Downing's purpose in writing Into the Regions of Awe is to, "...examine C. S. Lewis' interest in mysticism, how it shaped his faith, and contributed to his worldview."* As well as achieving this aim, this book also briefly scans Christian mystics through the ages, including such as Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Blaise Pascal, William James, G. K. Chesterton, and Evelyn Underhill. An explanation of Christian mysticism is very capably attempted, with C. S. Lewis' definition being used as the springboard: "direct experience of God, immediate as a taste or color."**
Progressing in logical order, Into the Regions of Awe then looks at the impact of mysticism on Lewis' life, mysticism as it appears in his writings, Lewis' critique of mysticism - pros and cons, and what we can learn from all this. A timeline of Christian mystics, a thorough bibliography, and an extensive index provide valuable closure.
Professor of English, C. S. Lewis aficionado, and award-winning author, David Downing adds greatly to the demystifying of mysticism, presenting it as a valuable part of Christianity. Other subjects that arise include self-denial without self-hatred, self-forgetfulness rather than self-contempt, coping with detours and setbacks in the Christian life, letting religion become reality, the conflict between good things desired and good things already given, and relinquishing self-control in order to be obedient to the Lord.
As a fan of C. S. Lewis, I enjoyed the deeper insights Downing shares about Lewis' writing. As I progressed through this book, I soon found I was gaining Christian-growth suggestions and skills as well as greater understanding of special times of bonding with my Lord. Not a book for those looking for entertainment or easy Christian how-to, Into the Regions of Awe is well worth working through, mayhap slowly, as it calls you to a closer, more wonderful walk with God and a clearer understanding of C. S. Lewis and his writings. – Donna Eggett, Christian Book Previews.com
C. S. Lewis is generally thought of as a commonsense Christian, one who offers theology that is understandable and morality that is practical. And yet, when writing about Narnia to a class of fifth graders who asked if it were possible to visit Aslan's country, Lewis replied that the only way he knew of was through death but then added this curious qualifier: "Perhaps some very good people get just a tiny glimpse before then." This simple sentence suggests a side of Lewis that most commentators have overlooked.
If one takes another look at Lewis, one can find a sense of the mystical all through his writings, from his memoir Surprised by Joy to Perelandra, from his nonfiction essays to his Narnia stories. In this book David C. Downing explores the breadth of Lewis's writing, introducing us to Christian mysticism as Lewis knew it and to the contemplative writers who most influenced him.
Though he showed a lifelong interest in mysticism, Lewis was not an uncritical admirer. As Downing highlights, Lewis had areas of concern and points of departure with some mystical thought. Lewis's comments about misguided forms mysticism are especially pertinent in our own era of faddish or eclectic religious thought. Exploring Lewis's sense of the mystical can help us safeguard ourselves from false mysticisms even as it opens the way to a deep and full experience of God's very presence with us. In the end we, too, may find ourselves drawn--as Lewis put it--"into the region of awe."