C.S. Lewis and Sigmund
Freud: Two Contrasting
Worldviews
Eric D. Achtyes, M.D., M.S.
Clinical Assistant Professor
Department of Psychiatry
Michigan State University
College of Human Medicine
April 3, 2009
Overview
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Background
Sigmund Freud’s Life
C.S. Lewis’ Life
Suffering and Pain: Freud and Lewis
Discussion/Questions
Background
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Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr. - Book and PBS video: “The
Question of God”.
Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and
Massachusetts General Hospital.
Asked to teach a class on Sigmund Freud to
undergraduates. Students wanted a countering opinion.
Nicholi incorporated Lewis’ views.
Has been teaching the course “Sigmund Freud and C.S.
Lewis: Two Contrasting World Views” to Harvard
undergraduates and at the Harvard Medical School for
>30 years as a critical review of literature.
Dr. Nicholi’s analyst, when he was in training, was Dr.
Felix Deutsch, who had been Freud’s physician when
his cancer was first diagnosed.
Bibliography
Freud:
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An Autobiographical Study
Question of a Weltanschauung
Lay Analysis
Future of an Illusion
A Religious Experience
Totem and Taboo
Moses and Monotheism
Psychoanalysis and Faith
Civilization and Its Discontents
Lewis:
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Mere Christianity
Miracles
Surprised by Joy
The Screwtape Letters
The Problem of Pain
A Grief Observed
Bibliography Cont.
Other
 “The Question of God,” Armand Nicholi, Jr.
 “The Illusion of a Future,” Oskar Pfister
 Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, John, Psalms from
the Bible.
 “Freud and the Problem of God,” Hans Kung
The Question of God
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Freud's Last Session
Written by Mark St. Germain, directed by Tyler Marchant
As suggested in the Epilogue of "The Question of God" by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.
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Starring: Fritz Weaver
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June 10, 2009 - June 28, 2009
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After escaping the Nazis in Vienna, legendary psychiatrist Dr. Sigmund Freud invites a
young, little known professor, C.S. Lewis, to his home in London. Lewis expects to be
called on the carpet for satirizing Freud in a recent book but the dying Freud has a
more significant agenda. On the day England entered WW II, Freud and Lewis clash
on the existence of God, love, sex and the meaning of life – only two weeks before
Freud chose to take his own.
Sigmund Freud’s Life
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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Anna Freud: “If you want to know my father… read
his letters.”
Sigismund Schlomo Freud, born May 6, 1856 in
Frieberg, Moravia (Czech Republic) to Jacob and
Amalia Freud.
Amalia (teenager) was Jacob’s (40 yrs old) 3rd wife. He
was already a grandfather and had 2 sons from his first
marriage, 1 older than Amalia, and 1 a year younger.
Freud was cared for by a nursemaid until 2 1/2 years
old. She was a devout Roman Catholic and took him to
church with her.
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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The nursemaid “told me a great deal about God
Almighty, and hell, and who instilled in me a high
opinion of my own capacities.”
His mother called him, her 1st born, her “golden
Siggie” and he was given his own room in which to
study.
Age <2 Freud’s younger brother, Julius, died, absorbing
a lot of his mother’s time.
His nanny was accused of stealing and dismissed
shortly thereafter.
He later referred to religion, with its repetitive practices,
as the “universal obsessional neurosis.”
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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His father, Jacob, was raised an Orthodox Jew, but his
religion faded as he aged.
Jacob read from the Hebrew Old Testament, the
Philippson Bible, and sent Freud a copy on his 35th
birthday.
Sigmund never learned Hebrew and knew only a little
Yiddish.
Jacob was a wool merchant, and the family relatively
poor, moved to Leipzig when Sigmund was 3 yo, and
then 1 yr later, to Vienna, Austria.
Sigmund lived and worked in Vienna until 1932, when
at the age of 82, he escaped to London to avoid the
Nazi invasion.
