Sunday, 7 September 2014

"...And when I tried to pray I found the line 'dead'" - what to do when disconnected from God (Christians are pagan as well as Christian - therefore we can use pagan remedies)


Dairy of Warnie Lewis (C.S. Lewis's brother) for 4 March 1948.

Whether from cold, temper, depression, or all three, I had a shocking night, and when I tried to pray I found the line 'dead'. 

This poignant comment comes from a day when Warnie returned to an unwelcoming home from hospital; where he had landed after a severe and prolonged alcoholic binge. The cause of the binge he gives as "the wearisome cycle of insomnia-drugs-depression-spirits-illness".

So there are many possible reasons from religious, through psychological and including physical why Warnie had a shocking night that particular night - but his experience of finding 'the line dead' when he tried to pray (and most needed help) is what jumped out at me; because I suppose all Christians have experienced this to a greater or lesser extent.


When the benefits of prayer are most needed, sometimes - and for whatever reason - the 'connection' to God just doesn't seem to work.

What then? Clearly some kind of Plan B is required; and what 'works' (if anything) will depend on the individual.

Anything requiring other people (such as attending liturgy or participating in Mass) is not timely. Reading scripture works for some people, but again may not be possible - indeed, powers of concentration may be too poor.

One neglected possibility may be to dwell upon a very simple (child-like) vision of the nature of existence - that the world around us is alive and that there is a benign personage behind it all.

There may be some such positive and connective vision in the mind - perhaps from memories of childhood or happy times; perhaps from a book or a movie.


The idea is that feeling disconnected, alienated and existentially-alone is the worst thing and prevents any better things; and the remedy cannot be complex or nuanced.

Christians are pagan as well as Christian; pagans first and naturally - with Christian understanding and goals added onto that.

Paganism is what connects us with the world - Christianity is what explains the meaning and purpose of this connection.


This means that there can be (and should be) 'pagan' solutions to Christian problems.

This happens when the basic problem (e.g. disconnection from Life) may be pre-Christian or sub-Christian; and then pagan remedies (such as re-connection) may be necessary, or at least work better than jumping ahead to specifically-Christian solutions.

This is not un-Christian but simple realism. Christianity includes and transcends all the goods of paganism: why not use them when they work?