Monday 9 July 2018

Doors in the Walls of the World Signs of Transcendence in the Human Story - Peter Kreeft

Doors in the Walls of the World:
Signs of Transcendence in the Human Story
Peter Kreeft
Ignatius Press
ISBN 9781621642282
eISBN 9781681498010


Just looking at the cover of this book evokes the imagination. It immediately calls to mind, C.S. Lewis's The Magician’s Nephew,  J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and more recently N.D. Wilson's 100 Cupboards. But the book also takes me back. When I was in university as a mature student it seems that every month or two my spiritual director was recommending another book by Peter Kreeft. In fact, when I check I had read 14 books by Kreeft in 4 years. But I was greatly surprised to find out that It had over a decade since I had read one of his works. If his works in the last few years are as excellent as this, I need to add them all to my to be read list. This book was an absolutely wonderful read.

Kreeft begins the introduction when addressing how many philosophies of life there are begins with two answers; Answer 1 Three Philosophies of Life, and answer 2 there are only two philosophies. In the first answer the three types are:

1. Wonder begins in surprise.
2. This second kind of wonder-questioning-is wonder in the intellect, guided by the will (the "will to truth", which is far from automatic).
3. Wonder is consummated in contemplative awe.

And then he states:

"Philosophy not only begins in wonder (#1), it also proceeds by means of wonder (#2) and ends in wonder (#3). This book is about the third kind of wonder."
But then he goes on to give a second answer. Again he states:
"When you think about it logically, there are two and only two philosophies of life. For either there are or there are not doors in the walls of the world. Either there is Nothing or Something outside Plato's Cave."
And from there Kreeft goes on to explain that premise which is the basis for the rest of the book. He declares:
"A wall is a limit. A door in a wall is a way of overcoming that limit, a way out of the place confined by the walls. The walls here symbolize the physical universe. The doors symbolize escapes from that limit, "morenesses", transcendences. The point of this book is that there are many doors through the walls of the world, many Jacob's Ladders through the sky."
Kreeft then goes on a romp through literature to look at elements of story and elements in stories that breach that wall. The sections in the book are:

I. The Plot: Story as Life
II. The Setting: The Fragility of Time
III. The Characters: The Real Presence of Invisible Friends
IV. The Theme: Joy
V. The Style: Art

But the sections are not weighted equally. In the first section Kreeft gives 10 examples from 10 stories.

Story #1: The Colorado Water Droplet
Story #2: The Bouncing Acorn and the Bouncing Sperm
Story #3: One Grain of Sand
Story #4: The True Causes of World War III
Story #5: The Cheap Egyptian Tailor Who Saved the World
Story #6: Thornton Wilder's Tapestry
Story #7: Mark Helprin's Perfect Painting
Story #8: William James' Dystopian Utopia
Story #9: The "Ridiculous" Point of The Brothers Karamazov
Story #10: H. G. Wells' "The Door in the Wall"

The section on Characters has four chapters, God, angels, Saints and extraterrestrials. Both the sections on Theme and Style have 5 chapters. But the section on Setting is just a single chapter.

This book was an incredible read. I could hardly put it down. It has made me reflect more on some of my favorite fiction, and inspired me to add some of them back into my to be read pile along with some of the other books Kreeft drew examples from.

This is one of those books I know I will end up reading again. Much like Kreeft's own Between Heaven Hell, which I read every year for several years in a row. Any series fan of fiction will benefit from read this book! And Christian's especially will see the veil pulled back a bit and experience fiction, the world visible and the world invisible in a new way after reading this excellent book!

Note: If you are looking for a great Anthology that captures what this book talks about check out Secrets: Visible & Invisible 7 Amazing Stories - Catholic Teen Books.

Other Kreeft Reviews:
Socrates Meets Jesus
The Sea Within
Handbook of Christian Apologetics
Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics
The Journey
The Unaborted Socrates
The Best Things In Life
Between Heaven Hell
Doors in the Walls of the World

Catholic Christianity

Contributed to:

Articles That Mention Kreeft:
Opus Dei
Opus Dei Part II
Catholic Catechism Dialogue blog
4 Resources

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