Thursday, March 31, 2005

The True End of Humility

Screwtape continues his examinations of the virtue of Humility:

You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character. Some talents, I gather, he really has. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be . No doubt they are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point. The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible.
~C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)


On this day:

1920 Lewis takes First in Classical Honour Moderations ('Mods') -- Greek and Latin texts--and begins reading Literae Humaniores.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Lamp-post, and the Wardrobe

In Narnia the Beasts lived in great peace and joy and neither the Witch nor any other enemy came to trouble that pleasant land for many hundred years. King Frank and Queen Helen and their children lived happily in Narnia and their second son became King of Archenland. The boys married nymphs and the girls married woodgods and river-gods. The lamp-post which the Witch had planted (without knowing it) shone day and night in the Narnian forest, so that the place where it grew came to be called Lantern Waste; and when, many years later, another child from our world got into Narnia, on a snowy night, she found the light still burning. And that adventure was, in a way, connected with the ones I have just been telling you. It was like this.

The tree which sprang from the Apple that Digory planted in the back garden, lived and grew into a fine tree. Growing in the soil of our world, far out of the sound of Aslan's voice and far from the young air of Narnia, it did not bear apples that would revive a dying woman as Digory's Mother had been revived, though it did bear apples more beautiful than any others in England, and they were extremely good for you, though not fully magical. But inside itself, in the very sap of it, the tree (so to speak) never forgot that other tree in Narnia to which it belonged. Sometimes it would move mysteriously when there was no wind blowing: I think that when this happened there were high winds in Narnia and the English tree quivered because, at that moment, the Narnia tree was rocking and swaying in a strong south-western gale. However, that might be, it was proved later that there was still magic in its wood. For when Digory was quite middle-aged (and he was a famous learned man, a Professor, and a great traveller by that time) and the Ketterleys' old house belonged to him, there was a great storm all over the south of England which blew the tree down. He couldn't bear to have it simply chopped up for firewood, so he had part of the timber made into a wardrobe, which he put in his big house in the country. And though he himself did not discover the magic properties of that wardrobe, someone else did. That was the beginning of all the comings and goings between Narnia and our world, which you can read of in other books.
~C. S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew (1955)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Listening Too Hard

Dear Phyllida,

Thanks for your most interesting cards. How do you get the gold so good? Whenever I tried to use it, however golden it looked on the shell, it always looked only like rough brown on the paper. Is it that you have some trick with the brush that I never learned, or that gold paint is better now than when I was a boy! [...]

I'm not quite sure what you meant about "silly adventure stories without my point". If they are silly, then having a point won't save them. But if they are good in themselves, and if by a "point" you mean some truth about the real world which which one can take out of the story, I'm not sure that I agree. At least, I think that looking for a "point" in that sense may prevent one sometimes from getting the real effect of the story in itself--like listening too hard for the words in singing which isn't meant to be listened to that way (like an anthem in a chorus). I'm not at all sure about all this, mind you: only thinking as I go along.

We have two American boys in the house at present, aged 8 and 6 1/2*. Very nice. They seem to use much longer words than English boys of that age would: not showing off, but just because they don't seem to know the short words. But they haven't as good table manners as English boys of the same sort would. [...]

C.S. Lewis

Letters to Children (letter of Dec 18 1953)

* David and Douglas Gresham were visiting the Lewis brothers with their mother, Joy. They later became Lewis's stepsons.

On this day:

1972 J. R. R. Tolkien was received by the Queen at Buckingham Palace to accept the honor "Commander of the Order of the British Empire".

Monday, March 28, 2005

All That Is Not Eternal

Theologians have sometimes asked whether we shall "know one another" in Heaven, and whether the particular love-relations worked out on earth would then continue to have any significance. It seems reasonable to reply: "It may depend what kind of love it had become, or was becoming, on earth." For, surely, to meet in the eternal world someone for whom your love in this, however strong, had been merely natural, would not be (on that ground) even interesting. Would it not be like meeting in adult life someone who had seemed to be a great friend at your preparatory school solely because of common interest and occupations? If there was nothing more, if he was not a kindred soul, he will now be a total stranger. Neither of you now plays conkers. You no longer want to swop your help with his French exercise for his help with your arithmetic. In Heaven I suspect, a love that had never embodied Love Himself would be equally irrelevant. For Nature has passed away. All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.
~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Charity (1960)


On this day:

