It was actually semi-sweet to say goodbye to Out of the Silent Planet this week. In the final denouement we were treated to the foundational theology that will undergird Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. Each planet is ruled by a particular eldil, or angel. In the case of Malacandra (Mars), on which this adventure takes place, the eldil is Oyarsa. The eldil who rules Thulcandra (or Earth), however, is bent, or evil. Whereas the communications between the other planets are faciliated by their angelic messengers/rulers, Thulcandra is the “silent planet.” It’s eldil contended against the other eldila in an age gone by, and drew down to Thulcandra (Earth) those with him. Since then, no communication has come from earth. Only God (Maleldil) knows what goes on. All else, to the rest of the beings of our solar system, is darkness and silence. Our evil eldil, obviously Satan, has drawn a hedge of darkness around our planet.
Oyarsa questions Ransom at length about this, though Lewis does not fully describe the exchange in the pages of the book. For Oyarsa, the ways that God has dealt with Earth are a mytery, terrible and wonderful at once.
In Out of the Silent Planet we have a description of a world of sentient beings who have never fallen. They are sinless. Interestingly, there is death on Malacandra, but it is done when Oyarsa determines to “unbody” these beings. But death is not full of fearful anticipation. Rather it is seen as a transition to a greater life. A life with which the universe pulsates. On the return trip home Ransom once again encounters the vastness of space not as “space” but as “the heavens,” full of life and the boundless energies of God. Just as is all the universe, which he learns while on Malacandra.
It is interesting how Lewis retells the Christian story from the outside looking in. Scripture calls Satan the prince of the power of the air, so in Lewis’ imaginative retelling, his authority over our “air” includes its being cut off from the rest of the living universe’s eyes. Too, Satan is described as having been cast out from (or drawn down from) heave to earth, as though he has become weighted with the darkness with which he has wrapped the Earth.
So many interesting themes will get played out in the next book, Perelandra, but I’m going to try to do better about not anticipating ahead.
Out of the Silent Planet is much more tantalizing than I remember. Too short, it leaves as mere foreshadow many important themes. Just when the mythology gets interesting, Ransom is heading back to Earth, to keep an eye on Weston and Devine. Sigh. Now that I appreciate this first book more, it ends too soon.
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