The Dream That Opened C.S. Lewis’s Other EyeThe man who has provided an intellectual framework for faith for so many says heÂ only saw the world with one eye openâ€”even as a Christianâ€”until a dream awakenedÂ a fuller vision of reality. In his essay “Two Lectures,” C.S. Lewis describes an academicÂ talkÂ he attended on natural progression via the evolutionary model. Lewis had a dream later that night that opened his eyes toÂ a fatal flaw, an intellectual trick, an unnoticed, but significant, defect of the lecturer’s theory.
In Lewis’s dream he was back at the lecture with the same voice droningÂ on, but it was saying something quiteÂ different. The second lecture painted aÂ similar picture of progress from simple to complex, but went even further: it went back to the common fact we all have experienced, that something more complex always precedes the simple things. Yes an oak tree comes from an acorn, something simple, Lewis points out, but where does the acorn come from? It comes from an oak tree, something more complex. It is always the more complex thing that precedes the simple process of progress.
Yet we have been nurturedÂ in our culture, as Lewis understood in his day, to ignore this simple truth. “We have been trained to do this all our lives: trained to look at the universe with one eye shut,” Lewis wrote, “‘Developmentalism’ is made to look plausible by a kind of trick.” This trick, this sleight of hand, this intellectual fallacy foundational to so much of modern thought, is that it leavesÂ “off the subject of absolute beginnings.”
Question: Why would modern thought ignore absolute beginnings?
Answer: Here, there be dragons. Or, Tokien references aside, here, there be a Creator.
It’s not hard to seeÂ why some modern thinkers would prefer to dodge that possibility. In the whole discussion of what came first, the chicken or the egg, theyÂ assume the egg and leave the chicken alone. The egg is simple, the chicken complex. ItÂ can do no good to begin with theÂ complex when your whole system depends on the exact opposite.
Leave the chickens, dragons, and Creator out of the equation. Focus on the egg.Â But Lewis showed how the egg first theory really isn’t viableÂ andÂ certainly not more scientific.
To assume an eternal egg doesn’t require less faith than beginning with a created chicken. Or, as some might attempt, to try to conjure up some evolutionary process that produces an egg without a chicken is flatlyÂ absurd and opposite of all our experiences.
Here’s how Lewis describes it:“On any view the first beginning must have been outside the ordinary processes of nature. An egg which came from no bird is no more ‘natural’ than a bird which had existed from all eternity. And since the egg-bird-egg sequence leads us to no plausible beginning, is it not reasonable to look for the real origin somewhere outside the sequence altogether? You have to go outside the sequence of engines, into the world of men, to find the real originator of the Rocket. Is it not equally reasonable to look outside Nature for the real Originator of the natural order?”
The morning after the dream,Â one of Lewis’s students didn’t show up for a meetingÂ which gave theÂ professor timeÂ to reflect.Â “For the first time in my life I began to look at the question with both eyes open,” he wrote.Â His experiences of the real lecture juxtaposedÂ withÂ the dream lectureÂ helped him see something simple he had missed, how the grand atheistic model, the contemporary educated opinion, the popularÂ academic attitude, places all of its eggs in the basket ofÂ simpleÂ beginnings. ButÂ all of our experiences point the opposite direction: the simple things come from the more complex.
To ignore this is to content oneself in seeing the world with one eye shut. I’m not sure how that is more sophisticated or more scientific. But it does leave God out of the conversation. Perhaps that’s the point.