1960 The Four Loves is published by Geoffrey Bles, London.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences were the "gospel" or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the "gospels," the narratives of Our Lord's life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. Nothing could be more unhistorical than to pick out selected sayings of Christ from the gospels and to regard those as the datum and the rest of the New Testament as a construction upon it. The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection.
~C.S. Lewis, Miracles, Chapter 16 (1947)


On this day:

1901 Charles Williams was confirmed at the age of 15 at St. Alban's Abbey, London.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Three on Humor

"Laugh and fear not, creatures. Now that you are no longer dumb and witless, you need not always be grave. For jokes as well as justice come in with speech."
~C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew (1955)

"A little comic relief in a discussion does no harm, however serious the topic may be. (In my own experience the funniest things have occurred in the gravest and most sincere conversations.)
~C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (1958)

"Humor involves a sense of proportion and a power of seeing yourself from the outside."
~C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Preface (1960)


On this day:

1947 Lewis met with two archbishops and the Marquis of Salisbury at Lambeth Palace to discuss the future of the Church of England.

1959 Lewis is elected Honorary Fellow of University College, Oxford.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Dragon Speaks

Once the worm-laid egg shattered in the wood.
I came forth shining into the trembling world;
The sun was on my scales, dew upon the grasses,
The cold, sweet grasses and the sticky leaves.
I loved my speckled mate. We played at druery
and sucked warm milk dropping from the ewes' teats.

Now I keep watch on the gold in my rock cave
In a country of stones: old, deplorable dragon,
Watching my hoard. In winter night the gold
Freezes through tough scales my cold belly;
Jagged crowns, cruelly twisted rings,
Icy and knobb'd, are the old dragon's bed.

Often I wish I had not eaten my wife
(Though worm grows not to dragon till he eats worm).
She could have helped me, watch and watch about,
Guarding the gold; the gold would have been safer.
I could uncoil my tired body and take
Sometimes a little sleep when she was watching.

Last night under the moonset a fox barked,
Startled me; then I knew I had been sleeping.
Often an owl flying over the country of stones
Startles me; then I think that I must have slept,
Only a moment. That very moment a Man
Might have come from the towns to steal my gold.

They make plots in the towns to take my gold,
They whisper of me in the houses, making plans,
Merciless men. Have they not ale upon the benches,
Warm wives in bed, and song, and sleep the whole night?
I leave my cave once only in the winter
To drink at the rock pool; in summer twice.

They have no pity for the old, lugubrious dragon.
Lord that made the dragon, grant me thy peace,
But say not that I should give up the gold,
Nor move, nor die. Others would have the gold.
Kill rather, Lord, the Men and the other dragons;
Then I can sleep; go when I will to drink.

~C.S. Lewis, Poems (1964)

Cool link of the day: Dragon Illustrations by Wayne Anderson. (each is clickable)

Buy the book Dragons: Truth, Myth, and Legend, illustrations by Wayne Anderson

On this day:

1930 Warren Lewis wrote to stained glass makers to arrange for them to make a church window in honor of his parents. He and C.S. Lewis planned the project together for the church where their grandfather had once been the preacher in Belfast and where their parents had attended.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Every duty is a religious duty, and our obligation to perform every duty is therefore absolute. Thus we may have a duty to rescue a drowning man, and perhaps, if we live on a dangerous coast, to learn life-saving so as to be ready for any drowning man when he turns up. It may be our duty to lose our own lives in saving him, but if anyone devoted himself to life-saving in the sense of giving it his total attention--so that he thought and spoke of nothing else and demanded the cessation of all other human activities until everyone had learned to swim--he would be a monomaniac. The rescue of drowning men is, then, a duty worth dying for, but not worth living for. It seems to me that all political duties (among which I include military duties) are of this kind. A man may have to die for our country: but no man must, in any exclusive sense, live for his country. He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: himself.
~C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, "Learning in War Time" (1939)

On this day:

1918 Edward "Paddy" Moore, Lewis's army roommate and friend, is reported missing in action. It is later learned that Paddy had been killed in action on March 21, 1918, resisting the German attack at Pargny, France.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

After Prayers, Lie Cold

Arise my body, my small body, we have striven
Enough, and He is merciful; we are forgiven.
Arise small body, puppet-like and pale, and go,
White as the bed-clothes into bed, and cold as snow,
Undress with small, cold fingers and put out the light,
And be alone, hush'd mortal, in the sacred night,
-A meadow whipt flat with the rain, a cup
Emptied and clean, a garment washed and folded up,
Faded in colour, thinned almost to raggedness
By dirt and by the washing of that dirtiness.
Be not too quickly warm again. Lie cold; consent
To weariness' and pardon's watery element.
Drink up the bitter water, breathe the chilly death;
Soon enough comes the riot of our blood and breath.
~C.S. Lewis, Poems (1964)


On this day:

1907 G. K. Chesterton published "The Village Idiot" in the NATION.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Too Proud to Know God

The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always means enmity--it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.

