Out of the Silent Planet, Chs. 18-Postscript

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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Fathers Determine Faith

In the most recent issue of Touchstone magazine (Vol. 16: No. 5 [June] 2003, pp. 24-27), not yet online, is an article by Robbie Low entitled, “The Truth About Men and the Church.” The article utilizes sociological data from Switzerland appearing as “The demographic characteristics of the linguistic and religious groups in Switzerland”, by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner, in the second volume of Population Studies No. 31 entitled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, ed. by Werner Haug, et. al., and published in January 2000. (Whew!)

These are the highlights:

*If a father regularly attends church, then sixty-six to seventy-five percent of his children will either regularly or irregularly attend church, regardless of whether the mother regularly attends or not.

*If a father irregularly attends church, then fifty to sixty-six percent of his children will either regularly or irregularly attend church, again, regardless of whether the mother regularly attends or not.

*And if the father doesn’t attend church, then sixty to eighty percent of his children will not attend either, whether the mother herself regularly attends church or not.

In short, the mother’s affect on her children’s church attendence, without fatherly support, will keep children who might otherwise be non-attending churchgoers as irregular church goers. In the sociological data, this was the most positive outcome of the mother’s influence, considered by itself.

Thus, Low concludes, “It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children” (24).

This, to say the least, does not sit well with mainstream social thinking. But given that Americans and Europeans take sociological studies as more authoritative than the Christian Scriptures, it would seem that popular or no, these are facts that must be faced. Low admits that “The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know” (25).

Low points out that the primary role of the mother is one of intimacy, care and nuture. It is from the example of the father that the children (male and female) learn to engage the world outside the home, and which engagements are important. Where fathers are “indifferent, inadequate or absent,” Low notes, this task is much harder.

So it is surprising that churches in the West are so keen to follow feminism’s denigration of the male. From Murphy Brown to our own families, our society preaches fatherlessness as the norm. Men are expendable; at best, mere sperm donors. Nearly all the media examples of men and fathers show them to be ignorant, inattentive, and helpless.

And this teaching is having its impact. Low states that “we are ministering in churches that accepted fatherlessness as a norm, and even an ideal. Emasculated Liturgy, gender-free Bibles, and a fatherless flock are increasingly on offer. In response, these churches’ decline has, unsurprisingly, accelerated” (25-26). It is among the conservative and evangelical churches, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims, which generally hold to traditional, partriarchal norms of family structure, where numerical growth is occurring. Given the data, this is to be expected. And Low continues, “The figures are in and will continue to come in. The churches are losing men, and, if the Swiss figures are correct, are therefore, losing children. You cannot feminize the church and keep the men, and you cannot keep the children if you do not keep the men” (27).

I say again, this will not sit well with the readers of my blog who resist the clear biblical teaching. But what do they have to offer? Anecdotal stories of chauvinism and purported violence. Where these incidences occur even once, they are to be deplored. But the fact of the matter is, the evidence contradicts these anecdotal stories. Partriarchal understandings of family are, in short, better for the religious faith of the children.

Low concludes, “A church that is conspiring against the blessings of patriarchy not only disfigures the icon of the First Person of the Trinity, effects disobedience to the example and teaching of the Second Person of the Trinity, and rejects the Pentecostal action of the Third Person of the Trinity, but more significantly for our society, flies in the face of the sociological evidence! No father–no family–no faith. Winning and keeping men is essential to the community of faith and vital to the work of all mothers and the future salvation of our children” (27).

Another Example of Godly Fatherhood

Those Winter Sundays

by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Clifton Fitzroy Healy, 9 August 1913-10 February 1991

At work, one of my rather mindless tasks is to test books for pH levels. This requires the demanding duty of placing a small amount of water on the page of a book, and placing a sensor tube in the drop of water. Then I wait a few minutes until the pH level registers, and record that level on a piece of paper. However, despite this riveting work, I am able to read while I do it.

