Two Peas in Another Pod

Michael Metzger

If you like C. S. Lewis, you’ll probably like Iain McGilchrist. They’re two peas in a pod.

Last week I suggested Bono and C. S. Lewis are two peas in a pod. This week I’m suggesting C. S. Lewis and Iain McGilchrist are two peas… in another pod. This pod recognizes our natural condition (i.e. hiddenness) requires emptying ourselves (i.e. unconcealing).

Confused? Start with hiddenness. There’s a lot of it in the Bible. Since God is love but we’re fallen, God hides his face from us (otherwise we’d be incinerated). Since God is infinite love but we’re finite, hiddenness also describes the kingdom of heaven, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and who we truly are (they’re all of infinite worth to God). For example, The Bride of Christ is who we truly are. The gospel is God “marrying” us, a story of love and romance, and “as is proper in romance,” Lewis wrote, “the inner meaning is carefully hidden.” It’s hidden for our sake.

Hiddenness is why each book in Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia reveals what he called “the kappa element in romance.” He took the first letter—kappa—from the Greek word krypton, meaning hidden element, to describe the secretly hidden atmosphere of the gospel as a love story. It’s hidden in the sense that it’s present everywhere, but nowhere explicit.

Now consider Iain McGilchrist. “Hiddenness suggests that what is understood by the right hemisphere is likely to be uncomprehended by the left.”[1] That’s because the right’s approach is as “a privileged listener and respondent” to whatever is out there, including God. The right hemisphere is passive, contemplative, listening to the voice of God.

The left hemisphere is active, figuring stuff out, trying to grasp who God is. But this overlooks how Jesus did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself. Emptying ourselves is what is called unconcealing.

Heidegger wrote about this, but who reads Heidegger? McGilchrist does. Heidegger said Being (i.e. God) is hidden, so things as they truly are—the good, the bad, and the ugly—have to be “unconcealed,” which happens to be the strong suit of the right hemisphere, not the left. The left hemisphere prefers control, trying to “figure out” God and ourselves. As a result, notions like hiddenness and unconcealing are incomprehensible to the left hemisphere.

Which brings us to C. S. Lewis. After coming to faith, he was introduced to what Jason Baxter calls “deep conversion” or “unveiling.”[2] This is emptying, or unconcealing, both of which go against the grain of control. Control presents an obstacle to loving God for it seeks to keep things shallow, never experiencing deep conversion. This was Lewis’ temptation.

“This is my endlessly recurrent temptation: to go down to that Sea (I think St. John of the Cross called God a sea) and there neither dive nor swim nor float, but only dabble and splash, careful not to get out of my depth and holding on to the lifeline which connects me with things temporal.”[3] Lewis’ words reveal the fear of a complete “unveiling,” or deep conversion. He confessed as much in Surprised by Joy. “And this is what I wanted; some area, however small, of which I could say to all things, “This is my business and mine only.’”[4]

It’s worth noting a bride is unveiled during her wedding ceremony. This depicts the gospel. Yet a bridegroom and bride unveil even more of themselves on their wedding night. This too depicts the gospel. We’re betrothed to Christ, preparing to be presented as a pure virgin to Jesus at our wedding so that we may enjoy the fullness of salvation. Hence, salvation is in three tenses: We have been saved, we’re being saved, so that we will be saved. All three involve deeper degrees of unveiling, or deep conversion, the fullness of salvation.

And that’s why I imagine C. S. Lewis and Iain McGilchrist as two peas in a pod. It’s a pod that recognizes our natural condition (hiddenness) requires emptying ourselves (unconcealing). Seems to me every Christian ought to be a pea in this pod.

 

[1] Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Yale University Press, 2010).

[2] Jason M. Baxter: The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis (InterVarsity Academic, 2022), 130.

[3] C. S. Lewis, “A Slip of the Tongue,” in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses (HarperOne, 1980), 185-187.

[4] C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1955), 172

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing the beautiful imagery of multiple levels of unveiling.

    Reminds me also of Screwtape Letters, Chapter 13, where Wormwood is chided for loosing his ‘patient’ who experiences a “…second conversion – and probably on a deeper level than the first.”

    The phrase “second conversion” has rattled around in my head for years, meaning, to me, that I actually believe and act on what I affirm as doctrine.

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