Friday, October 29, 2010

Thinking all the time about Turkish Delight

Edmund-on-ice-throne      And now of course you want to know what had happened to Edmund. He had eaten his share of the dinner, but he hadn’t really enjoyed it because he was thinking all the time about Turkish Delight—and there’s nothing that spoils the taste of good ordinary food half so much as the memory of bad magic food. And he heard the conversation, but he hadn’t enjoyed it much either…. And then he had listened until Mr. Beaver told them about Aslan…. Edmund had got outside into the snow and cautiously closed the door behind him.
    You mustn't think that even now Edmund was quite so bad that he actually wanted his brother and sisters to be turned into stone. He did want Turkish Delight and to be a Prince (and later a King) and to pay Peter out for calling him a beast. As for what the Witch would do with the others, he didn't want her to be particularly nice to them – certainly not to put them on the same level as himself – but he managed to believe, or to pretend he believed, that she wouldn't do anything very bad to them.
Turkish-Delight-tin
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950; this edition from The Essential C.S. Lewis (Touchstone, 1996)) Chapter IX, 97.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tell us about Aslan

Beaver-speaks-to-Pevensies     “Oh, yes! Tell us about Aslan!” said several voices at once; for once again that strange feeling—like the first signs of spring, like good news, had come over them.
    “Who is Aslan?” asked Susan.
    “Aslan?” said Mr. Beaver. “Why, don’t you know? He’s the King. He’s the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father’s time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment. He’ll settle the White Queen all right. It is he, not you, that will save Mr. Tumnus.”
    “Is—is he a man?” asked Lucy.
    “Aslan a man!” Mr. Beaver said sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”
    “Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
    “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950; this edition from The Essential C.S. Lewis (Touchstone, 1996)) Chapter VIII, 93.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Aslan is on the move

Beaver-and-children

 



    “They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps he has already landed,” [said Beaver].


    And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different.... At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950; this edition from The Essential C.S. Lewis (Touchstone, 1996)) Chapter VII, 88-89.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wanting more Turkish Delight

edmund-lucy     “The White Witch?” said Edmund, “who's she?”
    “She is a perfectly terrible person,” said Lucy. “She calls herself the Queen of Narnia thought she has no right to be queen at all, and all the Fauns and Dryands and Naiads and Dwarfs and animals—at least all the good ones—simply hate her. And she can turn people into stone and do all kinds of horrible things. And she has made a magic so that it is always winter in Narnia—always winter, but it never gets to Christmas. And she drives about on a sledge, drawn by reindeer, with her wand in her hand and a crown on her head.”
    Edmund was already feeling uncomfortable from having eaten too many sweets, and when he heard that the Lady he had made friends with was a dangerous witch he felt even more uncomfortable. But he still wanted to taste that Turkish Delight more than he wanted anything else.Turkish-Delight-tin
    “Who told you all that stuff about the White Witch?” he asked.
    “Mr. Tumnus, the Faun,” said Lucy. 
    “You can’t always believe what Fauns say,” said Edmund, trying to sound as if he knew far more about them than Lucy.
    “Who said so?” asked Lucy.
    “Everyone knows it,” said Edmund, “ask anybody you like…”

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950; this edition from The Essential C.S. Lewis (Touchstone, 1996)) 77.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Turkish Delight

