One Didn’t Need Emotion

C.S. Lewis had an experience after the death of his wife described beautifully below. In it he details what I have experienced with some people in my life, experienced from a significant distance, a connectedness, a sense of being united though distinctly apart. My own experiences and this one thus described by Lewis with his deceased wife tell me we have much to learn about the connectedness of humanity as love and in love. It tells me we know so much with our language-dependent minds, we know so much that we have become ignorant where we need most to know intimately. We are dumbed-down by our reliance on more seemingly rational modes of connecting and communicating. And what follows hopefully describes what I mean here:

“It’s the quality of last night’s experience—not what it proves but what it was—that makes it worth putting down. It was quite incredibly unemotional. Just the impression of her mind momentarily facing my own. Mind, not “soul” as we tend to think of soul. Certainly the reverse of what is called “soulful.” Not at all like a rapturous reunion of lovers. Much more like getting a telephone call or a wire from her about some practical arrangement. Not that there was any “message” –just intelligence and attention. No sense of joy or sorrow. No love even, in our ordinary sense. No un-love. I had never in any mood imagined the dead as being so—well, so business-like. Yet there was an extreme and cheerful intimacy. An intimacy that had not passed through the sense or the emotions at all. 

If this was a throw-up from my unconscious, then my unconscious must be a far more interesting region than the depth psychologists have led me to expect. For one thing, it is apparently much less primitive than my consciousness. 

Wherever it came from, it has made a sort of spring cleaning in my mind. The dead could be like that; sheer intellects. A Greek philosopher wouldn’t have been surprised at an experience like mine. He would have expected that if anything of us remained after death it would be just that. Up to now this always seemed to me a most arid and chilling idea. The absence of emotion repelled me. But in this contact (whether real or apparent) it didn’t do anything of the sort. One didn’t need emotion. The intimacy was complete—sharply bracing and restorative too—without it. Can that intimacy be love itself—always in this life attended with emotion, not because it is itself an emotion, or needs an attendant emotion, but because our animal souls, our nervous systems, our imaginations, have to respond to it in that way? If so, how many preconceptions I must scrap! A society, a communion, of pure intelligences would not be cold, drab and comfortless. On the other hand it wouldn’t be very like what people usually mean when they use such words as “spiritual,” or “mystical,” or “holy.” It would, if I have had a glimpse, be—well, I’m almost scared at the adjectives I’d have to use. Brisk? cheerful? keen? alert? intense? wide-awake? Above all, solid. Utterly reliable. Firm. There is no nonsense about the dead. … What seemed to meet me was full of resolution.” 

C.S. Lewis A Grief Observed 

And there need be no nonsense about the alive, except the most seriously fun kind. What of this connection, this intimacy that could be love itself and that needs no words? Just how much do we actually know? And how much more alive would we be, more connected as thus described by Lewis and by my own experiences if we recognized that awareness and knowledge are two very different realities? Which one breathes the essence of intellect/soul into all we do and be? Which one grasps at an object and begs to retrieve what is already within? Awareness seems to be the step up from knowledge but doesn’t even require it. How much more potent the awareness when it is enriched by enlivened knowing?

Full of questions, no? What of emotion? How does it fit into resolution? The thing about emotion is that it takes us places, provokes, inspires to change, to choose and yet love is something independent of emotion. And it is profoundly connected to our intellect/intellgence in action. But now I ramble… 

There’s more to know deeply, more to unity in love than we’ve begun to recognize. If we can get past the trap of thinking that the heights of rapturous emotion are the route to union and love, we’ll find a deeply feeling experience of ourselves as love and begin to connect to Source and to humanity on revolutionizing levels. We’ll make those connections that truly sustain. 

On with it…  

jruthkelly © 2008, 2009

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