One of the books I’ve been reading lately is Victor Davis Hanson’s Fields Without Dreams, in which Hanson, a classicist specializing in early Greek warfare and agriculture, describes the decline of his family’s fruit tree farm and vineyard, and those of the surrounding area, near Alma, California. Reading that book really brought to mind my late grandfather, Clifton F. Healy.
Continue reading “Clifton Fitzroy Healy, 9 August 1913-10 February 1991”

Out of the Silent Planet, Chs. 12-17

This week’s installment was rich. Much good commentary on language, work and productivity, knowledge, and, mostly, angelology.

But what I found most intriguing was Hyoi’s account of pleasure and memory. In a passage worthy of consideration alongside Aristotle’s De Anima, Bk Gamma, Lewis writes of a conversation between Ransom and Hyoi. Ransom begins:

‘If a thing is a pleasure, a hman [i. e., earthly human] wants it again. He might want the pleasure [of sexual intercourse] more often than the number of young that could be fed.’
It took Hyoi a long time to get the point.
‘You mean,’ he said slowly, ‘that he might do it not only in one or two years of his life but again?’
‘But why? Would he want his dinner all day or want to sleep after he had slept? I do not understand.’
‘But dinner comes every day. This love, you say, comes only once while the
hross lives?’
‘But it takes his whole life. When he is young he has to look for his mate; and then he has to court her; then he begets young; then he rears them; then he remembers all this, and boils it inside him and makes it into poems and wisdom.’
‘But the pleasure he must be content to only remember?’
‘That is like saying, “My food I must be content to eat.”‘
‘I do not understand.’
‘A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking,
Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. The seroni could say it better than I say it now. Not better than I could say it in a poem. What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure, as the crah is the last part of the poem. When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then–that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. . . .’
. . .
‘And indeed,’ he continued,’the poem is a good example. For the most splendid line becomes fully splendid only by means of all the lines after it; if you went back to it you would find it less splendid than you thought. You would kill it. . . .’

[p. 73]


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The Fatherhood Chronicles V

Well, about a month or so ago, Anna and I went on our first major baby-stuff buying outing. She got the crib set she wanted, clothes, and so forth. Heck, we even bought a diaper pail on the way home from Divine Liturgy on Mother’s Day! Today was yet another installment of “There-goes-Clifton’s-book-budget-money II (or III?): Carter’s Outlet Revisited.”

But lest you think I’m too terribly resistant to all this baby-product buying, I must make a public confession. As soon as I saw the Eric Carle “Hungry Caterpillar” diaper bag, I said to my wife (excitedly no less!): “There it is, hon!” and hustled over to the display rack. *Sigh* I’m a sucker fer kids’ stuff now. My youthful days of carefree living are now behind me. Fatherhood descends.

I tell you what, it’s a doggone good thing I got the complete works of Plato and Aristotle’s four major works (Physics, Metaphysics, De Anima, and Nichomachean Ethics; as well as a few others) in Greek. Not to mention my trusty LSJ lexicon (the Big Daddy), and several of the ancient commentators on Aristotle. Doesn’t look like I’m going to be spending much on books here in less than two months. Dang! And I’d had my eye on the W D Ross Metaphysics two-volume text and commentary!

The Fatherhood Chronicles IV

Last night was class two (of four) of our childbirth instruction. I swear by all that’s good: if I see another video of a live birth, I’m going to quit. I mean it.

The first night was pretty much learning about the three stages of labor: early, middle and active. In husband terms: panic, confusion, and dear-God-don’t-let-her-hit-me-again! We saw some video of live births. I winced and chewed my gum furiously.

Last night was more videos (How many women have let themselves be filmed while giving birth, anyway?! Sheesh!), but in addition to the “squeezing-a-watermelon-through-your-left-nostril”-cam shots of live births, we also got to learn about medications and medical procedures. My wife gets her choice of narcotics and a near-spinal-tap, and . . . you may have to cut where if the baby is slow in coming out?!!!

I swear to you, if I’d seen these videos in my junior high sex ed class, I would have been “scared celibate.” Monastic vocation, here I come.

But I think the videos are softening me up. The more babies I saw laid on their mother’s chest right after birth, the more I had to keep flicking away that darn dust speck that kept getting in my eyes. Yep, I’ll either pass out or be a blubbering idiot. My poor wife.