     ‘‘It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating,’’ said the Queen presently. ‘‘What would you like best to eat?’’
narnia-turkish-delight-temptation    “Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty,” said Edmund.
    The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. He was quite warm now, and very comfortable.
    While he was eating the Queen kept asking him questions. At first Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one’s mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat, and he never asked himself why the Queen should be so inquisitive. She got him to tell her that he had one brother and two sisters, and that one of his sisters had already been in Narnia and had met a Faun there, and that no one except himself and his brother and his sisters knew anything about Narnia. She seemed especially interested in the fact that there were four of them, and kept on coming back to it. “You are sure there are just four of you?” she asked. ‘Two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve, neither more nor less?” and Edmund, with his mouth full of Turkish Delight,turkish-delight kept on saying, “Yes, I told you that before,” and forgetting to call her “Your Majesty” but she didn’t seem to mind now. 
    At last the Turkish Delight was all finished and Edmund was looking very hard at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and hat anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves. But she did not offer him any more. Instead, she said to him,
    “Son of Adam, I should so much like to see your brother and your two sisters. Will you bring them to me?”
    “I’ll try,” said Edmund, still looking at the empty box.
    “Because, if you did come again—bringing them with you of course—I’d be able to give you some more Turkish Delight. I can’t do it now, the magic will only work once. In my own house it would be another matter.” 
    ‘Why can’t we go to your house now?” said Edmund. When he had first got on to the sledge he had been afraid that she might drive away with him to some unknown place from which he would not be able to get back, but he had forgotten about that fear now.white-witch-and-edmund
    “It is a lovely place, my house,” said the Queen. “I am sure you would like it. There are whole rooms full of Turkish Delight, and what’s more, I have no children of my own. I want a nice boy whom I could bring up as a Prince and who would be King of Narnia when I am gone. While he was Prince he would wear a gold crown and eat Turkish Delight all day long; and you are much the cleverest and handsomest young man I’ve ever met. I think I would like to make you the Prince—some day, when you bring the others to visit me.”
    “Why not now?” said Edmund. His face had become very red and his mouth and fingers were sticky. He did not look either clever or handsome whatever the Queen might say.

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950; this edition from The Essential C.S. Lewis (Touchstone, 1996)) 74-76.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Life without Christianity

The question before each of us is not "Can someone lead a good life without Christianity?" The question is, "Can I?"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Long distance friend

I am all in favour of your idea that we should go back to our old plan of having a more or less set subject—an agendum—for our letters. When we were last separated the correspondence languished for lack of it. How much better we did in our undergraduate days with our interminable letters on the Republic, and classical metres, and what was then the “new” psychology! Nothing makes an absent friend so present as a disagreement.

C.S. Lewis, “From Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer,” The Essential C.S. Lewis (New York: Touchstone, 1986) 407.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Old Testament… more than human (Part 9, Conclusion)

If even pagan utterances can carry a second meaning, not quite accidentally but because, in the sense I have suggested, they have a sort of right to it, we shall expect the Scriptures to do this more momentously and more often. We have two grounds for doing so if we are Christians.

Jim-Caviezel-as-Jesus-by-khinson    ii. The second reason for accepting the Old Testament in this way can be / put more simply and is of course far more compulsive. We are committed to it in principle by Our Lord Himself. On that famous journey to Emmaus He found fault with the two disciples for not believing what the prophets had said. They ought to have known from their Bibles that the Anointed One, when He came, would enter his glory through suffering. He then explained, from “Moses” (i.e. the Pentateuch) down, all the places in the Old Testament “concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27).  He clearly identified Himself with a figure often mentioned in the Scriptures; appropriated to Himself many passages where a modern scholar might see no such reference. In the predictions of His Own Passion which He had previously made to the disciples, He was obviously doing the same thing. He accepted—indeed He claimed to be—the second meaning of Scripture.

