[I'm doing some work on an upcoming class on C. S. Lewis, as well as the manuscript that I'll finish at the end of 2013, C. S. Lewis in Crisis. Here's a brief excerpt of today's reflections.]
Lewis had criticisms of the Scientific Outlook that are worthy of note—the inherent connection, historically, between the rise of science and search for magic, both as means to control nature and make it what human beings want.
|Francis Bacon saying, "Lewis, you're right"|
[W]e see at once that [Sir Francis] Bacon and the magicians have the closest possible affinity. Both seek knowledge for the sake of power (in Bacon’s words, as ‘spouse for fruit’ not a ‘curtesan for pleasure’), both move in a grandiose dream of days when Man shall have been raised to the performance of ‘all things possible.’
Lewis believed, along with the medieval, that the goal of human life is to conform to nature. When, in contrast, we seek to use science or nature to bend it to our will and to make it in our image, then we raise enormous problems, and we deceive ourselves.
As a result, Lewis lamented the growth of the Machine, of the technological progress that distanced us from nature. In one of his most notable poems, “The Future of Forestry,” Lewis describes a world that has forgotten the beauty of the forest, and thus of nature, in its headlong pursuit of technological advance. (I am reminded of the work of Lewis’s friend and fellow Inkling, J. R. R. Tolkien, who placed in the hands of Saruman, the evil wizard, the destruction of the forests for the sake of production.)
How will the legend of the age of trees
Feel, when the last tree falls in England?
When the concrete spreads and the town conquers
The country’s heart;…
All these problems derive from scientific materialism, the assertion that this world is all there is and that science has demonstrated this fact. Lewis looked toward a re-enchantment of the world through myth and story to bring us to the place where we can find joy.