That Hideous Strength, Chs. 14-17

I don’t know what it is but I always like the darker stuff of trilogies. For me, Empire was the best of the original Star Wars movies. I prefer Inferno to the rest of the Divine Comedy. Hamlet gets top spot over The Taming of the Shrew. And the third of C S Lewis’ Space Trilogy is by far my favorite. I was somewhat sad to end it this week.

The denouement is appropriately dark and grisly. For those who grew up on Lewis’ Narnia, the beheadings, disembowelings, and general terror and bloodiness of the Babel-like demise of N.I.C.E. is nightmarish and terrifying. And Lewis tells it so matter of factly, British understatement and all, that one is the more taken in and horrified.

What is interesting is that the human enemies of N.I.C.E. are possessed by the evil they have chosen to serve, but their possessions are as unique as their persons. Frost’s scientific espousal of mere physicality is brought to its ultimate logical conclusion as he both dismembers his colleagues, and immolates himself. His is the most gruesome, because most materially graphic, of all the deaths. Jules dies as is appropriate for one puffed up by pride. The Fairy dies in the same torturous way in which she tormented her victims. And Winter’s detached philosophical rejection of truth and goodness leads to the ever diminishing hold on reality.

Which is to say, each will be judged by their own words and deeds. Each will face the consequences of their own actions and choices. The unique allegiances of each will determine their eternal destinies.

Similarly, the salvation of the community of Logres finds its particular expressions in the singular personalities of those who’ve chosen the Truth of Love. I suppose being a new father, with newfound love for spouse and child, the salvation by domesticity wrought in the lives of Jane and Mark is especially touching. Mark comes to realize how he has objectified and dehumanized Jane. And he is ashamed. Lewis hints very strongly that Mark’s salvation then comes through the person who knows anew. Jane had come to realize that she served an empty ideal of progressive feminism which was a chimera and nothing like real womanhood. Her salvation is wrought then in the acceptance of a husband who far from deserved her allegiance. One could describe the consummation that comes on the community of Logres, and that consummation is both erotic and metaphysical, but one risks losing the Gospel in the midst of misunderstanding about true eros. The salvation of Logres is not merely the focal point of individual orgasm. If you will pardon me, fucking is not sacramental. Rather the consummate and biblical knowing, the full giving of self to another, in the context of lifelong fealty and submission and obedience to God and one another, the physico-spiritual union of man and woman, this is the sacrament brought down by Venus at St Anne’s.

We have lost this understanding of love.

Such fools as clergy who have abandoned their loyalty bandy about the orgasmic over the erotic. They claim incarnation in ejaculation; they ascribe to orgasm some mystical ecstasis. But they do not, nor apparently can, touch and know the true sacrament of eros. Their judgment comes not in some hateful intolerant demagogues carrying picket signs, nor necessarily in any sort of “visitation” in the form of STDs. Rather, their judgment comes in the logical conclusion of their choices, words and decisions. They know only the orgasmic, not the erotic. They miss out on love for sex. They know only lust, not the Lover. What they desire is their reward and damnation.

Conversely, for those who surrender body and soul to the will of the Beloved, is found in their own wedded beloved, far more than they could have ever have imagined. In this true sacrament of the knowing of man and wife, the sum is greater than the parts, because blessed and sustained by God.

That Hideous Strength, Chs. 10-13

“I mean this,” said Dimble in answer to the question she had not asked. “If you dip ainto any college, or schoool, or parish, or family–anything you like–at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren’t quite so sharp; and that there’s going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder. . . .” (p. 283)

One might well argue with Lewis whether Dark Age Britain was a place where one could be both Christian and develop knowledge about the elemental powers of the world. Lewis, is, after all, writing a fairy tale, and borrowing from Tolkien. But what is most certainly true, since the coming of Christ and the bringing forth by the Spirit of the Church, the Truth of the narrowing of choices, the Truth of the two paths and the two masters, has been becoming ever more real. If there is a narrow and squeezing path, the one of life, there is only one other path, the broad and level one leading to death. This is no melodrama. It is the stark reality of the Gospel. It is why we must repent. Which does not mean adding a bit here, a bit there, some of this, some of that, and icing it over with some “Christian” words. Christ is the stone on which we are broken, or underneath which we will be crushed. We either know his love as mercy or as judgment. We cannot know it as indifference.