    We do not know—or anyway I do not know—what all these passages were. We can be pretty sure about one of them. The Ethiopian eunuch who met Philip (Acts 8:27-38) was reading Isaiah 3. He did hot know whether in that passage the prophet was talking about himself or about someone else. Philip, in answering his question, “preached unto him Jesus”. The answer, in fact, was “Isaiah is speaking of Jesus”. We need have no doubt that Philip’s authority for this interpretation was Our Lord. (Our ancestors would have thought that Isaiah consciously foresaw the sufferings of Christ as people see the future in the sort of dreams recorded by Mr. Dunne. Modern scholars would say, that on the conscious level, he was referring to Israel itself, the whole nation personified. I do not see that it matters which view we take.) We can, again, be pretty sure, from the words on the cross (Mark 15:34), that Our Lord identified Himself with the sufferer in Psalm 22. Or when He asked (Mark 12:35,36) how Christ could be both David’s son and David’s lord, He clearly identified Christ, and therefore Himself, with the “my Lord” of Psalm 110—was in fact hinting at the mystery of the Incarnation by pointing out a difficulty which only it could solve. In Matthew 4:6 the words of Psalm 91:11,12, “He shall give his angels charge over thee . . . that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone,” are applied to Him, and we may be sure the application was His own since only He could be the source of the temptation-story. In Mark 12:10 He implicitly appropriates to Himself the words of Psalm 118:22 about the stone which the builders rejected. “Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell, neither shalt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption” (16:11) is treated as a prophecy of His Resurrection in Acts 2:27, and was doubtless so taken by Himself, since we find it so taken in the earliest Christian tradition—that is, by people likely to be closer both to the spirit and to the letter of His words than any scholarship (I do not say, “any sanctity”) will bring a modern. Yet it is, perhaps, idle to speak here of spirit and letter. There is almost no “letter” in the words of Jesus.ichthys Taken by a literalist, He will always prove the most elusive of teachers. Systems cannot keep up with that darting illumination. No net less wide than a man’s whole heart, nor less fine of mesh than love, will hold the sacred Fish.

C.S. Lewis, “Scripture,” Reflections on the Psalms (1958, this excerpt taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis Touchstone, 1998) 405-406.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Old Testament… more than human (Part 8)

For on any view man is in one sense clearly made “out of” something else. He is an animal; but an animal called to be, or raised to be, or (if you like) doomed to be, something more than an animal. On the ordinary biological view (what difficulties I have about evolution are not religious) one of the primates is changed so that he becomes man; but he remains still a primate and an animal. He is taken up into a new life without relinquishing the old. In the same way, all organic life takes up and uses processes merely chemical. But we can trace the principle higher as well as lower. For we are taught that the Incarnation itself proceeded “not by the conversion of the godhead into flesh, but by taking of (the) manhood into God”; in it human life becomes the vehicle of Divine life. If the Scriptures proceed not by conversion of God’s word into a literature but by taking up of a literature to be the vehicle of God’s word, this is not anomalous.

    Of course, on almost all levels, that method seems to us precarious or, as I have said, leaky. None of these up-gradings is, as we should have wished, self- evident. Because the lower nature, in being taken up and loaded with a new burden and advanced to a new privilege, remains, and is not annihilated, it will always be possible to ignore the up-grading and see nothing but the lower. Thus men can read the life of Our Lord (because it is a human life) as nothing but a human life. Many, perhaps most, modern philosophies read human life merely as an animal life of unusual complexity. The Cartesians read animal life as mechanism. Just in the same way Scripture can be read as merely human literature. No new discovery, no new method, will ever give a final victory to either interpretation.Bible-under-a-microscope For what is required, on all these levels alike, is not merely knowledge but a certain insight; getting the focus right. Those who can see in each of these instances only the lower will always be plausible. One who contended that a poem was nothing but black marks on white paper would be unanswerable if he addressed an audience who couldn’t read. Look at it through microscopes, analyse the printer’s ink and the paper, study it (in that way) as long Is you like; you will never find something over and above all the products of analysis whereof you can say “This is the poem”. Those who can read, however, will continue to say the poem exists.

    If the Old Testament is a literature thus “taken up”, made the vehicle of what is more than human, we can of course set no limit to the weight or multiplicity of meanings which may have been laid upon it. If any writer may say more than it knows and mean more than he meant, then these writers will be especially likely to do so. And not by accident.

C.S. Lewis, “Scripture,” Reflections on the Psalms (1958, this excerpt taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis Touchstone, 1998) 405.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Old Testament… more than human (Part 7)

If the Old Testament is... more than human, we can of course set no limit to the weight or multiplicity of meanings which have been laid upon it. If any writer may say more than he knows (see “Second Meanings”) and mean more than he meant, then these writers will be especially likely to do so. And not by accident.