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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In his teen years, Sigmund studied Judaism under Samuel
Hammerschlag, a secular Jew who emphasized the historical and
ethical side of Jewish history, rather than the religious aspects.
At age 17, Sigmund entered the University of Vienna and was
influenced by a philosophy professor, Franz Brentano, a former
priest, who swayed Freud considerably toward a theistic
worldview.
A lifelong empiricist, Freud declared in a letter to a friend that,
“He [Brentano] demonstrates the existence of God with as little
bias and as much precision as another might argue the advantage
of the wave over the emission theory… …I have ceased to be a
materialist and am not yet a theist.”
This inner ambivalence stayed with Freud his entire life, despite
his public endorsements of atheism.
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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Freud began reading “The Essence of Christianity” by Ludwig
Feuerbach and agreed with him that religion was the projection
of human need and deep-seated wishes, that “the substance and
object of religion is altogether human… divine wisdom is
human wisdom… the secret of theology is anthropology…”
Freud wrote in the “Future of an Illusion” that “We shall tell
ourselves that it would be very nice if there were a God who
created the world and was a benevolent providence…and an
afterlife…but…all this is exactly as we are bound to wish it to
be.”
Within the medical communities of Europe, there was a distinct
disdain for the spiritual worldview an assumption that
empiricism was the only way to discover truth.
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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Sigmund worked in the lab of Ernest Brucke, who
asserted that no truth existed except that discernible by
the scientific method.
Vienna was >90% Catholic at the time. Freud faced
anti-Semitism in his efforts to obtain a professorship at
the University of Vienna, repeatedly being passed over
for a post. He waited 17 years. The usual wait was 4
years.
Medical journals at the time were filled with articles
illustrating how “Jews were profoundly flawed… and
predisposed to a host of illnesses.”
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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Jacob Freud told his son Sigmund a story when
Sigmund was 10 yrs old about how an anti-Semite had
knocked his cap off into the mud and shouted “Jew!
Get off the pavement!”
His father meekly went and picked up his cap and kept
walking.
To Sigmund that response was “unheroic conduct.”
Sigmund fought real and perceived anti-Semitism all his
life.
On a train Freud was once called a “dirty Jew.” He
describes being “not in the least frightened by the
mob… I was quite prepared to kill him…”
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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On Easter Sunday in 1886, at the age of 30, Freud
opened a private practice in neuropathology.
On Sept. 13, 1886, he married Martha Bernays in a
Town Hall in Germany, followed by a brief Jewish
ceremony in the home of the bride.
Jacob Freud died in Oct. 1896, and Sigmund, 40,
described it as “the most poignant loss in a man’s life.”
Despite viewing his father as a failure, the death struck
him hard, it “has affected me profoundly… I feel quite
uprooted.”
Freud began his self-analysis and proposed the
“Oedipus complex.”
Freud’s Apartment:
Berggasse 19, Vienna, Austria
Stairway to Freud’s
Consultation Rooms
Freud’s Couch
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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Freud’s mother died in 1930, and he was surprisingly
unemotional: “I was not at the funeral.”
Freud and his family were exiled to London on June 6,
1938, fearing Nazi attacks on the Jews. He was made to
sign a letter that he had been treated fairly by the Nazis
prior to his departure.
Freud died Sept. 23, 1939 at the age of 83. He had
fought oral cancer for years, performing surgery on
himself, using cocaine as an anesthetic. He convinced
his personal physician, Dr. Max Schur, to administer 3
lethal doses of morphine, which led to his death.
Sigmund Freud - 1931
Golders Green Crematorium
Freud’s Memorial
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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Freud seemed to struggle between what his nanny had
told him about having a “high opinion of his own
capacities,” and the external world’s desire to prove him
inferior.
His ideas were new, daring and based on his scientific
observations of human behavior. They were as
rigorously scientific as technology at the time would
allow.
His theories threatened the dominant majority’s opinion
of why humans behave the way they do.
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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Freud’s ego, while strong, was also easily threatened by
others. Narcissism and shame are often closely wed.
