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50 years ago today, Kennedy, Huxley and Lewis followed different paths to the grave

Published: Thursday, Nov. 21 2013 8:30 a.m. MST

Lewis also hinted at a divine destiny for man. “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses,” he wrote, “to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship ….”

"Hand it over to me,” Lewis has God tell us, “the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self — in my image."

Three paths

While Kennedy's assassination still overshadows remembrances of the other two men, the coincidence of the three dying on the same day did not go unnoticed. In 1982, Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft wrote a book titled “Between Heaven and Hell,” a postmortem dialog in a foggy purgatory where the three men debate what just happened and what comes next.

The book received mixed reviews, but few would disagree that the three men embodied three distinct paths through mortality at a moment when traditional Christianity was losing its firm grip on the Western mind — nor that the three alternatives they offer remain very much alive today.

Did they find what they were seeking?

"I don't think Huxley found the enlightenment he hoped for," said Devin Brown. “I think he was disappointed.” Of course, as a Christian and a Lewis aficionado, Brown may be biased.

Abraham Maslow, the humanist psychologist who constructed the famous “Hierarchy of Needs,” cited Huxley as one of a handful who had achieved “self-actualization.” He named eight by name: Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, William James, Albert Schweitzer, Benedict Spinoza and Aldous Huxley.

Reasonable minds may differ in weighing the spiritual paths of Huxley and Lewis. Few, it seems, are asking the same questions about John F. Kennedy.

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com

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