Ted-Kennedy-and-Portugese-Water-Hound    Certainly it seems to me that from having had to reach what is really the Voice of God in the cursing Psalms through all the horrible distortions of the human medium, I have gained something I might not have gained from a flawless, ethical exposition. The shadows have indicated (at least to my heart) something more about the light. Nor would I (now) willingly spare from my Bible something in itself so anti-religious as the nihilism of Ecclesiastes. We get there a clear, cold picture of man’s life without God. That statement is itself part of God’s word. We need to have heard it. Even to have assimilated Ecclesiastes and no other book in the Bible would be to have advanced further towards truth than some men do. 
    But of course these conjectures as to why God does what He does are probably of no more value than my dog’s ideas of what I am up to when I sit and read. But though we can only guess the reasons, we can at least observe the consistency.

C.S. Lewis, “Scripture,” Reflections on the Psalms (1958, this excerpt taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis Touchstone, 1998) 404.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Old Testament... more than human and how God is revealed (Part 6)

Just to be clear, the “three levels” Lewis is about to reference correspond to the readings from the previous three days: Scripture, teaching of Jesus and writings of Paul.
    Thus on three levels, in appropriate degrees, we meet the same refusal of what we might have thought best for us—in the Word Himself, in the Apostle of the Gentiles, in Scripture as a whole. Since this is what God has done, this, we must conclude, was best. It may be that what we should have liked would have been fatal to us if granted. It may be indispensable that Our Lord’s teaching, by that elusiveness (to our systematising intellect), should demand a response from the whole man, should make it so clear that there is no question of learning a subject but of steeping ourselves in a Personality, acquiring a new outlook and temper, breathing a new atmosphere, suffering Him, in His own way, to rebuild in us the defaced image of Himself. So in St. Paul. Perhaps the sort of works I should wish him to have written would have been useless. The crabbedness, the appearance of inconsequence and even of sophistry, the turbulent mixture of petty detail, personal complaint, practical advice, and lyrical rapture, finally let through what matters more than ideas—a whole Christian life in operation—better say, Christ Himself operating in a man’s life. And in the same way, the value of the Old Testament may be dependentstudent-reading-bible on what seems its imperfection. It may repel one use in order that we may be forced to use it in another way—to find the Word in it, not without repeated and leisurely reading nor without discriminations made by our conscience and our critical faculties, to re-live, while we read, the whole Jewish experience of God’s gradual and graded self-revelation, to feel the very contentions between the Word and the human material through which it works. For here again, it is our total response that has to be elicited.

C.S. Lewis, “Scripture,” Reflections on the Psalms (1958, this excerpt taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis Touchstone, 1998) 404.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Old Testament... more than human, just like the Epistles of Paul (Part 5)

Glasses-on-Bible Descending lower, we find a somewhat similar difficulty with St. Paul. I cannot be the only reader who has wondered why God, having given him so many gifts, withheld from him (what would to us seem so necessary for the first Christian theologian) that of lucidity and orderly exposition.

C.S. Lewis, “Scripture,” Reflections on the Psalms (1958, this excerpt taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis Touchstone, 1998) 404.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Old Testament... more than human, just like Jesus (Part 4)

We may observe that the teaching of Our Lord Himself, in which there is no imperfection, is not given us in that cut-and-dried, fool-proof, systematic fashion we might have expected or desired. He wrote no book. We have only reported sayings, most of them uttered in answer to questions, shaped in some degree by their context. And when we have collected them all we cannot reduce them to a system. He preaches but He does not lecture. He uses paradox, proverb, exaggeration, parable, irony; even (I mean no irreverence) the “wisecrack”. He utters maxims which, like popular proverbs, if rigorously taken, may seem to contradict one another. His teaching therefore cannot be grasped by the intellect alone, cannot be “got up” as if it were a “subject”. If we try to do that with it, we shall find Him the most elusive of teachers. He hardly ever gave a straight answer to a straight question. He will not be, in the way we want, “pinned down”. The attempt is (again, I mean no irreverence) like trying to bottle a sunbeam.

