Open Your Third Eye.

mystical eye

C. S. Lewis believed that attaining life’s ultimate purpose depended on the use of our imagination, our third eye. According to Lewis our imagination exists to elevate our souls, for “the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of our little, dark prison we’re all born in” (Hooper, Collected Letters 3.683).

Over the past months I’ve discovered a hoard of quotes that have inspired my own mind’s eye as a writer and reader. They offer a rich tapestry of reflection on the writer’s art and imaginative reading. So here’s a share of some of the gold. If you’re a thinker, writer, and lover of books, you’ll find something here to inspire that third eye:

“The constructs of the imagination tell us things about human life that we don’t get in any other way.”     Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination

“It’s no use pretending that with the Fall behind us imagination is not, like all man’s other powers, liable to corruption and disease and death . . . the imagination at present is in a very bad way indeed, it receives no proper food, no love.”      Elizabeth Sewell, Death of the Imagination

“When we are at a play, or looking at a statue or a painting, or reading a story, the imaginary work must have such an effect on us that it enlarges our own sense of reality.” Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

“I’m always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality.”      Flannery O’Connor, “The Nature and Aim of Fiction”

“The poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth.”      Percy B. Shelly, A Defense of Poetry

“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah

“The deeds of Achilles or Roland were told because they were exceptionally and improbably heroic; . . . the saint’s life, because he was exceptionally and improbably heroic . . . [Their stories capture us with] the more than ordinary terror, splendor, wonder, pit, or absurdity of [life].”      C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism.

“Abelard raised a very foolish question when he asked, “What has Horace to do with the Psalter, Virgil with the Gospel, Cicero with the Apostle?” The answer is simply that Horace, Vigil, and Cicero clarify the human situation to which the salvation of God is addressed through the Psalter, Gospel, and Apostle.”      Roland M. Frye, Perspectives on Man: Literature and the Christian Tradition

“The writer is the world’s interpreter”      Annie Dillard, Living by Fiction

“The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware of before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know. Thus, creative writing requires a real act of trust. We have to say to ourselves, “I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.” Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes one has, in trust that they will multiply in the giving. Once we dare to “give away” on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath . . . and gradually come in touch with our own riches.”      Henri Nouwen, Theological Ideas in Education

“Any discipline can help your writing: Logic, mathematics, theology, and of course and particularly drawing. Anything that helps you see, anything that makes you look. The writer should never be ashamed of staring.”      Flannery O’ Connor, Mystery and Manners

“Nothing human is alien to me.”      Terence

“The focus comes at random moments which no one can understand, least of all the author. For me they usually follow great effort. To me, these illuminations are the grace of labor. . . After months of confusion and labor, when the idea has flowered, the collusion is Divine.”      Carson McCullers, The Mortgaged Heart

“My assumption is that the story of any one of us is the story of us all.”      Frederick Buechner, Listening to your life

“God made man because he loves stories” Elie Wiesel, the Gates of the Forest

“Fantasy is true, of course. It isn’t factual but it’s true. Children know that. Adults know it too, and that is precisely why many of them are afraid of fantasy.” Ursula Le Guin, The Language of the Night

“Books written entirely for children are poor even as children’s books.”      J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy- Stories”

 “All books are divided into two classes – the books of the hour, and the books of all time. Mark this distinction: it is not one of quality only . . .; it is a distinction of species. There are good books for the hour, and there are good books for all time.”      John Ruskin, “Of Kings’ Treasuries”

“I’ve always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”      Jorge Luis Borge

“Books are windows through which the soul looks out. A home without books is like a room without windows.”      Henry Ward Beecher, Books are the Window of the Soul

“We read books to find out who we are. . . A person who had never listened to nor read a tale or myth or parable or story, would remain ignorant of his own emotional heights and depths, would not know quite fully what it is to be human.”      Ursula La Guin, The Language of the Night

“We read primarily to discover our self – above all, perhaps, to discover what St. Augustine refers to as the dark corners of the heart.”      Simon Lesser, Fiction and the Unconscious

“Books we have read in odd places always retain their charm, whether read or neglected.”      Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “Books Unread”

“Why are we reading, if not in the hope of beauty laid bare, life heighted and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in the experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in the hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illumine and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so that we may feel again their majesty and power?”      Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

“We don’t want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel new possibilities of being have opened to us.”      Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water


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