So here's the deal: Loder spoke about “transformational knowledge," in which we move through a five-stage process:
- Incoherence or Conflict (we have a problem we can't quite figure out)
- Search for Resolution (we're looking for an answer)
- Constructive act of imagination (suddenly an answer emerges unexpectedly)
- Release of energy (we're pysched that we've solved the problem)
- Verification (we interpret or verify our insight, particularly integrating with past and projecting its implications into the future). (You can find this elaborated a bit more in The Knight’s Move, pages 230-2.)
This is powerful because it makes sense of those key moments in my life that transformed me, and--since I'm studying C. S. Lewis for an upcoming class and potentially a book--gives me an insight into those same transforming moments in Lewis's life.
Here's a critical moment: November 1908, the nine year-old Lewis experienced the first major crisis of his life. His beloved mother, Florence or “Flora” was diagnosed with cancer. Her condition worsened precipitously. This moment both traumatized and transformed him.
With my mother's death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk like Atlantis.
Though the young Lewis (or “Jack” as he liked to be called) was conventionally religious and a member of a Church of Ireland family, this trauma would lead him gradually to atheism. As he described it, this path to unbelief began with prayer. He prayed for a very specific reason (as he later wrote), “When her case was pronounced hopeless I remembered what I had been taught; that prayers offered in faith would be granted.” Despite these prayers, on August 23, his mother died. “The thing hadn’t worked, but I was used to things not working….” God, especially the Magician God was irrelevant to the crisis of suffering. His life was gradually transformed from this moment into increasing atheism, and with it, attendant despair.
Later--through his own conversion first to Theism in 1929 and then to Christian faith in 1931--this crisis would be reinterpreted, and a deeper, more profound transformation would occur. Lewis's resolution of this crisis found its way into a beautiful paragraph from his 1939 book, The Problem of Pain. I find this passage so overwhelming it's sometimes hard for me to keep reading. I find myself putting the book down and reflecting on the stunning mixture of wisdom, poignant emotion, and piercing insight that Lewis evokes.
The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world; but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasure inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.
This has been a long post. So I'll leave it there. As they say in Latin, res ipsa loquitur, "the thing speaks for itself." (At least for me... I hope it does for you too.)