His friendships with colleagues were often strained as
Freud found discussion and disagreements about his
theories threatening (eg, the splits with Adler and Jung).
Unfortunately, Freud’s superior intellect often left him
with little regard for the opinions of others. “For the
masses are lazy and unintelligent… …arguments are of
no avail against their passions.” And, “…not all men are
worthy of love.”
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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Freud published >200 scholarly works (articles, books, etc.).
In 1910 he founded the International Psychoanalytical
Association, and the journal “Imago” in 1912.
Today Freud’s accomplishments are ranked with those of Planck
and Einstein.
He is listed as the 6th most influential scientist of all time.
He won the prestigious “Goethe prize” in 1930, and his face is on
the Austrian 50 shilling note.
He was made an Honorary Member of the British Royal Society
of Medicine in 1935.
President Franklin Roosevelt helped broker his safe transfer to
London in 1938.
He has been on the cover of “Time” magazine 3 times: 1924,
1939, 1993.
Freud Museum, London
Sigmund Freud’s Life
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Thanks in large part to Freud, it is now widely
accepted that early relationships with parents
and caregivers strongly impacts later
psychological health.
These early life relationships, as we will also see
with C.S. Lewis, profoundly influence the
development of one’s worldview.
C.S. Lewis’ Life
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Clive Staples Lewis was born November 29, 1898 in
Belfast, Ireland to Albert and Florence Lewis, who
married August 29, 1894.
Albert was Welsh in descent, and Florence, Scottish.
His father worked practicing law in Belfast and was
moody and emotional. His mother was cool and
analytical.
Lewis’ grandfather was vicar and preached at their local
church. He would weep in the pulpit.
Lewis’ father’s and grandfather’s emotionality bred in
him a distrust for emotions and religion. He instead
embraced a materialist worldview.
C.S. Lewis’ Life
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At age 4, Lewis informed his parents that he would go
by the name “Jack.”
At age 6, he first recognized beauty through creation—
moss, twigs and flowers. He called it ‘joy’ and
described it as a type of longing [which he eventually
recognized was for a Person].
From ages 6-8, his older brother, Warren was off at
boarding school. The cool, rainy, Belfast weather
contributed to his desire to spend time indoors. Lewis
lived almost entirely in his imagination: reading,
drawing and writing stories.
C.S. Lewis’ Life
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At age 9, Lewis’ world was turned upside down when
his grandfather died and then his mother became sick
with cancer and died. He recalled her surgery in their
home and having to observe her corpse—after praying
to God for her healing.
Albert Lewis decided he could not care adequately for
the boys and sent them both off to boarding school.
Lewis hated boarding school. The headmaster “Oldie”
was cruel. He would beat the children mercilessly. He
was eventually convicted of undue cruelty and his
school shut down due to a lack of students. He was a
clergyman in the Church of England, a fact that was
not lost on Lewis.
C.S. Lewis’ Life
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Alone in those moments, Lewis would long for the
holidays, much like one longed for heaven. He began to
live by hope.
At his second boarding school, he was comforted by the
school Matron, Miss Cowie, a type of surrogate mother.
She held and comforted the shy Lewis, as well as the
other boys.
She dabbled in the occult and shared it with the boys. At
age 13, this served to snuff out any vestiges of faith that
Lewis held onto. He also began reading classic literature
where the authors assumed the illegitimacy of religion.
She was eventually fired.
Lewis was lonely and unhappy. He hated the snobbery
of the boarding school community.
C.S. Lewis’ Life
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Lewis’ father relented, allowing him to be tutored by
William T. Kirkpatrick, “The Great Knock,” an atheist
who taught Lewis logic and critical thinking. Lewis
considered Christianity one religious myth among
many.
It was the happiest time of Lewis’ life. He spent hours
reading books of his own choosing.
He read George MacDonald’s “Phantastes,” which
replanted the seeds of the spiritual worldview.
