Toward the end of C. S. Lewis’s classic memoir, A Grief Observed, he recounts in similes being visited briefly by the presence of his recently-departed wife, Joy Davidman.
It’s the quality of last night’s experience — not what it proves but what it was — that makes it worth putting down. It was quite incredibly unemotional. Just the impression of her mind momentarily facing my own. Mind, not ‘soul’ as we tend to think of soul. Certainly the reverse of what is called ‘soulful’. Not at all like a rapturous re-union of lovers. Much more like getting a telephone call or a wire from her about some practical arrangement. Not that there was any ‘message’ — just intelligence and attention. No sense of joy or sorrow. No love even, in our ordinary sense. No un-love. I had never in any mood imagined the dead as being so — well, so business-like. Yet there was an extreme and cheerful intimacy. An intimacy that had not passed through the senses or the emotions at all.
If this was a throw-up from my unconscious, then my unconscious must be a far more interesting region than the depth psychologists have led me to expect. For one thing, it is apparently much less primitive than my consciousness. Wherever it came from, it has made a sort of spring cleaning in my mind. The dead could be like that; sheer intellects. A Greek philosopher wouldn’t have been surprised at an experience like mine. He would have expected that if anything of us remained after death it would be just that. Up to now this always seemed to me a most arid and chilling idea. The absence of emotion repelled me. But in this contact (whether real or apparent) it didn’t do anything of the sort.
One didn’t need emotion. The intimacy was complete — sharply bracing and restorative too — without it. Can that intimacy be love itself — always in this life attended with emotion, not because it is itself an emotion, or needs an attendant emotion, but because our animal souls, our nervous systems, our imaginations, have to respond to it in that way? If so, how many preconceptions I must scrap! A society, a communion, of pure intelligences would not be cold, drab and comfortless. On the other hand it wouldn’t be very like what people usually mean when they use such words as ‘spiritual’, or ‘mystical’, or ‘holy’. It would, if I have had a glimpse, be — well, I’m almost scared at the adjectives I’d have to use. Brisk? cheerful? keen? alert? intense? wide-awake? Above all, solid. Utterly reliable. Firm.