While some Christian teachers would focus on various world events to foretell the scheduled events of the Apocaplyse, it seems to me that a look at the Christian world of thousands of denominations is perhaps a better barometer.

Take for example, the Great Schism. In the sixth century, when the council of Toledo introduced the filioque, one could perhaps afford to be somewhat tolerant of the innovation. But when combined with the Roman bishops’ quest for political supremacy, with the ever-growing distance in language and culture, by Christmas Day 1054, such neutral choices were no longer available.

Or the Protestant Reformation. At the time, it was intended as, indeed, a reform. But with social and political retrenchments growing on both sides, excommunication surely came. By the time of Trent, it was no longer possible to be neutral.

One could bring up lesser, if not the less important, matters of our own recent days. In the Episcopal Church, one might have found it possible to be neutral on the sexuality issue. But this is no longer a possibility. For good or for ill, one must now choose one’s allegiance across the divide of a non-celibate gay bishop.

In the evangelical world, the choices are more numerous because the divisions are so rife, and the consistencies of constituencies so inconsistent. But with the proliferation of choice, one’s actual choices narrow. Simply because one can choose from dozens of Bible translations, worship styles, ecclesial polities, and ministries, one is finally faced with only one choice: the serving of self or God. In the evangelical world, the gospel of consumerism is laid over the true Gospel, and the clarion call of comfort drowns out the harsh trumpet of repentance.

This, I think, is what C. S. Lewis means through his Dr. Dimble. And I agree with the thought: we live in an age where neutrality is not only impossible, it’s damning. If we cannot answer “Yes” that some decision will more clearly reveal the Lordship of Christ in our lives, then to make that decision will be to unmake ourselves. For the reality is that we are servants. It is given to us, in the multiple thousands of choices each day, to decide whom we will serve.

This, of course, is the recasting of the words of our Lord regarding the eschaton. And this is why he also asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

That Hideous Strength, Chs. 5-9

This passage, in which Mark is asked to write fictitious news articles to mold and shape public opinion toward favoring N.I.C.E. (shades of the New York Times!), was striking, and carries the theme from last week’s entry:

This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. There may have been a time in the world’s history when such moments fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter between fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individiually, very bad men.
That Hideous Strength, p. 130

And this passage, in which there is discussion among the Company organized against N.I.C.E. about whether they ought dissovle themselves:

“I am the Director,” said Ransom, smiling. “Do you think I would claim the authority I do if the relation between us depended either on your choice or mine? You never chose me. I never chose you. Even the greate Oyeresu whom I serve never chose me. I came into their worlds by what seemed, at first, a chance; as you came to me–as the very animals in this house first came to it. YOu and I have not started or devised this: it has descended on us–sucked us into itself, if you like. It is, no doubt, an organisation: but we are not the organisers.”
That Hideous Strength, p. 198

Here again is drawn the theme of sin and redemption. This is not some great and romantic epic in which heroes and villains are clearly known by visage or accoutrement. This is the battle of the universe which takes place in a million and one daily humdrum decisions.

But note the symptomatic arena in which this battle takes place. On the one hand, Ransom’s Company is very much Incarnational. Ransom has tasted paradise, and therefore incorruption works its physical way through his body. Yet, the redemption he bought in Perelandra was not without price, and he bears the physical sign of that in his heel, a painful wound that always bleeds.

On the other hand is the anti-Incarnational N.I.C.E. Theirs is a bodiless Head (where as in Christianity Head and Body are always joined in synergistic union). Theirs is a gnosticism that would alternately reduce humankind to mere matter, then reduce them further to mere intelligence. No body. No spirit. No union.

