Thirst Was Made For Water

Sometimes it’s very easy to get fascinated with one’s own intellectual games. Going round in round in circles of thought, dazzled by the endless permutations and possibilities. And it can feel especially gratifying to the ego because in this mode, one feels that Truth is emanating from one’s own activity. That is: though framed in terms of a search for objective Truth, the search is really for a way to make the Truth emanate from one’s own mind. The activity of searching becomes more important than the possibility of Truth, of an end to searching.

I am prone to thinking that to find the answer to something will be to make things boring. “The journey is the whole point.” That kind of thing. But if the journey really was the whole point, then how could anyone presume to step out the door in the morning? Because the journey is a journey towards something. And we can only take that first step if we believe, on some level, that it’s a place worth getting to.

So what’s the point of the journey other than, ultimately, the destination?

That doesn’t mean we should not enjoy the journey in the meantime. That does not mean that the journey is not, indeed, quite fascinating.

It also doesn’t mean that we have to have a totally clear picture of the end-point of the journey. Suppose I set out to climb a mountain. If someone asks me where I am trying to get, I reply, “Why, to the top of the mountain, of course.” But if I am then asked what kind of rocks I shall find up there, what the temperature will be, even what the view looks like… of course, I cannot answer. I do not know!

If I knew, I should already be there.

But my lack of intimate, experiential knowledge does not therefore mean I am walking with no goal.

‘But you must feel yourself that there is something stifling about the idea of finality? Stagnation, my dear boy, what is more soul-destroying than stagnation?’

‘You think that, because hitherto you have experienced truth only with the abstract intellect. I will bring you where you can taste it like honey and be embraced by it as by a bridegroom. Your thirst shall be quenched.’

‘Well, really, you know, I am not aware of a thirst for some ready-made truth which puts an end to intellectual activity in the way you seem to be describing. Will it leave me the free play of Mind, Dick? I must insist on that, you know.’

‘Free, as a man is free to drink while he is drinking. He is not free still to be dry.’

The Ghost seemed to think for a moment. ‘I can make nothing of that idea,’ it said.


‘You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.’

—CS Lewis, The Great Divorce


2 comments on “Thirst Was Made For Water

  1. zhai2nan2 says:

    ‘What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.’

    Lewis cannot be disproved here, because we cannot delve into his fictional creation with any kind of rigor.

    But – this runs into the “many churches” objection to Pascal’s Wager.

    Lewis would say, “You only need freedom of inquiry so that you can rationally apprehend that Jesus is God.”

    A Muslim would say, “You only need freedom of inquiry so that can rationally apprehend that Jesus is not God.”

    A mystic would say, “You need the strength of willpower that exists outside rational inquiry; then you will be able to choose whether or not you approach a situation with rationality or with some other mode of experience.”

    • outofsleep says:

      Either the Truth exists, or it does not. What people say and have said here on Earth has no bearing on what Truth is, and has always been, and will always will be.

      How we are to know which path to follow, I agree, is a thorny question, one which we must all answer for ourselves.

      But the fact that many different people make many different claims does not therefore invalidate the idea that there is a right answer. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and our own, benign Obama welcome you down that path with open arms if you wish to travel it. After all, who’s to say who’s right and who’s wrong!

      I don’t mean Lewis’s quote to be any kind of definitive proof. As you point out, it’s not exactly a rigorous laying-out of first principles. The point is: there is an endpoint to all our permutations of spiritual wandering.

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