Sins of the Intellect

Thinker, Portrait of Ivan Ilan, 1921-1922, by Mikhail Vasilyevich

Thinker, Portrait of Ivan Ilan, 1921-1922, by Mikhail Vasilyevich

scottish accents, the incurable abstraction of the intellect, and the need to believe in something.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is wrong with the Episcopalian Ghost?

The ghost has lost touch with the substance of his beliefs. Throughout their conversations, the Episcopalian ghost spouts generalities, cliches, and party lines. Though he doesn't seem to believe any of it, he is hell-bent on supporting it.

Lewis seems to describe this in his essay "Myth Became Fact." 

My friend Corineus has advanced the charge that none of us are in fact Christians at all. According to him historic Christianity is something so barbarous that no modern man can really believe it: the moderns who claim to do so are in fact believing a modern system of thought which retains the vocabulary of Christianity and exploits the emotions inherited from it while quietly dropping its essential doctrines. Corineus compared modern Christianity with the modern English monarchy: the forms of kingship have been retained, but the reality has been abandoned
- C.S. Lewis, Myth Became Fact

The ghost is not just guilty for believing the wrong things, but for using his intellect incorrectly. 

Rather than delighting in discovery, the ghost delights in the process of thinking. To go further into heaven he must learn to love Truth and Answers. Lewis writes, "There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again: even now."

2. What is the intellect for? How should it be used?

The intellect ought to be used as a tool, which helps us understand the world and God. But it is a tool, and not an end in itself. There is a danger in over reliance on the intellect because to use it, we must set things at a distance from ourselves. Take this passage from the previously cites essay...

Human intellect is incurably abstract. Pure mathematics is the type of successful thought. Yet the only realities we experience are concrete- this pain, this pleasure, this dog, this man. While we are loving the man, bearing the pain, enjoying the pleasure, we are not intellectually apprehending Pleasure, Pain or Personality. When we begin to do so, on the other hand, the concrete realities sink to the level of mere instances or examples: we are no longer dealing with them, but with that which they exemplify. This is our dilemma—either to taste and not to know or to know and not to taste—or, more strictly, to lack one kind of knowledge because we are in an experience or to lack another kind because we are outside it. As thinkers we are cut off from what we think about; as tasting, touching, willing, loving, hating, we do not clearly understand. The more lucidly we think, the more we are cut off: the more deeply we enter into reality, the less we can think. You cannot study pleasure in the moment of the nuptial embrace, nor repentance while repenting, nor analyze the nature of humor while roaring with laughter. But when else can you really know these things? "If only my toothache would stop, I could write another chapter about pain." But once it stops, what do I know about pain?
- C.S. Lewis, Myth Became Fact

The intellect is good because it can guide you to reality, but it cannot help you confront reality. The intellect may be able to bring you to God, but it cannot help you enter into relationship. If you treat the intellect as an ends in itself, you will be cut off from the reality you see to explain.

3. What does the intellect leads us toward?

I think it is meant to lead us toward relationships with others, the ability to act righteously, and ultimately, toward union with God through Christ. May we have the strength to be guided by the intellect, but never to stop short from experiencing reality. What do you think? 

You answer this one in the comments on twitter and facebook, in the links below!

Below, I've provided a link to the essay I referenced in the podcast.


Much love to you all!

Joy Clarkson