In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that--and therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison--you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952)

On this day:

1921 William T. Kirkpatrick, Lewis's beloved tutor (1914 - 1917), dies at the age of 71.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Of Queens and Heroes

"Oh, this is nice!" said Jill. "Just walking along like this. I wish there could be more of this sort of adventure. It's a pity there's always so much happening in Narnia."

But the Unicorn explained to her that she was quite mistaken. He said that the Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve were brought out of their own strange world into Narnia only at times when Narnia was stirred and upset, but she mustn't think it was always like that. In between their visits there were hundreds and thousands of years when peaceful King followed peaceful King till you could hardly remember their names or count their numbers, and there was really hardly anything to put into the History Books. And he went on to talk of old Queens and heroes whom she had never heard of. He spoke of Swanwhite the Queen who had lived before the days of the White Witch and the Great Winter, who was so beautiful that when she looked into any forest pool the reflection of her face shone out of the water like a star by night for a year and a day afterwards. He spoke of Moonwood the Hare who had such ears that he could sit by Caldron Pool under the thunder of the great waterfall and hear what men spoke in whispers at Cair Paravel. He told how King Gale, who was ninth in descent from Frank the first of all Kings, had sailed far away into the Eastern seas and delivered the Lone Islanders from a dragon and how, in return, they had given him the Lone Islands to be part of the royal lands of Narnia for ever. He talked of whole centuries in which all Narnia was so happy that notable dances and feasts, or at most tournaments, were the only things that could be remembered, and every day and week had been better than the last. And as he went on, the picture of all those happy years, all the thousands of them, piled up in Jill's mind till it was rather like looking down from a high hill on to a rich, lovely plain full of woods and waters and cornfields, which spread away and away till it got thin and misty from distance.

And she said: "Oh, I do hope we can soon settle the Ape and get back to those good, ordinary times. And then I hope they'll go on for ever and ever and ever. Our world is going to have an end some day. Perhaps this one won't. Oh Jewel wouldn't it be lovely if Narnia just went on and on - like what you said it has been?"

"Nay, sister," answered Jewel, "all worlds draw to an end, except Aslan's own country."
~C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle (1956)


On this day (catching up):

1956 (March 19) The Last Battle is published by The Bodley Head, London.

1919 (March 20) Lewis's first book, Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics, is published by William Heinemann, London, under the pseudonym of Clive Hamilton.

1957 (March 21) Jack Lewis and Joy Davidman Gresham, united in a civil marriage the previous year, are married in an ecclesiastical ceremony in Wingfield-Morris Hospital by the Rev. Peter Bide. Bide also performs a healing service for Joy, who is believed to be dying of cancer.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


It is not an accident that simple-minded people, however spiritual, should blend the ideas of God and Heaven and the blue sky. It is a fact, not a fiction, that light and life-giving heat do come down from the sky to Earth. The analogy of the sky's role to begetting and of the Earth's role to bearing is sound as far as it goes. The huge dome of the sky is of all things sensuously perceived the most like infinity. And when God made space and worlds that move in space, and clothed our world with air, and gave us such eyes and such imaginations as those we have, He knew what the sky would mean to us. And since nothing in His work is accidental, if He knew, He intended. We cannot be certain that this was not indeed one of the chief purposes for which Nature was created.
~C.S. Lewis, Miracles, chapter 16 (1947)


Cool link of the day: Amaztype

A note to the blog: I will not be blogging for the rest of the week because of family commitments. Back next week!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.
~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (1955)


On this day:

1949 J.R.R. Tolkien gets his first look at the Pauline Baynes illustrations for his book Farmer Giles of Ham. He was delighted by them, and immediately recommended her to C.S. Lewis for the illustration of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A Year of Stirrings and High Changes

