Dedicated to one of the great thinkers and authors of our time: C.S. Lewis.
I hope you find each quotation interesting and inspiring.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
I Do Not Mean For You to Fight
"Susan, Eve's Daughter," said Father Christmas. "These are for you," and he handed her a bow and a quiver full of arrows and a little ivory horn. "You must use the bow only in great need," he said, "for I do not mean you to fight in the battle. It does not easily miss. And when you put this horn to your lips; and blow it, then, wherever you are, I think help of some kind will come to you."
Last of all he said, "Lucy, Eve's Daughter," and Lucy came forward. He gave her a little bottle of what looked like glass (but people said afterwards that it was made of diamond) and a small dagger. "In this bottle," he said, "there is cordial made of the juice of one of the fireflowers that grow in the mountains of the sun. If you or any of your friends is hurt, a few drops of this restore them. And the dagger is to defend yourse at great need. For you also are not to be in battle."
"Why, sir?" said Lucy. "I think - I don't know but I think I could be brave enough."
"That is not the point," he said. "But battles are ugly when women fight." ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, (1950)
What is universal is not the particular picture, but the arrival of some message, not perfectly intelligible, which wakes this desire and sets men longing for something East or West of the world; something possessed, if at all, only in the act of desiring it, and lost so quickly that the craving itself becomes craved; something that tends inevitably to be confused with common or even with the satisfactions lying close to hand, yet which is able, if any man faithfully live through the dialectic of its successive births and deaths, to lead him at last where true joys are to be found. [...]one, at least had carried this new form of the desire right up to its natural conclusion and found what he had really been wanting. He wrote it all down in what he called a Comedy. ~C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim's Regress (1933)
On this day:
1933 The Pilgrim's Regress is published by J. M. Dent, London.
"So I went over much grass and many flowers and among all kinds of wholesome and delectable trees till lo! in a narrow place between two rocks there came to meet me a great Lion. The speed of him was like the ostrich, and his size was an elephant's; his hair was like pure gold and the brightness of his eyes like gold that is liquid in the furnace. He was more terrible than the Flaming Mountain of Lagour, and in beauty he surpassed all that is in the world even as the rose in bloom surpasses the dust of the desert. Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.
"Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much, but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly. ~C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, "Further Up and Further In" (1956)
Let us very clearly understand that, in a certain sense, it is no more possible to invent a new ethics than to place a new sun in the sky. Some precept from traditional morality always has to be assumed. We never start from a tabula rasa*; if we did, we should end, ethically speaking, with a tabula rasa. ~ C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, "On Ethics" (1943)
Aristotle said that only those who have been well brought up can usefully study ethics: to the corrupted man, the man who stands outside the Tao, the very starting point of this science is invisible. ~C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, (1943)
*"blank slate" or "blank page"
On this day:
1918 Lewis is transferred to Endsleigh Palace Hospital, London, to continue recovering from his battle wounds.
Link of the day: LOST fans, have you ever heard of this John Locke?
The typical vice [of medieval literature], as we all know, is dullness; sheer, unabashed, prolonged dullness, where the author does not seem to be even trying to interest us. The South English Legendary or Ormulum or parts of Hoccleve are good examples. ... The writer feels everything to be so interesting in itself that there is no need for him to make it so. The story, however badly told, will still be worth telling; the truths, however badly stated, still worth stating. He expected the subject to do for him nearly everything he ought to do himself. Outside literature we can still see this state of mind at work. On the lowest intellectual level, people who find any one subject entirely engrossing are apt to think that any reference to it, of whatever quality, must have some value. Pious people on that level appear to think that the quotation of any scriptural text, or any line from a hymn, or even any noise made by a harmonium, is an edifying sermon or a cogent apologetic. Less pious people on the same level, dull clowns, seem to think that they have achieved either a voluptuous or a comic effect--I am not sure which is intended--by chalking up a single indecent word on a wall. ~C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image (1964)
Link of the day: What in the world is a harmonium?
I heard in Addison's Walk a bird sing clear 'This year the summer will come true. This year. This year
'Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees This year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.
'This year time's nature will no more defeat you, Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.
'This time they will not lead you round and back To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.
'This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell, We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.
'Often deceived, yet open once again your heart, Quick, quick, quick, quick! --the gates are drawn apart.'
~C.S. Lewis, Poems (1st published in The Oxford Magazine, May 1938)
Link of the day: Read about Oxford's Centenary Stone, placed near Addison's Walk in memory of C.S. Lewis.
On this day:
1936 The Allegory of Love is published by Clarendon Press, Oxford.
A brief quotation from The Allegory of Love:
"Humanity does not pass through phases as a train passes through stations; being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind. Whatever we have been, in some sort we are still."