This same battle is that which is played out in our world. We have the choice day by day to affirm and live the Gospel of Incarnation–the sacrament that sanctifies soul and body. We serve a God who has united, in the Person of His Son, human nature and divine nature. In that union is our salvation. The antichrists around us, those who deny this union, reduce us to biochemical processes of sexual function, appetite, and stimulus and response. Here I am, nothing but flesh. But this house is empty and swept clean. Alternatively, the heresy of gnosticism plays its cards here, too. We have ideals, something like mental secret handshakes, the miasmic fog of semi-faith which divorces knowing from being. If we belch the right rhetoric, if we mimic the proper verbal allegiances, we, too, may consider ourselves “in the club.” But this verbal flatulence is empty of body; we may think what we want, we may subsume humanity under labels and causes, we may find our place in the “tensive center.” But this feast is merely the illusion of bread and wine. The hunger still remains.

Rest assured, this battle is nothing so great and glorious as those mythic lines from Homer, or the icy grey bleakness of the Norse Ragnarok. It is little more than the imperceptible turn from one allegiance to the consideration of another. The blurring of the line between dogma and soulcare. The removal of discernment from love. The failure to recognize the holy side of mercy. The relaxation in one’s soul of boundaries once held dear. One never knows the corner has been turned, not because there is no corner, but because the process is so imperceptibly singular in its segments.

There is no vast middle in this battle. There is Christ and there is the denial of Christ. One cannot serve two masters. We understand this, but we never quite experience its reality till we recognize ourselves on the other side whence we’ve come. And when we retrace the journey, wondering how we got here, we see all the mindless, inattentive acts, all the semi-conscious choices, and we understand, it is in the unseen, quiet moments of daily life that we choose and unchoose our destiny.

Someone, nearer to us than our very selves, has said: What I say to you all I say to everyone, “Watch, therefore. For you do not know at what hour the Son of Man will return.”

That Hideous Strength, Preface-Ch. 4

Oh the many things I love about That Hideous Strength: set in a college atmosphere, exposes the power-hungry agenda of modernist progressivism, the cosmic backdrop of ageless spiritual warfare . . . So many things.

I found two things of interest to me this week. The first involved the living reality of Jesus’ words about the Gospel: that it divides parents from children, brothers from brothers, even, Paul notes, marriages. The Studdocks are one such marriage. They are lining themselves up for and against the Gospel, though they hardly know their actions as such. But this is the way of conversion and of apostasy and heresy. Very seldom do each happen suddenly, critically. Indeed, both are chronic states, taking a lifetime to fulfill their ends, though the telling fruit be borne sooner.

Jane Studdock thinks she is merely ringing up Mrs. Dimble because of the bad dreams she, Jane, is having. She does not know that such a simple action will have lasting consequences. For that one action will lead to a meeting with the Dimbles. Which will lead to a recommendation to go to St. Anne’s to see Miss Ironwood. And that meeting itself reveals the choice that has already been made, as it were, by actions set in motion.

Similarly, Mark thinks himself doing little more than providing the best he can for his family, though admittedly perhaps more for himself. But more than that, he sincerely thinks himself to be advancing a great cause for his fellow humans. He cannot yet know that his simple action of accepting an invitation to the college’s “Progressive Element” will set in motion actions that will unleash untold horrors on the world.

And neither Jane nor Mark can know that the paths they have chosen they might just as indiscernably forsake once underway. Conversion and apostasy are such slippery things. A small, unnoticed decision here, the attempt to advance one’s well-intentioned cause there. And heaven or hell becomes a real-world consequence. But of course, Lewis knew this and wrote about it often.

The other point of interest is a brief exchange between Hingest and Mark Studdock:

“‘I suppose there are two views about everything,’ said Mark.
“‘Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there’s never more than one.’ . . .”

Hingest, of course, must be killed for such sentiments, and before the chapter is completed, he is–most brutally.