C.S. Lewis, “Scripture,” Reflections on the Psalms (1958, this excerpt taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis Touchstone, 1998) 403-404. It’s the next chapter, but “Scripture” is very much an application of the chapter “Second Meanings.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Old Testament... more than human (Part 3)

booksThe human qualities of the raw materials show through. Na├»vety, error; contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not “the Word of God” in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God; and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and to interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopaedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone or temper and so learning its overall message.

teapot     To a human mind this working-up (in a sense imperfectly), this sublimation (incomplete) of human material, seems, no doubt, an untidy and leaky vehicle. We might have expected, we may think we should have preferred, an unrefracted light giving us ultimate truth in systematic form—something we could have tabulated and memorised and relied on like the multiplication table. One can respect, and at moments envy, both the Fundamentalist’s view of the Bible and the Roman Catholic’s view of the Church. But there is one argument which we should beware of using for either position: God must have done what is best, this is best, therefore God has done this. For we are mortals and do not know what is best for us, and it is dangerous to prescribe what God must have done— especially when we cannot, for the life of us, see that He has after all done it.

C.S. Lewis, “Scripture,” Reflections on the Psalms (1958, this excerpt taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis Touchstone, 1998) 403. It’s the next chapter, but “Scripture” is very much an application of the chapter “Second Meanings.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Old Testament... more than human (Part 2)

If the Old Testament is... more than human, we can of course set no limit to the weight or multiplicity of meanings which have been laid upon it. If any writer may say more than he knows (see "Second Meanings") and mean more than he meant, then these writers will be especially likely to do so. And not by accident.

I have therefore no difficulty in accepting, say, the view of those scholars who tell us that the account of Creation in Genesis is derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical. We must of course be quite clear what “derived from” means. Stories do not reproduce their species like mice. They are told by men. Each re-teller either repeats exactly what his predecessor had told him or else changes it. He may change it unknowingly or deliberately. If he changes it deliberately, his invention, his sense of form, his ethics, his ideas of what is fit, or edifying, or merely interesting, all come in. If unknowingly, then his unconscious (which is so largely responsible for our forgettings) has been at work. Thus at every step in what is called—a little misleadingly—the “evolution” of a story, a man, all he is and all his attitudes, are involved. And no good work is done anywhere without aid from the Father of Lights.  When a series of such re-tellings turns a creation story which at first had almost no religious or metaphysical significance into a story which achieves the idea of true Creation and of a transcendent Creator (as Genesis does), then nothing will make me believe that some of the re-tellers, or some one of them, has not been guided by God.Genesis-1-1    Thus something originally merely natural—the kind of myth that is found among most nations—will have been raised by God above itself, qualified by Him and compelled by Him to serve purposes which of itself it would not have served. Generalising thus, I take it that the whole Old Testament consists of the same sort of material as any other literature—chronicle (some of it obviously pretty accurate), poems, moral and political diatribes, romances, and what not; but all taken into the service of God’s word. Not all, I suppose, in the same way. There are prophets who write with the clearest awareness that Divine compulsion is upon them. There are chroniclers whose intention may have been merely to record. There are poets like those in the Song of Songs who probably never dreamed of any but a secular and natural purpose in what they composed. There is (and it is no less important) the work first of the Jewish and then of the Christian Church in preserving and canonising just these books. There is the work of redactors and editors in modifying them. On all of these I suppose a Divine pressure; of which not by any means all need have been conscious.

C.S. Lewis, “Scripture,” Reflections on the Psalms (1958, this excerpt taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis Touchstone, 1998) 402-403. It’s the next chapter, but “Scripture” is very much an application of the chapter “Second Meanings.”