Lewis took the admission exam for Oxford University
on December 4, 1916. He failed the math section, but
was granted admittance through the Army Officer
Training Corps.
Oxford University
C.S. Lewis’ Life
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Lewis became friends with Edward “Paddy” Moore in
his Officers Training course.
They agreed to care for each other’s parents if either of
them were killed. Lewis arrived in the trenches of
WWI on Nov. 29, 1917, on his 19th birthday.
When Paddy was killed, Lewis took care of his mother
until her death, calling her a surrogate mother.
Lewis was wounded and returned to Oxford in 1919,
spending the next 35 years there. After graduating in
1923, he taught philosophy for 1 year before accepting
a fellowship in English literature at Magdalen College at
Oxford in 1925.
Magdalen College,
Oxford University.
Lewis’ Office at Oxford
‘The Bird and the Baby’
‘The Inklings’ Corner
C.S. Lewis’ Life
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Lewis corresponded with many people by letter.
He began corresponding with Helen Joy Davidman
Gresham, a poet from the United States. She was
divorced and surprisingly came to England to meet
Lewis in 1952. He was taken by her wit and intellect.
They reportedly played scrabble together in 5 different
languages.
In 1956, at age 57, he married her, age 41. She was
already diagnosed with bone cancer.
It looked like she would die, but they prayed, and her
cancer went into remission.
They had several years of happy marriage together
including a trip to Greece. She died in 1960. Her son,
Douglas, was 14 at the time.
Marriage License
The Kilns
Lewis’ Kitchen
Lewis’ Dining Room
Lewis’ Sitting Room
Lewis’ Bathroom
C.S. Lewis’ Life
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C.S. Lewis has been called by “Time” magazine, the most
influential voice for the spiritual worldview, and graced its cover
in 1947.
He wrote >30 books including: “Surprised by Joy,” “Miracles,” “The
Problem of Pain,” “A Grief Observed,” “The Screwtape Letters,” “Mere
Christianity,” “The Great Divorce,” “The Abolition of Man,” “The
Weight of Glory.”
As a student at Oxford, he won a triple first, the highest honors
in 3 areas of study.
He was awarded the position of Chair in Medieval and
Renaissance English Literature at Cambridge University.
He was an immensely popular lecturer, filling lecture halls to
standing room capacity.
C.S. Lewis’ Life
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“Oxford History of English
Literature” (OHEL)
“The Chronicles of Narnia” – books
and movies.
“Shadowlands” – movie and
broadway play.
The second most recognizable
voice on the BBC during WWII,
behind Winston Churchill.
Shadowlands
Shadowlands
Opened 10/8/07, Wyndham’s Theatre,
London. Closed 2/23/08, Novello
Theatre, London.
William Nicholson’s play ‘Shadowlands’ is
set in Oxford during the 1950s and is the
moving true love story between C.S. Lewis
and Helen Joy Davidman Gresham. Lewis
had remained a confirmed bachelor until his
fifties when he met and was enchanted by
Joy Davidman, an American divorcee with 2
young children. They fell in love and were
secretly married. Lewis’ ensuing encounter
with love and suffering led him to reconsider
many of the beliefs he had held so
staunchly before their fateful meeting.
“Why love if losing hurts so much? The pain
now is part of the happiness then. That’s the
deal.”
--C.S. Lewis
Shadowlands - London
“The Chronicles of Narnia”
C.S. Lewis’ Life
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Lewis, too, embraced a materialist worldview for much of his life.
Some of this may have been a rebellious response against his
father, in part, for sending him away to boarding school at a time
of intense emotional need following his mother’s death. “I
maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with
God for not existing.”
Later, while at Oxford, he was converted first to theism in 1929,
and then to Christianity in 1931. His conversion is detailed in his
book ‘Surprised by Joy.’
Lewis became convinced of the existence of a universal Moral
Law, and also of an Author for that law. He believed this law had
to have come from somewhere or some-One. He also believed
man’s ability to reason pointed to a rational Creator.
