I have asked you to reconsider this testimony to remind you of the difficulties attending an approach to understanding from below, as from a sub-spiritual realm. Quarantined earth is such a realm. Lucifer was clearly in a position to exploit, for his own purposes, the perceptual disadvantage of an immature, sub-spiritual humanity. And he was almost successful in extinguishing those few monotheistic religions on earth existing at the time of Our Beloved Sovereign’s Incarnation.

Lewis’ “creature” lacked depth perception and thereby was unable to comprehend just one more dimension in a material world. How then is the materialist to comprehend the multidimensional simultaneity of progressive ascendancy? How do human beings adjust to Infinity and Eternity? Certainly they don’t by relying upon the hop-skippety-jump logic of some early twenty-first century scholars. Statements of higher purpose are intended for “he who has ears to hear,” those inclined to be appreciative and thereby responsive to divine leading. There is no reaction more psychotic than to deny the very source of all reality, no belief system more idiotic than that psycho-gumbo called atheism.

Even the lowliest of creatures enjoy the gift of depth perception, a benefit that flows from possessing and interpreting information gained from two distinct vantage points. Of course human beings are favored with more than two eyes just to the extent that they can communicate with one another in a meaningful way. The Incarnation reveals a technique of divine parenting. It is the spiritual equivalent of getting on the floor to see things from your child’s perspective. It places great emphasis on understanding by the experiential viewpoint of one with imperfect or immature understanding. Understanding our brothers and sisters in this way is an important part of what Jesus meant when he said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

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