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Old Testament... more than human (Part 1)

If even pagan utterances can carry a second meaning, not quite accidentally but because, in the sense I have suggested, they have a sort of right to it, we shall expect the Scriptures to do this more momentously and more often. We have two grounds for doing so if we are Christians.

bible-study i. For us these writings are “holy”, or “inspired”, or, as St. Paul says, “the Oracles of God”. But this has been understood in more than one way, and I must try to explain how I understand it, at least so far as the Old Testament is concerned. I have been suspected of being what is called a Fundamentalist. That is because I never regard any narrative as unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous. Some people find the miraculous so hard to believe that they cannot imagine any reason for my acceptance of it other than a prior belief that every sentence of the Old Testament has historical or scientific truth. But this I do not hold, any more than St. Jerome did when he said that Moses described Creation “after the manner of a popular poet” (as we should say, mythically) or than Calvin did when he doubted whether the story of Job were history or fiction. The real reason why I can accept as historical a story in which a miracle occurs is that I have never found any philosophical grounds for the universal negative proposition that miracles do not happen. I have to decide on quite other grounds (if I decide at all) whether a given narrative is historical or not. The Book of Job appears to me unhistorical because it begins about a man quite unconnected with all history or even legend, with no genealogy, living in a country of which the Bible elsewhere has hardly anything to say; because, in fact, the author quite obviously writes as a story-teller not as a chronicler.

C.S. Lewis, “Scripture,” Reflections on the Psalms (1958, this excerpt taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis Touchstone, 1998) 402. It’s the next chapter, but “Scripture” is very much an application of the chapter “Second Meanings.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Two ways of understanding second meanings

And what are we to say of those gods in various Pagan mythologies who are killed and rise again and who thereby renew or transform the life of their worshippers or of nature? The odd thing is that here those anthropologists who are most hostile to our faith would agree with many Christians in saying “The resemblance is not accidental”. Of course the two parties would say this for different reasons. [1] The anthropologists would mean: “All these superstitions have a common source in the mind and experience, especially the agricultural experience, of early man. Your myth of Christ is like the myth of Balder because it has the same origin. The likeness is a family likeness.” The Christians would fall into two schools of thought. 

God's Ape, the Devil[2] The early Fathers (or some of them), who believed that Paganism was nothing but the direct work of the Devil, would say: “The Devil has from the beginning tried to mislead humanity with lies. As all accomplished liars do, he makes his lies as like the truth as he can; provided they lead man astray on the main issue, the more closely they imitate truth the more effective they will be. That is why we call him God’s Ape; he is always imitating God. The resemblance of Adonis to Christ is therefore not at all accidental; it is the resemblance we expect to find between a counterfeit and the real thing, between a parody and the original, between imitation pearls and pearls.”

Oswego sunset over Lake Ontario[3] Other Christians who think, as I do, that in mythology divine and diabolical and human elements (the desire for a good story), all play a part, would say: “It is not accidental. In the sequence of night and day, in the annual death and rebirth of the crops, in the myths which these processes gave rise to, in the strong, if half-articulate, feeling (embodied in many Pagan ‘Mysteries’) that man himself must undergo some sort of death if he would truly live, there is already a likeness permitted by God to that truth on which all depends. The resemblance between these myths and the Christian truth is no more accidental than the resemblance between the sun and the sun’s reflection in a pond, or that between a historical fact and the somewhat garbled version of it which lives in popular report, or between the trees and hills of the real world and the trees and hills in our dreams.”

Thus all three views alike would regard the “Pagan Christs” and the true Christ as things really related and would find the resemblance significant.

C.S. Lewis, “Second Meanings,” Reflections on the Psalms (1958, this excerpt taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis Touchstone, 1998) 400.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Second meanings

Plato in his Republic is arguing that righteousness is often praised for the rewards it brings—honour, popularity, and the like—but that to see it in its true nature we must separate it from all these, strip it naked. lie asks us therefore to imagine a perfectly righteous man treated by all around him as a monster of wickedness. We must picture him, still perfect, while he is bound, scourged, and finally impaled (the Persian equivalent of crucifixion). At this passage a Christian reader starts and rubs his eyes. What is happening?Socrates-post-hemlock Yet another of these lucky coincidences? But presently he sees that there is something here which cannot be called luck at all.

