This is a favorite passage from my favorite book these days, perhaps my favorite book of all time. Its describing one character’s reaction to his being imprisoned and trained in “objectivity,” which in the context of the book means the belief that all thoughts are mere chemical reactions and there is no possibility of using reason to arrive at truth. I think this notion that ideas correspond to objective reality is one the main issues that comes up discussions about the Ontological argument (which I’m reading a lot about in my PhD work these days), and also in Plato’s theory of Forms. I think its an amazing and beautiful thought that when we consider an idea (say, the concept of Straightness or the number eleven), we are encountering not a device of our subjective creation but something that previously existed in the mind of God. It makes it easier for me to understand thinking as an act of worship. It is like following God’s footprints or examining a room He just left. Ultimately, I think believing in God makes thinking a much more dignified, noble activity.
Here is the passage:
Day by day, as the process went on, that idea of the Straight or the Normal which had occurred to [Mark] during his first visit to this room, grew stronger and more solid in his mind till it had become a kind of mountain. He had never before known what an Idea meant: he had always thought till now that they were things inside one’s own head. But now, when his head was continually attacked and often completely filled with the clinging corruption of the training, this Idea towered up above him – something which obviously existed quite independently of himself and had hard rock surfaces which would not give, surfaces he could cling to.
I wonder if anyone would ever try to make That Hideous Strength into a movie? I don’t think the first two books of the Space Trilogy could be made into movies, but I think this one could!