So long as there are innumberable opinions, we may feel safely ensconced in our own. Others may disagree; we may even face arguments fatal to our convictions. Ah, but so long as there are many opinions! After all, who could be so closed-minded as to insist on only one. How callous and uncaring. That is to say, until the Truth is known. Then there really is only one view on the matter. The rest are illusion.

Perelandra, Chs. 14-17

This week’s reading for Perelandra was an ambivalent one for me. It’s not that there wasn’t a bunch of meaty theology. There certainly was that. And it wasn’t that the richness of Dante’s Divine Comedy was called to mind with Ransom’s emergence in the darkened underwater cave of another Fixed Land, through dimly-lit mountain, to mountain’s top. But like Dante’s Comedy the interesting bits are the ones dealing with the horrors of hell. I’m not sure why that is.

In any case, though we end in Paradise, and Paradise intended, it seems a let down compared to the cosmic battle that has been going on for many chapters now. The Lord and Lady of Perelandra are installed as rightful king and queen, and even the angelic ruler of the planet turns over her authority and becomes their messenger.

The wound in Ransom’s heel is clearly analogous to the Genesis 3 prophecy of our Lord himself. Ransom is, indeed, God’s savior of Perelandra. But here atonement is not necessary for there was never a rupture. The temptation has been faced and passed. Though not completely without cost. Even in Paradise, it seems, the divinized life is not lived apart from striving.

Were I not so tired and unfocused right now, I would love to deal more adequately with the metaphysics of space and time Lewis makes into expert poetic prose. But I rather suspect I will get my chance with That Hideous Strength.

Perelandra, Chs. 9-13

The battles between the Bent One (Satan) and Maleldil (God) reaches high gear, though not yet the climax, in this week’s chapters.

The first battle is not a physical encounter, but the encounter between seduction and purity. The Bent One would tempt the Green Lady to a romantic role of tragedy: she’s is a victim of an irrational command, and, like many of her women counterparts on Thulcandra (Earth), she should rise above oppression and injustice, and transgress the command. For the sake of all the future daughters borne to her, she should pave the way toward the breaking of Maleldil’s command. Whereas Weston would tempt the Green Lady to view commands from absolute utility, Ransom attempts to point out to the Lady that of all Maleldil’s commands have for her joy and pleasure. The one command, not to spend the night on the Fixed Land, is the only one of the commands of Maleldil that are solely founded on love alone. There is no apparent utility to the command, only love and trust.

Weston’s argument, interestingly, turns on subsuming the prohibition about the Fixed Land under the other aspects of Maleldil’s will for the Green Lady such as growth and enjoyment. Weston’s argument, Ransom notes, is so powerful because it is half-true. Maleldil does want the Green Lady to grow in love and knowledge and wisdom. But, Ransom tries to argue, to transgress this one command is to transgress all.

The scene then turns to the second battle. Just preceding this is the powerful account of Ransom wrestling within himself as to why he was here on Perelandra and what good he can do to save the Green Lady from sin, loss of innocence and death. He only slowly comes to realize that the success of the encounter does, indeed, rest solely on Ransom’s ability. The Green Lady may well, indeed, fall to sin and transgress Maleldil’s command. Ransom can hope for no miraculous deliverence from Maleldil. This brings him to the point of despair, for he knows that the only way to bring about victory, is to battle the shell of a body that is Weston to the death. He must kill the Un-man. He is, after all, the voice from Deep Heaven points out, named Ransom.

And then, when Ransom is at the depths of hopelessness and doubt, the Voice reminds him, “My name is Ransom, too.” There may well be sin, and its catastrophic consequences, and though the Incarnation was a one time event that changed all the universe, still, Maleldil may yet work an even greater wonder, and bring from defeat the mystery of awful victory.