….Plato is talking, and knows he is talking, about the fate of goodness in a wicked and misunderstanding world. But that is not something simply other than the Passion of Christ. It is the very same thing of which that Passion is the supreme illustration. If Plato was in some measure moved to write of it by the recent death—we may almost say the martyrdom—of his master Socrates then that again is not something simply other than the Passion of Christ. The imperfect, yet very venerable, goodness of Socrates led to the easy death of the hemlock, and the perfect goodness of Christ led to the death of the cross, not by chance but for the same reason; because goodness is what it is, and because the fallen world is what it is. If Plato, starting From one example and from his insight into the nature of goodness and the nature of the world, was led on to see the possibility of a perfect example,swiss-alps and thus to depict something extremely like the Passion of Christ, this happened not because lie was lucky but because he was wise.  If a man who knew only England and had observed that, the higher a mountain was, the longer it retained the snow in early spring, were led on to suppose a mountain so high that it retained the snow all the year round, the similarity between his imagined mountain and the real Alps would not be merely a lucky accident. He might not know that there were any such mountains in reality, just as Plato probably did not know that the ideally perfect instance of crucified goodness which he had depicted would ever become actual and historical. But if that man ever saw the Alps he would not say “What a curious coincidence”. He would be more likely to say “There! What did I tell you?”

C.S. Lewis, “Second Meanings,” Reflections on the Psalms (1958, this excerpt taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis Touchstone, 1998) 399-400.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bus to the Great Beyond (6)

We’ve been following the adventure of a writer who in a dream boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage through Heaven and Hell. This will be our concluding scene from The Great Divorce. The writer is concerned about all those souls (ghosts) who never even ride the bus to heaven – are they doomed to hell? Heavenly citizen George MacDonald (thus the older style English) replies to his question.
jet-bus-flying-on-water    ‘But what of the poor Ghosts who never get into the omnibus at all?’
    ‘Everyone who wishes it does. Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.’

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1946, Harper Collins edition 2001) 75.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bus to the Great Beyond (Part 5 of a series of excerpts from The Great Divorce)

We’ve been following the adventure of a writer who in a dream boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage through Heaven and Hell. This scene from The Great Divorce continues from where we left off, with the writer listening to the heavenly citizen George MacDonald (thus the older style English).

Christian-Bus     ‘Do ye think so?’ said the Teacher with a piercing glance. ‘It is nearer to such as you than ye think. There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself. . . as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity they they never gave a thought to Christ. Man! Ye see it in smaller matters. Did ye never know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organiser of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all the snares.’

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1946, Harper Collins edition 2001) 73-74.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bus to the Great Beyond (4)

We’ve been following the adventure of a writer who in a dream boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage through Heaven and Hell. This scene from The Great Divorce continues from where we left off, with the writer listening to the heavenly citizen George MacDonald (thus the older style English).

jet-powered-school-bus-postlaunch     ‘Well, Sir,’ I said, ‘That also needs explaining. What do they choose, these souls who go back [on the bus to hell] (I have yet seen no others)? And how can they choose it?’
    ‘Milton was right,’ said my Teacher [George MacDonald]. ‘The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy—that is, to reality. Ye see it easily enough in a spoiled child that would sooner miss its play and its supper than say it was sorry and be friends. Ye call it the Sulks. But in adult life it has a hundred fine names—Achilles’ wrath and Coriolanus’ grandeur, Revenge and Injured Merit and Self- Respect and Tragic Greatness and Proper Pride.’
    ‘Then is no one lost through the undignified vices, Sir? Through mere sensuality?’
    ‘Some are, no doubt. The sensualist, I’ll allow ye, begins by pursuing a real pleasure, though a small one. His sin is the less. But the time comes on when, though the pleasure becomes less and less and the craving fiercer and fiercer, and though he knows that joy can never come that way, yet he prefers to joy the mere fondling of unappeasable lust and would not have it taken from him. He’d fight to the death to keep it. He’d like well to be able to scratch; but even when he can scratch no more he’d rather itch than not.’

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1946, Harper Collins edition 2001) 69.