Plato’s Democracy: An Hexis of Consumptive Heresy II

[Part II of II. Here is Part I]

I have taken some space–and even that is a much truncated summary–to describe some of the key aspects of Plato’s conception of the human soul, the city, and the relation of soul and city through formation. One need not subscribe to Plato’s model city, or even his tripartite conception of the soul to recognize that cities and souls are both shaped by and shape one another. Plato’s Republic is not an historical analysis of how cities devolve from a pristine aristocratic state. Nor is his account completely compatible with the Christian understanding of sin and theosis. But in that it articulates the possible ways in which humans shape and misshape their communities and themselves, it is a valuable meditation, and warning, for us.

It seems to me that we Christians should first recognize the devolution of our own community to something resembling quite closely Plato’s society of free-choice consumption. This social consumptive structure and its virtue of choice (that is to say, it’s making a virtue of heresy) shapes us, and we continue that paradigm in our lives. Even and despite our faith and living.

While some, such as Frank Schaeffer, in his Dancing Alone, want to trace present-day U. S. relativistic pluaralism to the failures of the Protestant Reformation, here I merely want to agree with the diagnosis of where we’re at, it not agree with the analysis of whence we’ve come. (Though I do agree with Schaeffer as to the remedy.)

We present-day U. S. citizens sit atop a culture suffused with death and exploitation. It is not too difficult to understand what’s missing. Protestant Christians in general (and here I’m including mainline liberals with evangelical conservatives) find themselves, for various reaons, with an anemic incarnational doctrine, and the consequences are all around us.

What I mean is this: Whether it be the liberals who discount the Incarnation altogether, or the conservatives who hold to the Incarnation literally but primarily doctrinally, the full-blown understanding of the Incarnation remains absent from much of present-day Protestant Christianity. If one doesn�t even believe the Incarnation, then clearly the only alternative is this present existence. Liberal rejection of the Incarnation damns its adherents to a life of Qohelethical vanity.

However, just because one believes in the “literal” (i. e., real, historical) Incarnation, isn’t enough. Many Protestants believe in the Incarnation in its actual sense (God become man and suffered, died and was buried, and rose again on the third day), but understand it almost exclusively in a juridical sense. That is to say, for many, the point of the Incarnation is justification. They would not deny the sanctifying results of the Incarnation, but these function less as a consequence of the Incarnation and more as a consequence of some sort of exclusively pneumatological event (in charismatic terms a second “baptism” or “the baptism of the Holy Spirit”). That is to say, justification gets us in the door, but after that, it’s not so much Jesus with whom we have to do, but rather the Spirit. Aside from the Sabellian implications this has for Trinitarian theology, this dichotomy between Jesus as Savior and Spirit as Sanctifier is not only dangerous, but also as damning as the liberal rejection of the Incarnation altogether.

One of the ways this extremist understanding of salvation damns is that it removes God’s energetic gracious operations from the created world. (It also makes of grace a created thing. This, too, has terrible implications.) So it is no surprise that Zwingli and others denied any sacramental reality to the Eucharist. Once one has done that, one has entered the world of Manichean Gnosticism: creation is evil, spirit is good. But if creation is denied the infilling of the God-Man through the Spirit, then man is split in his very being. Salvation need not touch his body. Salvation is about knowing and believing the right doctrines, and willing the right actions. The body is nothing more than a vessel and is unessential to salvation. (This, of course, is little more than Platonic/Augustinian/Cartesian dualistic heresy, and is not worthy of Christian belief. Yet, how many of us have heard these sentiments–freed from the prison of the body–at some funerals?)

The problem is, God created the cosmos to be sacramental. Reality, God-given reality, is at its core sacramental. The first humans were allowed to eat of all but one tree. In the first act of consumption, of pleonexia, they rejected that sacramental reality for Gnostic wisdom. But even though we still reject that sacramental reality, we do so by way of denial. For too many U. S. Christians, reality is spiritual, illusion is material. We forget the ancient biblical understanding that creation is spiritual in its very materiality. And that it is so by virtue of the fact of the Incarnation.