Steeled, then, Ransom begins the second battle and physically confronts the Un-man. And here there rises in him the purest of hatreds: the hatred of the holy for the unholy. A hatred so pure, it may well be that Ransom could not have experienced it on Earth. The Un-man/Weston and Ransom nearly kill one another, but just as Ransom has wreaked havoc on the physical shell that is Weston’s body, the Un-man escapes and heads out to sea. Ransom follows, and they both make it to the Fixed Land. But just as they do, the Un-man grasps Ransom about the legs and they sink beneath the waves.

It’s interesting how the argument of the Un-man with the Green Lady is so contemporary. The encouragement to the transgression of God’s commands, clear and unequivocal, is so often painted in the tragic terms of justice and injustice. How could God deny that which is so manifestly useful: love and sacrifice and personhood? God would not prohibit that which was just, would he? But this is to fail to see that sometimes God’s commands are not intended to cultivate utility, but are intended to cultivate love and trust. How useful it was, how productive of knowledge, for our biblical Father and Mother to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. How unjust of God to withhold further development from his creatures. But then how unloving and untrusting of the first man and the first woman–and we in them–to transgress that command. Ah, yes, God was set against us, but we, in the quest for greater growth and maturity, steeled ourselves against this great tragedy and boldly stretched forth our hands. And our world and all our lives came undone.

It is also interesting how Lewis describes biblical godly hate. We moderns denigrate this sort of hatred. But the biblical and historical witness is clear: righteous hatred exists, we dare not discount it; and it is so dangerous that we dare not take it up without the infusion of God. Indeed, it is far from certain that our insistence on “Jesus’ love” gentle, meek and mild is more noble than the espousal of godly hatred. Instead of being more pure, it may well be that we are the more apathetic. We let evil increase, because left with the option of pure hatred, we reject it–how un-Christlike–and do nothing. We fail to remember that Jesus himself left us an example, and braided a whip, and, if I may, in holiness kicked some unrighteous ass.

There is much going on in our modern U. S. society about which we Christians should, in all likelihood, be braiding cords. But we fear the ill reputation that holy hatred brings in our society. We’re concerned about “witness” giving little thought to the fact that doing nothing in the face of evil is just as much a witness, albeit of another kind. Ah, but we could not handle that sort of hatred, one may say. True enough. And we are indicted in our pathetic immaturity and worldliness.

One final note: while in pursuit of Weston, Ransom takes of some seaweed, and is not only fed by it, but is given concrete knowledge by the food. This is nothing less than what the Eucharist does. It feeds body and soul, giving us a knowledge of the participation in the life of God that can only come from the sacramental reality we consume.

Perelandra, Chs. 5-8

Last week, we began Perelandra with Life as freedom and grace. This week’s reading reveals a contrast of life as determinism and force. One is the Life received from Maleldil and which proceeds from each good to another good; or, as the Gospel writer John says, from grace to grace. The other life is that which is a law unto itself and which is self-enclosed.

Ransom, through his own experience on Perelandra, and through discussion with Perelandra’s Queen, experienced no want, either of hunger or thirst, on Perelandra’s floating islands. In fact, for the first time in the first eight chapters and one hundred eight pages (in my edition) Ransom experiences hunger, thirst, and pain when on the Fixed Land. Maleldil has made it a law Perelandra that one is not to spend the night on the Fixed Land. The Fixed Land represents the antithesis of the Life of gracious gifts received among the floating islands and their flora and fauna. The Fixed Land is life as determined.

It is precisely on this point that Weston, now possessed by the Bent One in a scene as disturbing in its representation as it is in its brevity, attempts to insert the anti-gospel. Weston is the messenger of biological determinism romanticized. This is the life of Force, which “progresses” ever onward, “advancing” knowledge, yielding greater power and control. It is an anti-gospel which preaches greater “freedom” but which enslaves its adherents to a fatalist existence. Weston sees Ransom and the Queen, both naked and in something like an embrace, and assumes a sexual encounter. He assumes this not because he is some sort of puritancial prude. Rather he assumes it because, for him, life is irreducibly biological and the sexual urge is among the most basic and powerful of biology’s forces.

