Wednesday 3 April 2019

Sehnsucht/ Joy may be the guidance of the Holy Ghost

Jesus tells the disciples that the Holy Ghost can teach them everything they need to know - (e.g. John 14: 26  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.)

This, indeed, is exactly the kind of arrangement that one would expect from a loving God for his children. God would not rely upon merely human arrangements for transmission of vital knowledge.

God would (surely?) ensure that each person had a direct, independent, individual knowledge of the necessities.

The Holy Ghost is equivalent to Jesus: either is Jesus himself (as I believe) or some other conceptualisation of relation; but however explained, the Holy Ghost will bring whatever is necessary to our remembrance, into our thoughts.

But not necessarily under the name of Jesus of the Holy Ghost - perhaps not identified or perhaps misidentified.

Yet the quality of the knowledge is its own evidence - the knowledge has the quality of being self-validating: from our depths we know it is true.

Of course, anyone who has tried will know that it is not easy to receive such knowledge - there are distractions, there are evil motivations, false knowledge, demonic deception... all kinds of obstacles stand in the path.

Yet we are made to know the validity of that which is valid - this 'discerning' capacity is inbuilt, like a divine instinct. We each can - if we will it - discern Good from evil - and indeed if this was not so, then salvation would not be possible for all Men; at best it would be down to the sheer chance of what specific putative knowledge we happened to be exposed-to. 

We are able to 'hear' and respond to the Holy Ghost because we are the Children of God, with potential to become gods. When that which is divine in us meets with Jesus in the Holy Ghost; then we can have direct 'access' to sufficient knowledge to live and learn.

Of course, someone who does not know the name or historical identity of Jesus will experience the personal relationship with the Holy Ghost in some other way. And Modern Man who excludes all possibility of the divine or even spiritual, will experience contact with the Holy Ghost in some reduced and 'psychological' way.

Nonetheless, the experience of contact with the Holy Ghost is universal - although individuals vary widely in the intensity and frequency of experience. 

One way the necessary knowledge may be experienced is by the Romantic feeling that the Germans dubbed Sehnsucht. This is what CS Lewis termed Joy; and it is that quality of yearning or longing which people may experience from a story, phrase, picture, landscape, poem or encounter with a person or situation.

Sehnsucht is, characteristically, a product of human Imagination; and probably the 'modern' human imagination of the past (?) 250 years especially and increasingly. We imagine some-thing which we then desire to be in, to be part-of - we seek directness: seek to be immersed-in and aware-of and active-doing - all at once.

It is not just found in adults; but in children too (Lewis reported his first experiences during young childhood) - and is sometimes the underlying reason for our deepest , most personal and idiosyncratic likes and preferences, our hobbies and vocations - Lewis's lifelong passion for Northern-ness was triggered and revealed by an apparently innocuous sentence from Longfellow's translation of Tegner's Drapa: Balder the Beautiful is dead, is dead.  

An example of Sehnsucht from my experience: In reading about Lothlorien in The Lord of the Rings; I felt a (physical) sense of pulling at my heart, of wanting something about that situation in a more-than-literal way... What I wanted was imprecise, indeed was is hard to imagine the want being satisfied by any imaginable circumstance - but the feeling itself was very characteristic.

(I discuss Sehnsucht and Tolkien in more detail in this essay.)

Such Sehnsucht may be (externally) the Holy Ghost wordlessly sharing - mind to mind, person to person - a partial and distorted picture-knowledge of Heaven; and our-divine-selves responding (internally) with a feeling of yearning to participate in Heaven.

And this - if accepted and valued primarily -  may be a sufficient basis from the implicit love of  Jesus and desire for his gift of Heavenly Life Eternal. After death, we may then recognise, may know, the Good Shepherd who promises to lead us to that longed-for country.

When most of Life is superficial, routine, when we lack engagement and involvement; when nothing in actual mortal Life truly gratifies us - then Sehnsucht may be a sufficient signpost and motivation to follow Jesus through death into life everlasting.


Karl said...

The German word "Sehnsucht" may be translated with "longing", but it is only used for a strong longing (craving) for something that is missing."Joy" is not "Sehnsucht". A child might feel "Sehnsucht" for an absent mother. It does not feel "Sehnsucht" when the mother is present.

Once you have found what you were longing for, you are no longer feeling "Sehnsucht". Then you may feel "joy", but certainly not before.

Hence, "Sehnsucht" might describe the feelings of someone who has lost or not yet found faith. Once you have faith, you no longer feel "Sehnsucht".

Bruce Charlton said...

@Karl - As I explained and referenced; in CS Lewis's autobiography - Surprised by Joy - he discusses the concept of Sehnsucht and its history, and uses the word Joy to translate it (as in the title).

This is the lineage, and the concept is also important to other Inklings, but especially to Tolkien (eg previous posts:

Therefore, when you say: " "Sehnsucht" might describe the feelings of someone who has lost or not yet found faith. Once you have faith, you no longer feel "Sehnsucht"" - this is false.

Faith brings real hope to Sehnsucht - and this *enhances* the experience; making it joyful rather than tragic.

If faith obliterates Sehnsucht, then something has gone seriously wrong; as it so often has for so many people in the history of Christianity. A joyless Christianity is indeed possible, but against the spirit of what Jesus wanted for us.