As a literary critic, he re-examined the religious myths of
antiquity and became convinced that the Christian myth had
actual historic validity in the coming of Jesus Christ.
C.S. Lewis’ Life
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Lewis thought that our wishes for a protective father did not rule
out the possibility of a protective God but instead pointed to the
existence of one. “Creatures are not born with desires unless
satisfaction for those desires also exists. A baby feels
hunger..there is…food. Men feel sexual desire..there is…sex.”
Lewis thought that our dissatisfaction in this life pointed to the
fact that we were made for another world, otherwise, he thought,
“the universe is a fraud.”
He was loved by his colleagues for his intelligence, warmth and
politeness. He too had fought battles and suffered devastating
losses in his life, yet somehow did not become bitter and
contentious.
Suffering and Pain: Freud
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Loss of his nanny.
Anti-semitism (Freud attributed this to: fear of
castration, jealousy of God’s chosen people, displaced
anger against Christians). During Nazi occupation,
Freud gave cyanide pills to his daughter Anna in case
she was tortured when questioned at Gestapo
headquarters.
Loss of his daughter, Sophie, and her son, Heinle.
Criticisms of work: psychoanalysis not generalizable
beyond unique Viennese culture. ‘Jewish science’ vs
‘Aryan science.’
Suffering and Pain: Freud
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Freud suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety,
nicotine dependence, cocaine use, and the fear of
death.
Diagnosed with oral cancer in 1923 at age 67. His
doctor withheld the diagnosis for fear Freud would kill
himself.
He had 33 operations, usually under local anesthesia,
for his cancer.
He had a metal plate placed in the roof of his mouth
and chose to eat alone.
Suffering and Pain: Freud
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Freud wondered how there could be a loving God with
all of the suffering in this life?
To friend and Christian, Oskar Pfister, Freud wrote:
“how the devil do you reconcile all that we
experience… in this world with your assumption that
there is a moral order?”
Freud believed: “…the violent, cunning or ruthless man
seizes the envied good things of the world and the
pious man goes away empty. Obscure, unfeeling, and
unloving powers determine men’s fate.”
Suffering and Pain: Freud
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At the death of his beloved daughter, Sophie, from the
influenza epidemic of 1920 Freud wrote to a colleague:
“I do not know what more there is to say. It is such a
paralyzing event, which can stir no afterthoughts when
one is not a believer…”
Freud wrote to another friend that neither he nor his
wife “has got over the monstrous fact of children dying
before their parents.”
Freud wondered “when my turn will come” and wished
his life to be over.
Suffering and Pain: Freud
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At the loss of his 4 ½ year old grandson, Heinle, to
tuberculosis he writes:
“He was indeed an enchanting little fellow, and I myself
was aware of never having loved a human being,
certainly never a child, so much. …I don’t think I have
ever experienced such grief; …I work out of sheer
necessity; fundamentally everything has lost its meaning
for me… I find no joy in life. …I have spent some of
the blackest days of my life sorrowing about the child.
At last… I can think of him quietly and talk of him
without tears.”
Suffering and Pain: Freud
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Freud could not reconcile the suffering he
observed in his own life and the lives of those
he loved with an all-powerful, all-loving Creator.
Freud: “It seems not to be the case that there is
a Power in the universe which watches over the
well-being of individuals with parental care and
brings all their affairs to a happy ending…
Earthquakes, tidal waves, conflagrations, make
no distinction between the virtuous and pious
and the scoundrel or unbeliever.”
Suffering and Pain: Freud
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In “The Future of an Illusion,” 1927, Freud says of
believers: “They will have to admit to themselves the full
extent of their helplessness… they can no longer be the
centre of the creation, no longer the object of the tender
care on the part of the beneficent Providence… And, as
for the great necessities of Fate, against which there is
no help, they will learn to endure them with resignation.”
And, in a letter to a friend who had lost a daughter: “As
an unbelieving fatalist, I can only sink into a state of
resignation when faced with the horror of death.”