'You are guilty of no evil, Ransom of Thulcandra, except a little fearfulness. For that, the journey you go on is your pain, and perhaps your cure: for you must be either mad or brave before it is ended. But I lay also a command on you; you must watch this Weston and this Devine in Thulcandra if ever you arrive there. They may yet do much evil in, and beyond, your world. From what you have told me, I begin to see that there are eldila who go down into your air, into the very stronghold of the Bent One; your world is not so fast shut as was thought in these parts of heaven. Watch those two bent ones. Be courageous. Fight them. And when you have need, some of our people will help. Maleldil will show them to you. It may even be that you and I shall meet again while you are still in the body; for it is not without the wisdom of Maleldil that we have met now and I have learned so much of your world. It seems to me that this is the beginning of more comings and goings between the heavens and the worlds and between one world and another--though not such as the Thick One hoped. I am allowed to tell you this. The year we are now in--but heavenly years are not as yours--has long been prophesied as a year of stirrings and high changes and the siege of Thulcandra may be near its end. Great things are on foot. If Maleldil does not forbid me, I will not hold aloof from them. And now, farewell.'
~C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet (1938)


On this day:

1921 C.S. Lewis visited William Butler Yeats for the first time. Yeats had long been established as the foremost poet of Ireland; he was to receive the Nobel Prize in 1924.

Poetry link of the day: "The Song of Wandering Aengus" by William Butler Yeats (1899)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

In Prison

I cried out for the pain of man,
I cried out for my bitter wrath
Against the hopeless life that ran
For ever in a circling path
From death to death since all began;
Till on a summer night
I lost my way in the pale starlight
And saw our planet, far and small,
Through endless depths of nothing fall
A lonely pin-prick spark of light,
Upon the wide, enfolding night,
With leagues on leagues of stars above it,
And powdered dust of stars below-
Dead things that neither hate nor love it
Not even their own loveliness can know,
Being but cosmic dust and dead.
And if some tears be shed,
Some evil God have power,
Some crown of sorrow sit
Upon a little world for a little hour-
Who shall remember? Who shall care for it?
~C.S. Lewis, Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics
(published under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton) (1919)


On this day:

1919 Lewis delivers his first paper, on William Morris,
to the Martlets Society

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Place of the Lion

On this day, 1936:

Dear Mr. Williams,

I never know about writing to an author. If you are older than I, I don't want to seem impertinent: if you are younger, I don't want to seem patronizing. But I feel I must risk it.

A book sometimes crosses ones path which is so like the sound of ones native language in a strange country that it feels almost uncivil not to wave some kind of flag in answer. I have just read your Place of the Lion and it is to me one of the major literary events of my life--comparable to my first discovery of George Macdonald, G.K. Chesterton, or Wm. Morris. There are layers and layers -- first the pleasure that any good fantasy gives me: then, what is rarely (tho' not so very rarely) combined with this, the pleasure of a real philosophical and theological stimulus: thirdly, characters: fourthly, what I neither expected nor desired, substantial edification.

I mean the latter with perfect seriousness. ...

Coghill of Exeter put me on to the book: I have put on Tolkien (the Professor of Anglo Saxon and a papist) and my brother. So there are three dons and one soldier all buzzing with excited admiration. We have a sort of informal club called the Inklings: the qualifications (as they have informally evolved) are a tendency to write, and Christianity. Can you come down some day next term (preferably not Sat. or Sunday), spend the night as my guest in College, eat with us at a chop house, and talk with us till the small hours. Meantime, a thousand thanks.

C.S. Lewis
Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Temptation

"It is not from the making a story that I shrink back, O Stranger," she answered, "but from this one story that you have put into my head. I can make myself stories about my children or the King. I can make it that the fish fly and the land beasts swim. But if I try to make the story about living on the Fixed Island I do not know how to make it about Maleldil. For if I make it that He has changed His command, that will not go. And if I make it that we are living there against His command, that is like making the sky all black and the water so that we cannot drink it and the air so that we cannot breathe it. But also, I do not see what is the pleasure of trying to make these things."

"To make you older, wiser," said Weston's body.

"Do you know for certain that it will do that?" she asked.

"Yes, for certain," It replied. "That is how the women of my world have become so great and so beautiful."

"Do not listen to him," broke in Ransom; "send him away. Do not hear what he says, do not think of it."
~C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (1944)


On this day:

1930 Sailing from Shanghai to the United States, Warren Lewis lived through the tenth of March twice in the mid-Pacific.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I Never Wrote Down to Anyone

I was therefore writing 'for children' only in the sense that I excluded what I thought they would not like or understand; not in the sense of writing what I intended to be below adult attention. I may of course have been deceived, but the principle at least saves one from being patronizing. I never wrote down to anyone; and whether the opinion condemns or acquits my own work, it certainly is my opinion that a book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then. The inhibitions which I hoped my stories would overcome in a child's mind may exist in a grown-up's mind too, and may perhaps be overcome by the same means.