Tolkien...is most important. The Hobbit is merely the adaptation to children of part of a huge private mythology of a most serious kind: the whole cosmic struggle as he sees it but mediated through an imaginary world. The Hobbit's successor, which will soon be finished, will reveal this more clearly. Private worlds have hitherto been mainly the work of decadents or, at least, mere aesthetes. This is the private world of a Christian. He is a very great man. His published works (both imaginative & scholarly) ought to fill a shelf by now: but he's one of those people who is never satisfied with a MS. The mere suggestion of publication provokes the reply 'Yes, I'll just look through it and give it a few finishing touches' --which means that he really begins the whole thing over again. ~C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, Letter to Charles Brady, Oct. 29, 1944
On this day:
1925 Lewis is elected Fellow of English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford.
From at least the age of six, romantic longing--Sehnsucht--had played an unusually central part in my experience. Such longing is in itself the very reverse of wishful thinking: it is more like thoughtful wishing. ~C.S. Lewis, Narrative Poems, Preface to "Dymer" (1950)
Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don't understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning--either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside....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 realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer. ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
Suddenly the lights of the Universe seemed to be turned down. As if some demon had rubbed the heaven's face with a dirty sponge, the splendour in which they had lived for so long blenched to a pallid, cheerless and pititable grey. It was impossible from where they sat to open the shutters or roll back the heavy blind. What had been a chariot gliding in the fields of heaven became a dark steel box dimly lighted by a slit of window and falling. They were falling out of the heaven, into a world. Nothing in all his adventures bit so deeply into Ransom's mind as this. He wondered how he could ever have thought of planets, even of the Earth, as islands of life and reality floating in a deadly void. Now, with a certainty which never after deserted him, he saw the planets--the 'earths' he called them in his thought--as mere holes or gaps in the living heaven--excluded and rejected wastes of heavy matter and murky air, formed not by addition to, but by subtraction from, the surrounding brightness. And yet, he thought, beyond the solar system the brightness ends. Is that the real void, the real death? Unless...he groped for the idea...unless visible light is also a hole or gap, a mere diminuition of something else. Something that is to bright unchanging heaven as heaven is to the dark, heavy earths...
Things do not always happen as a man would expect. The moment of his arrival in an unknown world found Ransom wholly absorbed in a philosophical speculation. ~C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet (1938)
On this day:
1862 Florence Hamilton, mother of C.S. Lewis, is born in Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland.
1855 George Macdonald's first book, Within and Without, was published.
It is at her centre, where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to every other in spirit, if not in doctrine. And this suggests at the centre of each there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice. ~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Preface (1952)
The time is always ripe for a re-union. Divisions between Christians are a sin and a scandal, and Christians ought at all times to be making contributions toward re-union, if it is only by their prayers. ~C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, "Answers to Questions on Christianity" (1st pub. 1944)
On this day:
1931 Warren Lewis attended garrison church*, and observed that attendance was high (200 to 300 attendees) because if the soldiers refused to go they would find themselves in the guard room.
A garden...teems with life. It glows with colour and smells like heaven and puts forward at every hour of a summer day beauties which man could never have created and could not even, on his own resources, have imagined...when the garden is in its full glory the gardener's contributions to that glory will still have been in a sense paltry compared with those of nature. Without life springing from the earth, without rain, light and heat descending from the sky, he could do nothing. When he has done all, he has merely encouraged here and discouraged there, powers and beauties that have a different source. ~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (1960)
Link of the day: Read about the C.S. Lewis Window at St. Luke's Church in Monrovia, CA (about 1/2 way down the page).
Key quotation: "At the very top you find a young girl, a lion and a lamppost, symbolic of the first book of the seven-volume children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis is pictured in an academic gown with a man on his right shoulder; could this be the devil, as suggested in a scene in The Screwtape Letters”? "
In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed; perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gate to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation. ~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, (1955)
On this day:
1955 C. S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers published their article "Charles Williams" in the TIMES.
Your book* raises a whole host of points that interest me. I have often thought of the parallel between the dog-man and the man-God relation and agree with all you say. I have found it helpful, too, in trying to understand Grace--which I suppose comes in on top of our humanity as the many quasi-human qualities which the dog learns from living with us come in on top of his caninity. ...And I very earnestly hope that you are right on p. 76 about tails wagging as well as trumpets sounding; not (as the anti-sentimental do vainly talk!) through sentiment, but because animal suffering raises quite terrifying problems about divine justice. Yet it is difficult to me to accept your suggestion, partly because the whole Christian tradition is so silent on the subject (or is that my ignorance?) and partly--well, what about all the wasps? ~C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, Letter of Aug 24, 1939, (2004)
*the letter was to a Sister Penelope, on her book Leaves from the Trees. The first chapter, entitled 'Consider the Dog: A Study in Right Relationship', where she wrote: "The object of this essay is to consider not the frequent failure of men in their stewardship, but what we ourselves may learn from the humanized animal, to whom we are as God, about the relationship that ought to exist between God and us". This chapter almost certainly served as the inspiration for Lewis's similar treatment of the subject in The Problem of Pain.