Suffering and Pain: Freud
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Freud: “There are the elements which seem to mock at
all human control: the earth which quakes…
…diseases… and the painful riddle of death, against
which no medicine has yet been found…”
Later, he writes: “…life is hard to bear… a permanent
state of anxious expectation.”
He writes: “I… have no dread at all of the Almighty. If
we ever were to meet I should have more reproaches to
make to Him than He could to me.”
Suffering and Pain: Freud
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Despite professing disbelief, Freud was preoccupied with
the idea of the devil.
He thought that the devil represented our defiant spirit
towards our parents just as our desire for a protective
parent led to our conceptualization of God. Even if the
devil were real, Freud thought, it was still God’s fault for
allowing the devil to exist at all.
Freud read Goethe’s “Faust” and Balzac’s “The Fatal
Skin.” Both feature a man of science, depressed over his
lack of recognition, who makes a deal with the devil and
considers suicide.
Freud read “The Fatal Skin” on the day he chose to die by
euthanasia.
Suffering and Pain: Freud
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Freud concludes: “If the believer finally sees himself
obliged to speak of God’s ‘inscrutable decrees,’ he is
admitting that all that is left to him as a last possible
consolation and source of pleasure in his sufferings is
an unconditional submission. And if he is prepared for
that, he could probably have spared himself the detour
he has made.”
And yet Freud says: “…only religion can answer the
question of the purpose of life.”
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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Loss of his mother. It was “alien and menacing.” “My
grief was overwhelmed with terror.”
Boarding school.
WWI: loss of friend, shrapnel injury, caring for Paddy
Moore’s mother. She lived with Lewis and his brother
Warren for 6-7 years before succumbing to Alzheimer’s
disease.
He suffered from loneliness, depression, and possibly
PTSD.
In 1929, Lewis’ father passed away. He showed little
remorse.
Rejected for Oxford chair, he finally accepted
Cambridge chair.
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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Lewis wrote “The Problem of Pain” in 1940. It was a
cerebral treatise for why pain is necessary.
Lewis writes that prior to his conversion, he wouldn’t
have believed in a good God: human history “is largely
a record of crime, war, disease and terror… all
civilizations pass away and, even while they remain,
inflict peculiar sufferings on their own… if you ask me
to believe that this is the work of a benevolent and
omnipotent spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in
the opposite direction. Either there is no spirit behind
the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil,
or else an evil spirit.”
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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Lewis changed his view after his conversion.
In “The Problem of Pain” he argues that “love” and
“kindness” are different things and that true love
is tough love (ie. going to the dentist): “love, in
its own nature, demands the perfecting of the
beloved; …mere ‘kindness’ which tolerates
anything except suffering in its object is…at the
opposite pole from Love.”
Lewis also believed no true happiness could be
found apart from our Creator.
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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Lewis says: “…pain insists upon being attended to. God
whispers to us in our pleasures… but shouts in our pain:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. …Pain as
God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to
final and unrepented rebellion.”
He attributed much suffering and pain to men’s choices
saying: “It is men, not God, who have produced racks,
whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs;” and,
“All suffering arises from sin.”
Lewis views ‘hell’ as God giving man the freedom from
Him that he desires: “They enjoy forever the horrible
freedom they have demanded. …the doors …are locked
on the inside.”
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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At age 62, Lewis lost his wife, Joy, after only 4 years of
marriage.
In “A Grief Observed,” 1961, he writes from a
perspective of his feelings: “Aren’t all these notes the
senseless writhings of a man who won’t accept the fact
that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to
suffer it?”
He beseeches Joy: “My dear, my dear, come back for
one moment… The same leg is cut off time after time.
The first plunge of the knife into the flesh is felt again
and again.”
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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Lewis asks where God is during suffering? “But go to
Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is
vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your
face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the
inside.”
And: “Why is He so present a commander in our time
of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of
trouble?”
