“The secret signature of each soul”

November 22, 2013

350_C.S.Lewis.348We all know that today marks the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death. Did you know that C.S. Lewis died on the same day? I have a much stronger personal connection to Lewis, whose writings have deeply shaped my life and faith, especially over the past five years or so. In honor of him, I want to post an excerpt from my favorite part of my favorite book, The Problem of Pain. This comes from the final chapter, “Heaven.” This excerpt is far too brief, so feel free to purchase the book here.

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that make you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that.

He goes on to describe that same elusive thread connecting your love of art, your hobbies, your lifelong friendships.

You never had it [i.e., this thing you deeply desire]. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it—tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest—if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself—you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’ We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.[†]

† C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperOne, 1996), 150-151.

4 Responses to ““The secret signature of each soul””

  1. Clay Knick Says:

    I loved McGrath’s biography of Lewis. One of the best books I’ve read this year. I didn’t want it to end.

  2. David Hitchcock Says:

    11/22/1963 was also the date of the death of Aldous Huxley as well as C.S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy. The philosopher of religion Peter Kreeft wrote a book called “Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, & Aldous Huxley”. The book imagines a post-death conversation among those three people. I’ve never read that book (I’ve enjoyed some other Kreeft books), but it seems like an interesting premise.


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