Archives For C.S. Lewis

[EUSTACE] ROSE QUIETLY from his place and walked away among the trees, taking care to go slowly and in an aimless manner so that anyone who saw him would think he was merely stretching his legs. He was surprised to find how quickly the noise of conversation died away behind him and how very silent and warm and dark green the wood became. . . .
The ground began sloping steeply up in front of him. The grass was dry and slippery but manageable if he used his hands as well as his feet, and though he panted and mopped his forehead a good deal, he plugged away steadily. This showed, by the way, that his new life, little as he suspected it, had already done him some good; the old Eustace, Harold and Alberta’s Eustace, would have given up the climb after about ten minutes.
Slowly, and with several rests, he reached the ridge. Here he had expected to have a view into the heart of the island, but the clouds had now come lower and nearer and a sea of fog was rolling to meet him. He sat down and looked back. He was now so high that the bay looked small beneath him and miles of sea were visible. Then the fog from the mountains closed in all round him, thick but not cold, and he lay down and turned this way and that to find the most comfortable position to enjoy himself.
But he didn’t enjoy himself, or not for very long. He began, almost for the first time in his life, to feel lonely. At first this feeling grew very gradually. And then he began to worry about the time. There was not the slightest sound. Suddenly it occurred to him that he might have been lying there for hours. Perhaps the others had gone! Perhaps they had let him wander away on purpose simply in order to leave him behind! He leaped up in a panic and began the descent.
—The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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ASLAN,” SAID LUCY through her tears, “could you—will you—do something for these poor Dwarfs?”
“Dearest,” said Aslan, “I will show you both what I can, and what I cannot, do.” He came close to the Dwarfs and gave a low growl: low, but it set all the air shaking. But the Dwarfs said to one another, “Hear that? That’s the gang at the other end of the stable. Trying to frighten us. They do it with a machine of some kind. Don’t take any notice. They won’t take us in again!”
Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. . . . But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said:
“Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”
“You see,” said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”
—The Last Battle

MAY 26
Despair and Die

THEY BEGAN TO DRAG the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table, some pulling and some pushing. He was so huge that even when they got him there it took all their efforts to hoist him onto the surface of it. Then there was more tying and tightening of cords.
“The cowards! The cowards!” sobbed Susan. “Are they still afraid of him, even now?”
When once Aslan had been tied (and tied so that he was really a mass of cords) on the flat stone, a hush fell on the crowd. Four Hags, holding four torches, stood at the corners of the Table. The Witch bared her arms as she had bared them the previous night when it had been Edmund instead of Aslan. Then she began to whet her knife. It looked to the children, when the gleam of the torchlight fell on it, as if the knife were made of stone, not of steel, and it was of a strange and evil shape.
At last she drew near. She stood by Aslan’s head. Her face was working and twitching with passion, but his looked up at the sky, still quiet, neither angry nor afraid, but a little sad. Then, just before she gave the blow, she stooped down and said in a quivering voice,
“And now, who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased. But when you are dead what will prevent me from killing him as well? And who will take him out of my hand then? Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die.”
—The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

My dear Wormwood,

Even under Slubgob you must have learned at college the routine
technique of sexual temptation, and since, for us spirits, this
whole subject is one of considerable tedium (though necessary as
part of our training) I will pass it over. But on the larger issues
involved I think you have a good deal to learn.
The Enemy’s demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete
abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since our Father’s first great victory, we
have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter, for the last few centuries,
we have been closing up as a way of escape. We have done this through the poets and
novelists by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually short-lived, experience
which they call “being in love” is the only respectable ground for marriage; that
marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage
which does not do so is no longer binding. This idea is our parody of an idea that came
from the Enemy.
The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not
another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and
your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it
is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by
thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts
the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom
out of a weaker self into a stronger. “To be” means “to be in competition”.
Now the Enemy’s philosophy is nothing more nor less than one continued attempt
to evade this very obvious truth. He aims at a contradiction. Things are to be many,
yet somehow also one. The good of one self is to be the good of another. This impossibility
He calls love, and this same monotonous panacea can be detected under all He
does and even all He is — or claims to be. Thus He is not content, even Himself, to
be a sheer arithmetical unity; He claims to be three as well as one, in order that this
nonsense about Love may find a foothold in His own nature. At the other end of the
scale, He introduces into matter that obscene invention the organism, in which the
parts are perverted from their natural destiny of competition and made to co-operate.
His real motive for fixing on sex as the method of reproduction among humans
is only too apparent from the use He has made of it. Sex might have been, from our
point of view, quite innocent. It might have been merely one more mode in which a

stronger self preyed upon a weaker — as it is, indeed, among the spiders where the
bride concludes her nuptials by eating her groom. But in the humans the Enemy has
gratuitously associated affection between the parties with sexual desire. He has also
made the offspring dependent on the parents and given the parents an impulse to support
it — thus producing the Family, which is like the organism, only worse; for the
members are more distinct, yet also united in a more conscious and responsible way.
The whole thing, in fact, turns out to be simply one more device for dragging in Love.
Now comes the joke. The Enemy described a married couple as “one flesh”. He did
not say “a happily married couple” or “a couple who married because they were in love”,
but you can make the humans ignore that. You can also make them forget that the man
they call Paul did not confine it to married couples. Mere copulation, for him, makes
“one flesh”. You can thus get the humans to accept as rhetorical eulogies of “being in
love” what were in fact plain descriptions of the real significance of sexual intercourse.
The truth is that wherever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a
transcendental relation is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally
endured. From the true statement that this transcendental relation was intended
to produce, and, if obediently entered into, too often will produce, affection and the
family, humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear, and
desire which they call “being in love” is the only thing that makes marriage either happy
or holy. The error is easy to produce because “being in love” does very often, in Western
Europe, precede marriages which are made in obedience to the Enemy’s designs,
that is, with the intention of fidelity, fertility and good will; just as religious emotion
very often, but not always, attends conversion. In other words, the humans are to be
encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version
of something the Enemy really promises as its result. Two advantages follow. In the
first place, humans who have not the gift of continence can be deterred from seeking
marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves “in love”, and, thanks to us,
the idea of marrying with any other motive seems to them low and cynical. Yes, they
think that. They regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for
the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life, as something lower than
a storm of emotion. (Don’t neglect to make your man think the marriage-service very
offensive.) In the second place any sexual infatuation whatever, so long as it intends
marriage, will be regarded as “love”, and “love” will be held to excuse a man from all
the guilt, and to protect him from all the consequences, of marrying a heathen, a fool,
or a wanton. But more of this in my next,

Your affectionate uncle

Screwtape

A good bit of Lewis’s success can, I think, be attributed to the fact that he actually writes relatively little “theology” in this technical sense. Clearly, he’s read a good bit of it and been instructed by it—he does not in any sense belittle it—but he tends to seek language that captures and communicates the quality, the feel, of living and thinking as a Christian. As Austin Farrer put it: “[Lewis’] real power was not proof; it was depiction. There lived in his writings a Christian universe that could be both thought and felt, in which he was at home and in which he made his reader feel at home.” That is the universe I want to explore. It illumines the everyday, so that we may find in it shafts of the divine glory that point to God, so that we may sense the eternal significance of ordinary life.

https://www.firstthings.com/article/1998/08/the-everyday-cs-lewis

So while re-reading The Screwtape Letters in preparation for a fast-approaching book club, I came across this brilliant insight about a Christian during times of dryness, times of despair:

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

https://aleteia.org/blogs/catholic-thinking/on-obedience-and-the-screwtape-letters/