On this day:
1959 Lewis is made Doctor of Letters by Manchester University.
Even the fairy tale proprement dit* was not originally intended for children; it was told and enjoyed in (of all places) the court of Louis XIV. As Professor Tolkien has pointed out, it gravitated to the nursery when it went out of fashion among the grown-ups, just as old-fashioned furniture gravitated to the nursery. Even if all children and no adults now liked the marvellous--and neither is the case--we ought not to say that the peculiarity of children lies in their liking it. The peculiarity is that they still like it, even in the twentieth century.
It does not seem to me useful to say, "What delighted the infancy of the species naturally still delights the infancy of the individual.' This involves a parallel between the individual and species which we are in no position to draw. What age is Man? Is the race now in its childhood, its maturity, or its dotage? As we don't know at all exactly when it began, and have no notion when it will end, this seems a nonsense question. And who knows if it will ever be mature? Man may be killed in infancy.
Surely it would be less arrogant, and truer to the evidence, to say that the peculiarity of child readers is that they are not peculiar. ...for children read only to enjoy. ~C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds, "On Juvenile Tastes", (1st pub. Nov 1958) *"itself" _________________________
On this day:
1926 (May 11) Lewis meets J. R. R. Tolkien
1947 (May 12) Miracles is published by Geoffrey Bles/The Centenary Press, London
"Praying for particular things," said I, "always seems to me like advising God how to run the world. Wouldn't it be wiser to assume that He knows best?"
"On the same principle," said he, "I suppose you never ask a man next to you to pass the salt, because God knows best whether you ought to have salt or not. And I suppose you never take an umbrella, because God knows best whether you ought to be wet or dry."
"That's quite different," I protested.
"I don't see why," said he. "The odd thing is that He should let us influence the course of events at all. But since He lets us do it in one way I don't see why He shouldn't let us do it in the other." ~C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, "Scraps" (1945)
I must often be glad that certain past prayers of my own were not granted. ~C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, "Petitionary Prayer: A Problem Without an Answer", (1953)
Prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them. ~C.S. Lewis, The World's Last Night and Other Essays, "The Efficacy of Prayer" (1959)
On this day:
1966 J.R.R. Tolkien contemplates the merits of getting an unlisted phone number.
"Oxford Sewage Disposal Unit" - Warren Lewis's method of answering the phone at The Kilns.
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.
As 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." ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe _____________________________
The thing in the middle of the room was not exactly a table. It was a square pillar about four feet high and on it there rose a little golden arch from which there hung a little golden bell; and beside this there lay a little golden hammer to hit the bell with.
"I wonder... I wonder... I wonder..." said Digory.
"There seems to be something written here," said Polly, stooping down and looking at the side of the pillar.
"By gum, so there is," said Digory. "But of course we shan't be able to read it."
"Shan't we? I'm not so sure," said Polly.
They both looked at it hard and, as you might have expected, the letters cut in the stone were strange. But now a great wonder happened: for, as they looked, though the shape of the strange letters never altered, they found that they could understand them. If only Digory had remembered what he himself had said a few minutes ago, that this was anenchanted room, he might have guessed that the enchantment was beginning to work. But he was too wild with curiosity to think about that. He was longing more and more to know what was written on the pillar. And very soon they both knew. What it said was something like this - at least this is the sense of it though the poetry, when you read it there, was better:
Make your choice, adventurous Stranger; Strike the bell and bide the danger, Or wonder, till it drives you mad, What would have followed if you had.
"No fear!" said Polly. "We don't want any danger."
"Oh but don't you see it's no good!" said Digory. "We can't get out of it now. We shall always be wondering what else would have happened if we had struck the bell. I'm not going home to be driven mad by always thinking of that. No fear!"
"Don't be so silly," said Polly. "As if anyone would! What does it matter what would have happened?"
"I expect anyone who's come as far as this is bound to go on wondering till it sends him dotty. That's the Magic of it, you see. I can feel it beginning to work on me already." ~C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew
On this day:
1945 World War II ends in Europe.
1964 The Discarded Image is published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
I was often asked or advised to add to the original Letters, but for many years I felt not the least inclination to do it. Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment. The ease came, no doubt, from the fact that the device of diabolical letters, once you have thought of it, exploits itself spontaneously. ~C.S. Lewis, Preface to The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1961)
If the book were praised in Jack's presence, he would often say that writing it had given him little pleasure and had, in fact, been painful. He thought it was bad for his character to imagine himself a devil, thinking about how to tempt and pervert those around him. ~George Sayer, Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis, (1988)
The first of the Screwtape Letters was published in The Guardian on May 2, 1941. Thirty more letters followed, one each week. Lewis was paid £2 per letter , but he would not accept the money. Instead, he sent the editor of the Guardian a list of widows and orphans to whom the £62 was to be paid. He did the same with the fees the BBC paid for the 'Mere Christianity' broadcasts, and those The Guardian paid for the weekly instalments of The Great Divorce in 1944 - 5.