Ransom, however, knows different. After only a brief reflection on the non-erotic experience of his encounters with the Lady of Perelandra, his is an experience of freedom and gratitude. He does not think of provision, because Perelandra (and Maleldil) is abundant in its gifts. If he is hungry, there is that which he may eat. If he is thirsty, that which he may drink. He sleeps and knows deep refreshment. He is not troubled by biology and its needs and urges because his is an existence transformed by grace. “I have food of which you know not,” said Jesus to his disciples. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me.”

Alexander Schmemann, in his book Great Lent, notes that the first temptation of the Devil is to food, to life as merely biological. The Church’s great ascetics see through this facade. Their ascetical feats are such at which we marvel. But our awe is founded in our warped thinking. The Church’s ascetics know the truth which we forget or cannot hear for the cacophonous cackling of our world’s great hucksters: we live not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Our biology is not our fate. We are not slaves to our passions, urges and orientations. We are sons and daughters of God.

The Queen of Perelandra knows this, as does Ransom. But Weston has begun his great tempting of Perelandra’s Lady to fight this knowledge. And this world-shaping testing will soon reach its culmination.

Perelandra, Chs. 1-4

“On the contrary, it is words that are vague. The reason why the thing can’t be expressed is that it’s too definite for language” (p. 33).

I find it interesting that our present understanding of the relative indeterminacy of language is so exactly opposite of the viewpoint expressed by Lewis here (and one may say expressed by the historic Church). We prefer to lay blame to indeterminacy on the object: it is either too large for our consciousness (for example, God), or too remote from our apprehension (for example, quarks). Whereas it seems to me that Lewis and the ancients had something of an opposing view: these things are so definite, so concrete, so real, that our language cannot get wrapped around them.

What’s the difference? Take God language. Much of modern theology would like to say that God is so large, so far beyond our categories, that all God talk is approximate, and since it is approximate, one may say nearly anything about God and be correct. God is Father? Sure, there’s biblical precedent, and liturgical norms, for that. But God is so far beyond Father that one may as well also call him Mother. Or, better, Parent. But this is relegating God not to more definiteness, but to ever greater incoherence. Lewis and the Fathers, however, would say that the reality of God as Father is so fundamental, so definite, that one may not say of God other than that he is Father lest one risk talking of another God altogether. Yet it is true that our word for Father, though truly and really apprehending the reality of God in such a way so as to not be false, is nonetheless not completely adequate. God is not so great as to be beyond the concept of Father. Rather God is Father in such a deep and real way that our English word for Father can only be an icon of him. It is a window into the depths of what Fatherhood means.

Thus, if there is indeterminacy, it is not because God is so far beyond our words as to render those words meaningless. Rather it is precisely because God is so determinate to the words we use that they cannot fully, though they can adequately, express the Truth of God. The Trinity is a concept that refers to a reality so definite and so deep that our language twists and turns on itself trying to describe that reality. But it is not some fuzzy “almost-think” that can be shaped to fit sociopolitical agendas. Rather it is so definite that no sociopolitical agenda can fetter it. We would have equality without difference. The Trinity forces us to an equality with difference. We would have everyone as head of the home, which is to say no one as head of the home, because we would read democracy back into the text and into God himself. But within the Trinity there is hierarchy and there is essential unity. But that is too definite for our partisan politics.

For me today, I wrestle with the definiteness of spiritual warfare. Peretti’s books make for exciting reading. But they fail to capture the definiteness of the reality. My brother-in-law’s body is a serpentine mass of scar tissue and fused organs. The reality of original sin is reflected in the icon of his flesh. Confronted with this reality, I pray for healing. But what do I know of that for which I pray? The healing for which I ask the intercessions of the Mother of God, the healing, indeed, for which I ask God bowing before his throne, is too real for me to comprehend. It encompasses soul and body, and all the attachments of flesh and blood that this world brings. Delane’s healing, its depthless reality accomplished only by the Savior, is so real that it will have repurcussions along generational and social lines such as can only be imagined. But what is this healing for which I pray?

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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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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