He says: “But don’t come talking to me about the
consolation of religion, or I shall suspect that you don’t
understand.”
He wonders if God is: “The Cosmic Sadist, the spiteful
imbecile?”
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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Lewis’ doubt: “The conclusion I dread is not, ‘So
there’s no God after all,’ but, ‘So this is what God’s
really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’”
Lewis likened it to surgery concluding: “The tortures
occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or
a bad one. If there is a good God, then the tortures are
necessary.”
Lewis believed in Satan and demons as fallen angels.
Lewis believed that the “government of the universe”
was temporarily in enemy hands. “…we are living in a
part of the universe occupied by the rebel… Enemy
occupied territory—that is what this world is.”
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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Lewis believed that God created his creatures with “free
will” to choose or not choose God. He thought the only
love worth having had to be chosen freely, not coerced.
He writes: “God created things which had free will. That
means creatures which can go either right or wrong.
…free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only
thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy
worth having. A world of automata… would hardly be
worth creating.”
On God’s omniscience: “Of course God knew what
would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way:
apparently He thought it worth the risk.”
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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According to his letters, Lewis never lost his faith
entirely. For Lewis, the very fact that he was angry at
God for the “unjust,” was evidence that there was a
right and wrong—the universal moral law written on all
human hearts.
He writes: “A man does not call a line crooked unless
he has some idea of a straight line… Thus in the very
act of trying to prove that God did not exist… I found
I was forced to assume that… my idea of justice—was
full of sense.”
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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In June 1961, Lewis suffered from osteoporosis,
an enlarged prostate, hydronephrosis, toxemia,
and cardiac problems.
July 15, 1963, he suffered a heart attack and
lapsed into a coma, from which he eventually
recovered.
On November 22, 1963, Lewis’ brother, Warren,
took him his tea at 4PM, heard a crash at
5:30PM, and found Lewis on his back in his
room. He died 5 minutes later.
The Room Where Lewis Died
Trinity Church
Lewis’ Gravestone
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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Lewis maintained his sense of humor through his
illness. He saw death as a natural part of life. “100% of
us die and the percentage cannot be increased.”
His friends and family said: “Never was a man better
prepared,” and, “About a week before his death he said
to me, ‘I have done all that I was sent into the world to
do, and I am ready to go.’ I have never seen death
looked in the face so tranquilly,” and, “He was a deeply
kind and charitable man.”
Suffering and Pain
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Both Freud and Lewis suffered great losses in
their lives and reached very different conclusions
about the existence of God and the meaning of
suffering in our lives.
Have you encountered any real pain personally,
or through the illness of someone close to you?
Suffering and Pain: Lewis
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Do we say with Freud? “As an unbelieving fatalist, I can
only sink into a state of resignation when faced with the
horror of death.”
Or do we resonate with Lewis? He never got answers to
all his questions, but received: “…a rather special sort of
‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a
silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though
He shook His head, not in refusal, but waiving the
question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’”
Do we accept a difficult situation or try to change it?
Do we shake our fist in defiance or do we humbly accept
our lot in life? How do we counsel those who are
grieving losses? What role does faith play?
Suffering and Pain
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Freud, after the loss of his grandson, Heinle, says: “At
last… I can think of him quietly and talk of him
without tears.”
With time, Lewis also reports healing after the loss of
his wife, Joy: “Turned to God, my mind no longer
meets that locked door… Like the warming of a room
or the coming of daylight. When you first notice them
they have already been going on for some time.”
Does time heal all wounds? Is healing a Divine project,
a human project, both?
Concluding Thoughts
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Both Lewis and Freud suffered pain and loss. Both
struggled with the question of God and man’s place in
the universe.
Each of us must also answer these questions for
ourselves.
How do you reconcile the question of pain and
suffering? What arguments (cognition) and experiences
(feelings) have informed your view?
Are there other authors you have read that have swayed
your view?
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Lewis and Freud: Contrasting Worldviews