It never occurred to Lewis that he would have to pay tax on these royalties, and he soon found himself with a huge tax bill. Before things got out of hand Owen Barfield found a solution to the problem. After paying off Lewis's taxes, he set up a charitable trust into which Lewis thereafter directed all his royalties. They named the trust 'Agapony', or 'love + money', and from then on until his marriage, Lewis made anonymous gifts of two-thirds of his income. ~from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II
On this day:
1937 C. S. Lewis published his poem "Coronation March" in Oxford Magazine.
Good is hard to preserve: but it is also terribly hard to eradicate completely. As Professor Powicke says, "In all ages there have been civilized persons." As Williams said to me in Addison's Walk, talking of the invasion of Norway, "And yet, even there, at this moment, people are falling in love." ~C.S. Lewis, Taliessin Through Logres, ...Arthurian Torso, "Williams and the Arthuriad", (1948)
We do not really know what it feels like to be a man much better than ourselves. His whole inner landscape is one we have never seen, and when we guess it we blunder. It is in their "good" characters that novelists make, unawares, the most shocking self-revelations. Heaven understands Hell and Hell does not understand Heaven, and all of us, in our measure, share the Satanic, or at least the Napoleonic, blindness. To project ourselves into a wicked character, we have only to stop doing something, and something that we are already tired of doing; to project ourselves into a good one we have to do what we cannot and become what we are not. ~C.S. Lewis, A Preface to "Paradise Lost", (1942)
Naked apples, wooly-coated peaches Swelled on the garden's wall. Unbounded Odour of windless, spice-bearing trees Surrounded my lying in sacred turf, Made dense the guarded air--the forest of trees Buoyed up therein like weeds in ocean Lived without motion. I was the pearl, Mother-of-pearl my bower. Milk-white the cirrhus Streaked the blue egg-shell of the distant sky, Early and distant, over the spicy forest; Wise was the fangless serpent, drowsy. All this, indeed, I do not remember. I remember the remembering, when first waking I heard the golden gates behind me Fall to, shut fast. On the flinty road, Black-frosty, blown on with an eastern wind, I found my feet. Forth on journey, Gathering thin garment over aching bones, I went. I wander still. But the world is round. ~C.S. Lewis, Poems,(1964)
The Greeks called this love storge (two syllables and the g is "hard"). I shall here call it simply Affection. My Greek Lexicon defines storge as "affection, especially of parents to offspring"; but also of offspring to parents. And that, I have no doubt, is the original form of the thing as well as the central meaning of the word. The image we must start with is that of a mother nursing a baby, a bitch or a cat with a basketful of puppies or kittens; all in a squeaking, nuzzling heap together; purrings, lickings, baby-talk, milk, warmth, the smell of young life.
The importance of this image is that it presents us at the very outset with a certain paradox. The Need and Need-love of the young is obvious; so is the Gift-love of the mother. She gives birth, gives suck, gives protection. On the other hand, she must give birth or die. She must give suck or suffer. That way, her Affection too is a Need-love. There is the paradox. It is a Need-love but what it needs is to give. It is a Gift-love, but it needs to be needed. [...]
But the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves. We teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching. Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift-love. It must work towards its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous. ~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves , III: Affection (1960) ________________________
On this day
1941 The Guardian begins to publish The Screwtape Letters in weekly installments.
"Psyche," said I, leaping up, "I can't bear this any longer. You have told me so many wonders. If this is all true, I've been wrong all my life. Everything has to be begun over again. Psyche, it is true? You're not playing a game with me? Show me. Show me your palace."
"Of course I will," she said, rising. "Let us go in. And don't be afraid whatever you see or hear."
"Is it far?" said I.
She gave me a quick, astonished look. "Far to where?" she said.
"To the palace, to this god's House."
You have seen a lost child in a crowd run up to a woman whom it takes for its mother, and how the woman turns round and shows the face of a stranger, and then the look in the child's eyes, silent a moment before it begins to cry. Psyche's face was like that; checked, blank; happiest assurance suddenly dashed all to pieces.
"Orual," she said, beginning to tremble, "what do you mean?"
I too became frightened, though I had yet no notion of the truth. "Mean?" said I. "Where is the palace? How far have we to go to reach it?"
She gave one loud cry. Then, with white face, staring hard into my eyes, she said, "But this is it, Orual! It is here! You are standing on the stairs of the great gate." ~C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces (1956)
On this day:
1955 The Magician's Nephew is published by the Bodley Head, London.
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