Though we reject the sacramental nature of creation, we nonetheless were made, as Fr. Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory in his book, For the Life of the World so excellently notes, to live in sacramental relationship with creation. So we cannot but help to still look to creation for a fulfillment that can only be had if we are in union with the one Person through whom creation is sanctified: Jesus Christ. Without cruciform allegiance to Christ our relationship to the created order, to other humans also, is one of exploitation. We use matter and persons in order to be wise; which is to say, in order to exercise power and control. We deny the spirit of the matter, and so attempt to fill the void of spirit with matter. We relive the original consumptive heresy of Adam and Eve.

It is so obvious as to be beyond denial, but present U. S. society is suffused with consumer heresy. Viewing matter as merely matter, and matter as all that is, we and our neighbors deny the Incarnation, and empty our relationship with matter and other humans of any Trinitarian life-giving content. We want the wisdom tree’s fruit. And we are wiser, in a sense. Wiser about how to manipulate the created world to our own appetites. We have an end, a telos, a goal. And the one ineradicable instrument to that end, is choice, heresy.

So much of U. S. Christian worship, church planting, evangelism, is drenched in consumerist heresy. Newcomers are told that Church is about feeling comfortable. Worship services, newcomers are told, are our gift to you. Churches are marketed to groups. Teens, adults, young children, all have special niche programs created “just for them.” The message: “We’re here to fill up your emptiness.” But the void is being filled, not with the life-giving Trinity, but with more emptiness. No sacramentality, no spirit.

The consumerist U. S. society creates consumers. And Christians are not immune. Christians are as formed by the consumptive heresy as are their secular neighbors. And it creeps into all things Christian. From the original purity of sacramental understanding, the U. S. Christian polis has devolved into the heretical consumer multiplex. Souls and bodies are shaped in a demonic paideia, and in turn shape their institutions. Pleonexia has become the consumer virtue–“never satisfied”–and Christians follow suit.

The remedy, of course, is to recover the full meaning of the Incarnation and its sacramentality. Bread and wine become Body and Blood. Oil reveals the descent of the Holy Spirit. Vestments become touchstones of prayer as the fingers of the faithful brush the hem of the garment. These are symbols, but not mere symbols. They are alive with energetic grace. Which is to say they are alive with the uncreated God.

But this takes more than mere intellectual instruction. Plato’s model city, after all, trained the youth from birth, body and soul. This is what the Church has been called to do from the beginning. “You and all your household.” “The home is a little Church.” Babies are baptized, and taught by parental fiat and example that the Christian life is an agon, a struggle against, the flesh, against the consumptive heresy. It is a struggle to always remember that all of reality is suffused with the glory of the consequences of the Incarnation. All of reality is sacramental. The sweat-soaked marriage bed, undefiled, is a sacrament. The sleepy-eyed, tow-headed children risen from sleep to stand with parents before the icons in prayer is sacramental. The jar of Trader Joe’s olive oil, poured into the vigil lamp and become by prayer a means of grace, speaks of sacrament. The heavens declare the glory of God, because his glory infuses all. Blessed water is holy not because some priest recited magic words, but because the foot of a man who is God once stepped into the Jordan River in the Middle East. These children, as also we, are formed and shaped by the movement of bodies kneeling, the rhythmic breathing of recited prayers, and the Trinitarian reality that suffuses these created things offered in faith to God.

And maybe, being shaped in sacrament, we, too, may shape our own society towards sacrament. Activism, politics, convention resolutions will not do this. Only the slow, steady drip of water on stone, of daily prayers and repentances passed on to children, will accomplish this. There is no program. There is only living Tradition, struggle. Are we conformed to the pattern of the world around us? Or are we transformed by ecclesial paideia?


Plato’s Democracy: An Hexis of Consumptive Heresy I

[Note: This is Part I of II. Part I sets the terms and limits of the ideas I want to examine (namely, unbounded desire/consumerism, choice, and soul formation). Part II will make application.]