The Fantastic or Mythical is a Mode available at all ages for some readers; for others, at none. At all ages, if it is well used by the author and meets the right reader, it has the same power: to generalize while remaining concrete, to present in palpable form not concepts or even experiences but whole classes of experience, and to throw off irrelevancies. But at its best it can do more; it can give us experiences we have never had and thus, instead of 'commenting on life', can add to it. I am speaking of course, about the thing itself, not my own attempts at it.
C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds, "Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to be Said" (1956)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Always Longing

"No, no no," she said. "You don't understand. Not that kind of longing. It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine...where you couldn't see Glome or the palace. Do you remember? The colour and the smell, and looking across at the Grey Mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche come! But I couldn't (not yet) come and I didn't know where I was to come to. It almost hurt me. I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home."

She kissed both my hands, flung them free, and stood up. She had her father's trick of walking to and fro when she talked of something that moved her. And from now till the end I felt (and this horribly) that I was losing her already, that the sacrifice tomorrow would only finish something that had already begun. She was (how long had she been, and I not to know?) out of my reach, in some place of her own.

Since I write this book against the gods, it is just that I should put into it whatever can be said against myself. So let me set this down: as she spoke I felt, amid all my love, a bitterness. Though the things she was saying gave her (that was plain enough) courage and comfort, I grudged her that courage and comfort. It was as if someone or something else had come in between us.
~C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, Chapter 7, (1956)

Monday, March 07, 2005

Two Quotations on Questioning Belief

Image hosted by Photobucket.comHere is a door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that's true, or it isn't. And if it isn't, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal "sell" on record. Isn't it obviously the job of every man (that is a man and not a rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret or to exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug?
~C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, "Man or Rabbit?" (1946).

I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.
~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, chap. 7 (1955)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

True Northern Stock

The Horse had lifted its head. Shasta stroked its smooth-as-satin nose and said, "I wish you could talk, old fellow."

And then for a second he thought he was dreaming, for quite distinctly, though in a low voice, the Horse said, "But I can."

Shasta stared into its great eyes and his own grew almost as big, with astonishment.

"How ever did you learn to talk?" he asked.

"Hush! Not so loud," replied the Horse. "Where I come from, nearly all the animals talk."

"Wherever is that?" asked Shasta.

"Narnia," answered the Horse. "The happy land of Narnia - Narnia of the heathery mountains and the thymy downs, Narnia of the many rivers, the plashing glens, the mossy caverns and the deep forests ringing with the hammers of the Dwarfs. Oh the sweet air of Narnia! An hour's life there is better than a thousand years in Calormen." It ended with a whinny that sounded very like a sigh.

"How did you get here?" said Shasta.

"Kidnapped," said the Horse. "Or stolen, or captured whichever you like to call it. I was only a foal at the time. My mother warned me not to range the Southern slopes, into Archenland and beyond, but I wouldn't heed her. And by the Lion's Mane I have paid for my folly. All these years I have been a slave to humans, hiding my true nature and pretending to be dumb and witless like their horses."

"You see, he thinks I'm dumb and witless like his other horses. Now if I really were, the moment I got loose I'd go back home to my stable and paddock; back to his palace which is two days' journey South. That's where he'll look for me. He'd never dream of my going on North on my own. And anyway he will probably think that someone in the last village who saw him ride through has followed us to here and stolen me."

"Oh hurrah!" said Shasta. "Then we'll go North. I've been longing to go to the North all my life."

"Of course you have," said the Horse. "That's because of the blood that's in you. I'm sure you're true Northern stock.
~C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy (Chapter One: How Shasta Set Out On His Travels) (1954)


On this day:

1908 C.S. Lewis completed his first reading of Milton's Paradise Lost (age nine)

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Tao

The Chinese also speak of a great thing (the greatest thing) called the Tao. It is the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself. It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way in which the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge, stilly and tranquilly, into space and time. It is also the Way which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar. 'In ritual', say the Analects, 'it is harmony with Nature that is prized.' The ancient Jews likewise praise the Law as being 'true'.

