Existential Search for Epiphany, Poem

One of the masters of phenomenology, and the one who continues to be quoted the most, was Karl Jaspers. He was also Swiss, and an existentialist. Francis Schaeffer, who ministered in a village close to the University of Geneva, where he taught, noted that he believed in a final emotional experience, which gave great meaning. He warned against suicide as he was unsure as if death would give a meaningful experience: an existential epiphany that would be a summation and allow a goal for living.

Jaspers did not comprehend that Christ is that experience, but Schaeffer did.

Both would have agreed with Lewis. The position of the modern man was one of despair: in a dungeon if lucky, having a boot applied to his face if not so.

Dungeon Grates

So piteously the lonely soul of man
Shudders before this universal plan,
So grievous is the burden and the pain,
So heavy weighs the long, material chain
From cause to cause, too merciless for hate,
The nightmare march of unrelenting fate,
I think that he must die thereof unless
Ever and again across the dreariness
There came a sudden glimpse of spirit faces,
A fragrant breath to tell of flowery places
And wider oceans, breaking on the shore
From which the hearts of men are always sore.
It lies beyond endeavour; neither prayer
Nor fasting, nor much wisdom winneth there,
Seeing how many prophets and wise men
Have sought for it and still returned again
With hope undone. But only the strange power
Of unsought Beauty in some casual hour
Can build a bridge of light or sound or form
To lead you out of all this strife and storm;
When of some beauty we are grown a part
Till from its very glory’s midmost heart
Out leaps a sudden beam of larger light
Into our souls. All things are seen aright
Amid the blinding pillar of its gold,
Seven times more true than what for truth we hold
In vulgar hours. The miracle is done
And for one little moment we are one
With the eternal stream of loveliness
That flows so calm, aloft from all distress
Yet leaps and lives around us as a fire
Making us faint with overstrong desire
To sport and swim for ever in its deep-
Only a moment.
O! but we shall keep
Our vision still. One moment was enough,
We know we are not made of mortal stuff.
And we can bear all trials that come after,
The hate of men and the fool’s loud bestial laughter
And Nature’s rule and cruelties unclean,
For we have seen the Glory-we have seen.

C.S. Lewis