Those familiar with Plato’s Republic will recall that it is a lengthy dialogue on justice. Indeed, some of the copies of the ancient manuscripts have “concerning justice” as a subtitle. Justices is explicitly the subject matter of the first four books, and the closing “Myth of Er” in Book X again brings the subject matter to the fore. In the first book, which many scholars think was written separately then woven into the text of the Republic, Socrates, Cephalus, Polemarchus and Thrasymachus try unsuccessfully to come to an understanding of what justice is. Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus take the argument further in Book II, but still end in failure. So they resolve to fashion a model city, a soul writ large, so that by its scope, its “large letters,” they might be better able to “read” there what is justice.

But hardly do they being their work than they must discuss the sort of education which will be needed in their city. By education, however, we should understand the formation of a soul, paideia. The youth are to be shaped through physical training, music and poetry; shaped body and soul. The model city, it seems, is to be governed by those it shapes to govern well. The paradigm begun in Book II is brought to completion in Book VII, so that side-by-side–indeed, entwined with–the attempt to understand justice is the attempt to form a just soul.

We seek in Book IV the completion of the model city. There we learn the virtues which the model city exemplifies: wisdom, courage, and moderation. These virtues apply to the sectors of the population of the model city (the philosopher-kings, the warrior guardians, and the mercantile class, respectively), and, by analogous equation, to the aspects of the human soul they mirror: intellect (or reason), the spirited aspect, and the appetite. Justice, then, is the harmony, the balance of these virtues. That is to say, when wisdom governs spirit, and these together govern appetite, then a human soul is in the harmonious state which is justice. Mutatis mutandis, then, in the model city, the philosopher-kings govern the warrior guardians who together control the merchants. This harmony of classes and their virtues makes a city just.

This state of justice is instantiated in the aristocracy which is ruled by the philosopher-kings, who themselves exemplify just persons. But the character of a just city and a just man, being an hexis, or active condition of justice, may by gradual (or sudden) disintegration lose its harmony and become imbalanced, or unjust. Just as the model city was the soul of the philosopher-king magnified, so, too, the imbalanced cities-or more correctly, their politeia, or constitutions (constitution in the sense of the very character which makes these cities what they are)–have their concomitant rulers.

Having laid the foundation of the aristocracy governed by the philosopher-kings, the dialogue turns in Books VIII and IX to describe the timocracy, the oligarchy, the democracy, and the tyrannous state, with their respective rulers. Though Socrates admits that these deficient politeia are points on a spectrum, that many more examples could be described, these four deficient politeia may be considered representative of the decline from aristocracy. In any case, the ends of the spectrum are the aristocratic state and its mirror-image in the tyrannous state. Just as Plato spends the largest part of the Republic describing the model city and its philosopher-kings, so, too, the tyrant and his city received the most attention of the deficient politeia. In the case of the philosopher-king, Socrates and his interlocutors spend most of Books IV-VII discussing his character and formation. The tyrant receives the last part of Book VIII and all of Book IX in the description of his origin and lycanthropic character.

In the same way that the paideia, or formation, of the philosopher-king is intended to shape and form an active character, an hexis, so, too, the deficient constitutions are active states of injustice, disharmony, which form an unjust, disharmonious soul. The constitutions of these deficient cities are not constitutions in the documentary sense (though a constitutional document is not precluded), but are rather constitutions in the sense of character; i. e., “he has a strong constitution”). So it is that the descriptions of progressively worsening cities are paralleled by the sort of character they form and by which they are governed. That is to say, each politeia has its own paideia.

The beginning of the devolution from aristocracy, as it was for the kallipolis (which devolved into the swollen city, and from which swollen city the aristocracy arose), is pleonexia, the unbounded desire for more. Pleonexia is, in many ways, the Platonic “original sin.” It is that which causes the kallipolis to devolve into the swollen city, and is that against which institutional restrictions must be directed such that the philosopher-kings neither own nor are able to acquire too much property. The philosopher-king’s income is kept to maintenance levels. He and the other guardians have all things in comment, including women and children.