This conception in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike, I shall henceforth refer to for brevity simply as 'the Tao'. Some of the accounts of it which I have quoted will seem, perhaps, to many of you merely quaint or even magical. But what is common to them all is something we cannot neglect. It is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are. Those who know the Tao can hold that to call children delightful or old men venerable is not simply to record a psychological fact about our own parental or filial emotions at the moment, but to recognize a quality which demands a certain response from us whether we make it or not. I myself do not enjoy the society of small children: because I speak from within the Tao I recognize this as a defect in myself—just as a man may have to recognize that he is tone deaf or colour blind. And because our approvals and disapprovals are thus recognitions of objective value or responses to an objective order, therefore emotional states can be in harmony with reason (when we feel liking for what ought to be approved) or out of harmony with reason (when we perceive that liking is due but cannot feel it). No emotion is, in itself, a judgement; in that sense all emotions and sentiments are alogical. But they can be reasonable or unreasonable as they conform to Reason or fail to conform. The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.
~C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (1943)


On this day:

1930 Warren Lewis writes that he was spiritually stirred by the sight of the Daibutsu Buddha in Kamakura, Japan. In later years, he said this event gradually led him back to Christianity.

Poetry Link of the day: Rudyard Kipling's "Budda at Kamakura"

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Moral Dilemma

Morality, then, seems to be concerned with three things, Firstly, with fair play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with what might be called tidying up or harmonising the things inside each individual. Thirdly, with the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for: what course the whole fleet ought to be on: what tune the conductor of the band wants it to play. ...

Almost all people at all times have agreed (in theory) that human beings ought to be honest and kind and helpful to one another. But though it is natural to begin with all that, if our thinking about morality stops there, we might just as well not have thought at all. Unless we go on to the second thing--the tidying up inside each human being--we are only deceiving ourselves.

What is the good of telling the ships how to steer so as to avoid collisions if, in fact, they are such crazy old tubs that they cannot be steered at all? What is the good of drawing up, on paper, rules for social behaviour, if we know that, in fact, our greed, cowardice, ill temper, and self-conceit are going to prevent us from keeping them? I do not mean for a moment that we ought not to think, and think hard, about improvements in our social and economic system. What I do mean is that all that thinking will be mere moonshine unless we realise that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the particular kinds of graft or bullying that go on under the present system: but as long as men are twisters or bullies they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law: and without good men you cannot have a good society.
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III "The Three Parts of Morality" (1952)


On this day:

1934 C.S. Lewis's friend Dorothy Sayers appeared as the only woman among such speakers as Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw on the BBC program "Seven Days Hard".

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A White City

And under the pass, clear seen against the purple foothills there stood a great, white city. [His] heart thrilled as he looked upon those towers and battlemented walls and glittering spires a great way off: for he knew it was . . . the greatest town of earth, the city of the King. And in the haven of it--for it ran down to the bay--the great ships of the merchants and the sea-kings rode at anchor, and he saw the sun flashing upon their dragon-prows. (Chapter XV)
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And he saw how stark and grim and baleful they lay in the pale moonlight so that perforce there came flooding on him a host of memories of all the old tales concerning them--of hideous passes among them, of wizard cities and evil places in their gloomy woods and of knights' adventurings there and in the unheard of lands beyond, away to the North. And as he thought thereon, the dull, sober world in which he lived waxed ever more and more irksome to him: for he too had his dreams, and thought that surely he should do great things in the world, and fight and love as mightily as the heroes of old song. But now it seemed that his life was but a short space, a thing little worth: that he should marry and live at ease, and beget sons to live also at ease, as others did before him and at the latter end to wax old and die, with all his dreams yet hidden. . . But even as thus he pondered, those dark moonlit hills with all their wonders were weaving a spell about him: so anon a new thought, as it had been a gust of sweet, cold morning-wind, smote upon the dungeon of his soul, and he almost laughed for joy.
~ C.S. Lewis, "Quest of Bleheris", Chapter III, Manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (MS. Eng. lett. c. 220/5 fols. 5-43), unpublished, written in 1916, when Lewis was eighteen.


Scholarly link of the day: "The Dungeon of his Soul": Lewis's Unfinished "Quest of Bleheris"

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

God in the Dock

The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God's acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God is in the Dock.

It is generally useless to try to combat this attitude, as older preachers did, by dwelling on sins like drunkenness and unchastity. [...] My own experience suggests that if we can awake the conscience of our hearers at all, we must do so in quite different directions. We must talk of conceit, spite, jealousy, cowardice, meanness, etc. But I am very far from believing that I have found the solution to this problem.
~C. S. Lewis, "God in the Dock", God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (1970)


Cool pictures of the day: The Reading Room of the British Library (from outer courtyard),
(from the inside)