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Lewis' ideas on shared suffering

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Lewis' ideas on shared suffering

Postby mgton » 07 Oct 2009, 20:54

I can't remember where I read this in Lewis. He seemed to have this idea that we can somehow suffer for each other, that somehow my sufferings might have something to do with you. I remember a speaker commenting that Lewis got this idea from Charles Williams. I know I'm being sort of vague here, but the idea is just that somehow our sufferings can be shared and that we could even suffer on behalf of another in some mysterious way.

Anyone know what I'm talking about or where I could find it in Lewis (or Williams)?
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Re: Lewis' ideas on shared suffering

Postby deadwhitemale » 08 Oct 2009, 00:56

Yes, I think Lewis did pick up some such idea from Charles Williams. I seem to dimly recall there being a good deal about it in Williams' 1937 novel, Descent Into Hell, which I skimmed over about twenty years ago.

A couple of minutes of Googling turned up this:

4. The Doctrine of Substitution & the Way of Exchange—This is one of the ways that co-inherence can be actively practiced. Everyone participates in physical exchange (I am dependant on the farmers who produce my food; those who go to war die in the place of those who stay home and for whom peace is purchased, etc); we can choose to see these personal/social/political contacts as blessings and practice co-inherence in the strength of Christ’s resurrections. We can make compacts to bear one another’s burdens. These principles can work among the living in any space and time, and also with the dead and the unborn.

The clearest explication of “The Doctrine of Substituted Love” comes in the chapter of that title in Descent into Hell, in which Stanhope carries Pauline’s fear for her, so she is no longer afraid to meet her doppleganger. Also, in chapter V of He Came Down from Heaven, Williams gives a non-fiction account of this principle. Williams claims that the mockery hurled at Christ on the cross, “He saved others, but he cannot save himself” was actually the rudimentary expression of a universal principle: nobody can save himself, but we can voluntarily substitute ourselves for others and “carry their burdens” quite literally, even though those burdens may be spiritual, emotional, or medical. Martyrs and the Eucharist are examples of Christ in us and us in Him. Evil was consumed by good when Christ suffered on the Cross, and now our lives can be united to good in Christ’s earthly life.

In the Arthurian poems, this is also called the “doctrine of largesse.” Mordred enacts the opposite: he refused to depend on anyone and turned away from co-inherence to make sure everything worked for himself. The beginnings of substitution are expounded in “The Advent of Galahad.” In the “Founding of the Company” poem in The Region of the Summer Stars, Taliessin and his friends practice the way of exchange.'

http://iambicadmonit.blogspot.com/2007/ ... hemes.html

I hope you find this more helpful than I have to date. Don't get me wrong : I am NOT saying there is nothing to it. On the contrary, I think there IS something to it, and that anyone who tries it is really playing with fire. I mean if you ask to carry the fear or sorrow or pain of another person (living or dead -- say, perhaps some long-ago martyr, or recent murder victim), you just might get what you're asking for, and it may be pretty tough if you're not really prepared for it.

There's a little more about it here. (I caution you that you may find out more than you wanted to know about Charles Williams here. He had been involved in what many would consider questionable things.)


' Simply stated, co-inherence is the concept that all human beings are spiritually interconnected and totally dependent on each other. "No man is an island" and so every thought and every action affects other people. In another terminology, humanity shares a "vast spiritual reservoir".

Williams took some trouble to emphasize that effective Exchange and Substitution did not require "intense states of natural love" or the "most advanced sacrificial victims of religion", but rather, could be implemented by "ourselves" and "the ordinary man". It operates in ordinary life, and does not require faith, but only "the first faint motions of faith". In the novel, Descent Into Hell Williams graphically dramatized the application and scope of exchange and substitution.

The practice of exchange and substitution implies that one can take, by a mutual agreement or compact, the mental, emotional or physical burdens of another. In Descent Into Hell Pauline allows her obsessive fear to be taken on by Peter Stanhope (an idealized Charles Williams figure). This exchange is presented as being comparable to allowing a friend to carry a parcel. The fear is a burden to Pauline because she has become overwhelmed by it: its assumption is a relatively small concern to someone who has his or her own inner state well regulated in that regard. As Williams pointed out elsewhere: "one may practice a virtue on behalf of another more easily than for ones self". The exchange does not have to be reciprocal with a specific person or for a similar kind of need. In the novel, an unburdened Pauline goes on to help the earthbound soul of a recent suicide, and, reaching further back in time, takes on the death of an ancestor, permitting him to die an exemplary death.

The actual mechanism of substitution and exchange is simple, though not always easy. The greatest obstacle, as any counsellor can testify, is often the unwillingness of the sufferer to let go of the root cause of their pain. It is important that the compact of exchange be mutual, particularly on the part of the sufferer. After the initial sympathetic exchange, the substitute is imagined as experiencing the symptoms instead. The substitute in turn privately visualizes the situation and accepts the pain and negativity. Because the substitute is more detached from the physical and emotional history of the suffer, the emotions are more easily balanced and the pain better endured.

