📙 Miracles

Author: C. S. Lewis

Full Title: Miracles

Highlights from March 10th, 2021.

Just because the Naturalist thinks that nothing but Nature exists, the word Nature means to him merely ‘everything’ or ‘the whole show’ or ‘whatever there is’. And if that is what we mean by Nature, then of course nothing else exists.
Nature means what happens ‘of itself’ or ‘of its own accord’: what you do not need to labour for; what you will get if you take no measures to stop it. The Greek word for Nature (Physis) is connected with the Greek verb for ‘to grow’; Latin Natura, with the verb ‘to be born’. The Natural is what springs up, or comes forth, or arrives, or goes on, of its own accord: the given, what is there already: the spontaneous, the unintended, the unsolicited.
What the Naturalist believes is that the ultimate Fact, the thing you can’t go behind, is a vast process in space and time which is going on of its own accord. Inside that total system every particular event (such as your sitting reading this book) happens because some other event has happened; in the long run, because the Total Event is happening.
The Naturalist believes that a great process, of ‘becoming’, exists ‘on its own’ in space and time, and that nothing else exists—what we call particular things and events being only the parts into which we analyse the great process or the shapes which that process takes at given moments and given points in space. This single, total reality he calls Nature.
The Supernaturalist believes that one Thing exists on its own and has produced the framework of space and time and the procession of systematically connected events which fill them. This framework, and this filling, he calls Nature.
If we decide that Nature is not the only thing there is, then we cannot say in advance whether she is safe from miracles or not. There are things outside her: we do not yet know whether they can get in.
Now it will be noticed that if this theory is true we have really admitted something other than Nature. If the movements of the individual units are events ‘on their own’, events which do not interlock with all other events, then these movements are not part of Nature.
would be, indeed, too great a shock to our habits to describe them as super-natural. I think we should have to call them sub-natural. But all our confidence that Nature has no doors, and no reality outside herself for doors to open on, would have disappeared.
Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldane: ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true … and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.’

Highlights from March 19th, 2021.

The relation between response and stimulus is utterly different from that between knowledge and the truth known. Our physical vision is a far more useful response to light than that of the cruder organisms which have only a photo-sensitive spot. But neither this improvement nor any possible improvements we can suppose could bring it an inch nearer to being a knowledge of light.
If the value of our reasoning is in doubt, you cannot try to establish it by reasoning.
Reason is our starting point. There can be no question either of attacking or defending it.
You may say simply ‘Our way of thinking is useful’—without adding, even under your breath, ‘and therefore true’. It enables us to set a bone and build a bridge and make a Sputnik. And that is good enough.
Goodbye to all that. No more theology, no more ontology, no more metaphysics … But then, equally, no more Naturalism.
Nature is not an object that can be presented either to the senses or the imagination. It can be reached only by the most remote inferences.
To call the act of knowing—the act, not of remembering that something was so in the past, but of ‘seeing’ that it must be so always and in any possible world—to call this act ‘supernatural’, is some violence to our ordinary linguistic usage. But of course we do not mean by this that it is spooky, or sensational, or even (in any religious sense) ‘spiritual’. We mean only that it ‘won’t fit in’; that such an act, to be what it claims to be—and if it is not, all our thinking is discredited—cannot be merely the exhibition at a particular place and time of that total, and largely mindless, system of events called ‘Nature’.
The distinction we have to make is not one between ‘mind’ and ‘matter’, much less between ‘soul’ and ‘body’ (hard words, all four of them) but between Reason and Nature: the frontier coming not where the ‘outer world’ ends and what I should ordinarily call ‘myself’ begins, but between reason and the whole mass of non-rational events whether physical or psychological.
Nature can only raid Reason to kill; but Reason can invade Nature to take prisoners and even to colonise.
Every object you see before you at this moment—the walls, ceiling, and furniture, the book, your own washed hands and cut fingernails, bears witness to the colonisation of Nature by Reason: for none of this matter would have been in these states if Nature had had her way.
I am only too well aware how shocking those who have been brought up to Naturalism will find the picture which begins to show itself. It is, frankly, a picture in which Nature (at any rate on the surface of our own planet) is perforated or pock-marked all over by little orifices at each of which something of a different kind from herself—namely reason—can do things to her.
I therefore cannot be that eternal self-existent Reason which neither slumbers nor sleeps. Yet if any thought is valid, such a Reason must exist and must be the source of my own imperfect and intermittent rationality. Human minds, then, are not the only supernatural entities that exist. They do not come from nowhere. Each has come into Nature from Supernature: each has its tap-root in an eternal, self-existent, rational Being, whom we call God. Each is an offshoot, or spearhead, or incursion of that Supernatural reality into Nature.
We are interested in man only because his rationality is the little tell-tale rift in Nature which shows that there is something beyond or behind her.
In a pond whose surface was completely covered with scum and floating vegetation, there might be a few water-lilies. And you might of course be interested in them for their beauty. But you might also be interested in them because from their structure you could deduce that they had stalks underneath which went down to roots in the bottom.