The failure of these restrictions to check pleonexia leads by gradations to tyranny and the tyrant. At first, certain of the philosopher-kings seek greater honor than their colleagues, and so begin to acquire more property and wealth than is legally allowed, and rule by way of a propertied timocratic class. Those with more wealth and more control begin to marginalize the other guardians, resulting in the rule by the wealthy few in the oligarchy. Having already left the harmonious balance of city and soul by devolution into the timocracy, the character of the polis and its rulers descends through ever-increasing instability. Reason is first dethroned by the spirited nature in the timocracy and gets worse in the oligarchy. This spirited nature will, in turn, be dethroned by appetite in the democracy until appetite rules by sole control, aided and abetted by the power of the spirited nature (the tyrant rules the warriors who do his bidding) in the tyranny.

In the devolution of the oligarchy, Plato describes the emergence of the democracy. Reason has given way to the spirited nature, and these have quickly granted control to the appetite. Not surprisingly, the origins of the democracy begin with the paideia of the young. Trained to desire more wealth, the young of the oligarchy are trained merely to want. The rulers take advantage of these desires, enslaving them by the indebtedness of exorbitant loans. Unable to repay their debts, their appetites still untrained, large portions of the polis are reduced to poverty and destitution. Of course, this leads to civil war. In this war, the indebted class overthrows their rulers, giving free rein to a culture of desire and consumption. In the democracy there remains still some vestiges of “good” and “bad” desires, but these distinctions quickly fade into mere licentiousness. That is to say, licentiousness in the etymological sense: freedom to choose to follow any desire whatsoever. This state will quickly devolve into rule by passion, but at this point, at least in the democracy, the key for understanding this is the term, choice (hairesis, heresy). One must be free to choose to follow one’s appetites. Good, bad, indifferent. Appetites are the goal. Choice is the means. No one may interfere with choice.

[End Part I. Part II to follow.]

Out of the Silent Planet, Chs. 7-11

This week’s Lewis readings put us smack in the middle of the story. Thank goodness we can leave 1940s science behind. Aside from eluding his Earthly captors, wandering, and discovering another form of Malacandrian life (aside from the sorns he has already seen), Ransom does little but learn about the hrossa and their language.

Well, that’s not accurate. There are a couple of interesting things he does learn, but about which we readers aren’t yet fully up to speed on. We learn of a being called Oyarsa, whom, it appears, is responsible for all that is. We learn about the eldil–shades of the zodiacal ruminations from last week’s chapters!–and that, it appears, the only way the hrossa can cognitively understand evil and sin is to describe an evil person as bent. Very biblical, that. A righteous man, is, after all upright.

It is the “unseen” (to Ransom) eldil that the hrossa children (“pups”) see that struck my imagination today. Yesterday, at the Divine Liturgy, we recited the words of the creed, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is visible and invisible.” Fr Patrick pointed out for us that “invisibile” is better understood as “unseen,” not necessarily as not being able to be seen. He pointed out that of all of the reality that humans encounter–even from the strictly biological perspective–nearly all of it is “invisible” or unseen. Bacteria, viruses, the inner workings of our bodies, and so forth. Indeed, nearly all of humanity remains for us, unseen, as we have no daily encounters with the rest of the world outside our living. These are, for us, unseen.

So too, for Ransom, are the eldil. I’m not getting ahead of the story by noting that these are the angels in Lewis’ space trilogy. Ransom, encumbered by sin, cannot see them. The hrossa children, apparently sinless, can see them. It is no secret that this child-innocence is approximated or regained in the saints of the Church. What seems to us miraculous powers of perception and insight, are, more accurately, what humans were intended to be. Do the stories of the saints and desert fathers and mothers strike us as “quaint” and “metaphorical”? Hardly. These men and women did indeed see angels and demons and the great spiritual warfare that we modern Christians relegate to the “fanciful” and “symbolic” because we have lulled ourselves into spiritual somnolence by our apathy and aversion for agonia, the life of the Christian which Paul indicates is normative.

I would pray that my own eyes might be opened to see all that is. But I’m afraid I’m far too flabby and none to eager for hardship. More’s the pity. Indeed, I stand indicted.

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