As the practical working out of substitution and exchange is in the imagination and on the astral level, neither time nor distances are obstacles to its implementation. A change can be effected on the past from the present time using this technique. The main difficulty would lie in reaching a mutual consent across time. All the ethical aspects of the situation, especially with regard to the karmic responsibilities of others, would also require careful consideration. However, self-therapy, working on ones own time-line to modify past trauma from a balanced stance in the present, is a safe and profitable exercise.

Charles Williams warned of some dangers in the practice of exchange and substitution. Chief amongst these is "pretentiousness". Amazing feats and wonderworking are to be avoided: the Order of Co-Inherence is not to become a backdrop for ego-trips. Nor is anything to be promised that obviously can not be done. Williams emphasized the wisdom of beginning with the practice of small things: "To begin by practicing faith where it is easiest is better than to try and practice it where it is hardest". However, he also added: "There is little that could not be done". '

http://www.polarissite.net/page27.html


David
"It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun." -- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim(1899?)
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Re: Lewis' ideas on shared suffering

Postby mgton » 08 Oct 2009, 14:42

Wow. Great Post! There's definitely more to this idea than I bargained for. I was just thinking that we could share the sufferings of another and that others could share our sufferings. And maybe people living in different centuries could be profoundly impacted by each other's sufferings. Something like that. I didn't know about William's idea of "substitution," that one could literally take on another's sufferings just as one carries a package for another. Seems like, for it to work, it would have to involve a miracle, if we're talking about physical pain.

Did Lewis go all the way with William's idea or did he just stick his toe in the water (so to speak)? Come to think of it, when Lewis' wife was sick, didn't Lewis have a priest pray with him that his wife's illness could leave her and be "taken in" by him?

Did Lewis write about this idea of shared suffering anywhere?
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Re: Lewis' ideas on shared suffering

Postby mgton » 08 Oct 2009, 15:19

I found some of Lewis' comments on this idea. The link is below. He seems to be a little skeptical of it, but at the same time he did in fact try it with his wife's illness and seems to think it may have actually taken place. Interesting.

http://books.google.com/books?id=JSfy5D ... on&f=false
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Re: Lewis' ideas on shared suffering

Postby Adam Linton » 08 Oct 2009, 23:34

Indeed, good post on Charles Williams, deadwhitemale.

And I'd also suggest the thread--here in the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis/Inklings and Influences/thoughts on Charles Williams--especially Dr. Paul Ford's post.
we have not loosely through silence permitted things to pass away as in a dream
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Re: Lewis' ideas on shared suffering

Postby deadwhitemale » 10 Oct 2009, 06:44

You are very welcome, my friends. I am only too happy to assist sincere seekers in any way I can. And I thank you in my turn: it is gratifying to be able to contribute something which is of value to someone.

Just now, a brief Web search revealed that Descent Into Hell, Williams' 1937 novel which (as far as I know) dealt with this topic in the greatest depth and detail, seems to be available to be read online for free at this link:

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0300341.txt

There is also a Wikipedia article about that novel which I found helpful. Unfortunately, I do not have the link.

David
"It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun." -- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim(1899?)
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Re: Lewis' ideas on shared suffering

Postby agingjb » 10 Oct 2009, 07:46

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Re: Lewis' ideas on shared suffering

Postby Tuke » 10 Oct 2009, 08:58

This may be a relative source from scripture:
Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.

Similarly, Romans 8:17 And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
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2 Corinthians 1:5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
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2 Corinthians 12:15 I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?
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Philippians 2:17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.
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Colossians 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
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2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
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2 Timothy 2:10 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. (NASB ©1995)
"The 'great golden chain of Concord' has united the whole of Edmund Spenser's world.... Nothing is repressed; nothing is insubordinate. To read him is to grow in mental health." The Allegory Of Love (Faerie Queene)

2 Corinthians IV.17 The Weight of Glory
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Re: Lewis' ideas on shared suffering

Postby Stanley Anderson » 10 Oct 2009, 19:06

Hi,
I was passing through looking for some text from an old post, and ran across this thread. I just throught I would add a link to a paper my wife Angelee wrote quite a few years ago that talks about this subject. It is called "The Nature of the City: Visions of the Kingdom and its Saints in Charles Williams' [i]All Hallows' Eve[/i]" and can be found on our Sangreal website (the site is hopelessly out of date -- it hasn't been updated in probably more than 10 years -- long before we converted to the Catholic faith from our Anglican background, so the site in in great need of revision, but the paper on Charles Williams is still informative, I think). Anyway, the paper is at this URL: http://pweb.jps.net/~sangreal/cw.htm

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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